Updated: Mar 2, 2021
It all started with Tim Ferris' book on audio, The Four Hour Work Week....what an EAR-opener that was. I mean, I want my work week to only be four hours, don't you? Here’s what you need to know right now to reduce your personal workload: How to Automate your SLP-Life.
Now obviously, we can't consolidate our direct therapy time into just four hours, but I started thinking about all the time I spend "adiminning." I see that admin time the same way I saw some of the homework I was given in high school...busy work. And no one wants their time swallowed whole by busy work. While I haven't cut my admin time down to four hours (yet, ha!), I've definitely got some solutions to share that will automate the admin busywork in your SLP life.
When I find myself typing the same introductory email over and over again to students, I can feel the mind-numbing begin. I believe that the email that took 10 minutes to compose the first time, should take 10 minutes period and not a second more. But if you don't have that email saved for duplication, then you'll find yourself typing the same words over, and over, and over again. That boils down to busywork, in my opinion.
If you are using Gmail, there's a free extension for email templates that you need to check out: CloudHQ. They have customizable templates that, once customized, are an easy insert into any email composition. I use templates for a few different types of emails, but here are my top three:
Introducing myself and speech sessions
Sending notification of absences
First contact for evaluations
Using templates for these types of tasks will reduce your time spent composing emails.
If you're typing out reminder emails every night and every 5 minutes before the session and every 5 minutes after the session has started and your student isn't there, that's about 10 minutes of emails per student on your caseload. In my book, that's WAY too many minutes spent on something that could be automated. Automated means compose once, and forget about it.
There's several different apps out there for appointment reminders, but most require a paid subscription or a pay-per-auto reminder plan. Apps that were recommended to me include Do It Later and Scheduled. Although these seemed like decent apps, I had two concerns: 1) I wouldn't be able to manage reminders from a computer and 2) my caseload and number of reminders needing to be sent would bump me to a higher paid subscription that was, frankly, a pay cut I didn't want to take.
So I started a search for a website or app that fit my needs for a large teletherapy caseload. After brainstorming and searching tons of apps and free trials, I finally landed on the Square Up page and their Square Appointments point of sale feature. The best part? It's free and HIPAA compliant (read Square's HIPAA BAA here). And it includes all of the following:
Bulk upload of caseload clients with CSV file
Online "booking" (after you set your "availability")
Set up Automatic Email and Text Reminders
Automatic notification of cancellations or reschedules
Squareup Assistant that replies to texts for you
Automatic notification of cancellation/reschedule policies (once set up)
These are the features that I use regularly and have made my SLP life SOOO much simpler in the admin department. The other feature I love about using Square Up is that I am not using my own phone and phone number. I still can't believe I don't pay anything for it! The caveat for payment is that if you're not an individual, but rather a team, then it's a paid service.
Text Replacement (on MAC)
Get ready for your mind to be blown. Text replacement, a.k.a. text expansion or text substitution, is a preset code or snippet such as "$eval" that, when typed out, is automatically replaced by a longer text like "Evaluation was completed today. Please see reported dated XX/XX/XX for further information."
How many times have your written a similar statements in your report?
Here's the secret...on a Mac computer, go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Text....and start creating your shortcuts TO. DAY. If you need to see it, here's the how to blog I read for my laptop computer. Another cool thing? Once you've set up your text replacements on your Apple computer, it'll work on your Apple devices as well, like iPAD and iPHONE.
If you're using a PC, I'm sorry - I don't have a PC to be able to help or show you this feature on your computer, but I do have a blog I can point you to, here
Here are some examples of what I use text replacement for:
Statements of tardiness, participation, or no shows
Documenting skilled interventions in SOAP notes
Documenting an evaluation
General statements about speech sessions
Text replacement definitely takes "frequently used verbiage" to a whole new level.
I know we all want an automatic scheduler for the beginning of the school year. I don't have an automated solution for you....yet. But my brain is always churning in this department because it is my biggest wish for reducing the stress of the beginning of the school year. If I ever come up with something, you'll be the first to know!
Have other admin areas you want an automated solution for? Tell me, and I'll do my best to hunt down an automater :).
-Angela C. Hancock, MSP, CCC-SLP
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