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Is Your EHR in Your Therapist Professional Will?

Updating Your Professional WillPicture the following scenario:  You started your practice, and when you opened your doors you made sure to have your Professional Will in place.  At the time, you had a file cabinet in which you retained all of your client information and session notes.  Information regarding access of  your records   was included in your Professional Will.  Since that time, you have updated your record-keeping strategy to an EHR (Electronic Health Records) system, but your Professional Will was never updated to reflect the change to digital records.  How is your Executor going to be able to access your digital client files in the event of your death?  Unfortunately, your Executor will likely be unable to access your file records   unless you have thought ahead and made some modifications to your Professional Will that include your EHR.

Whether you are creating or revising  your Professional Will, you will want to ensure that it includes information and instructions necessary to access your EHR.  Here are a few suggestions and questions to consider when making your Professional Will EHR-inclusive:

Access: Be sure to include the URL with username and password required  to access your EHR account.

Maintaining Client Files:  Most web-based EHRs are subscription-based, which means that you will need  to prepare a plan as to what you want done with your digital records.  Having your Executor access the files is just the first step.  Do you want the Executor to export your practice data from the EHR and  maintain it on their own computer?  Do you wish to have the Executor keep the EHR system active for a certain period of time?  Can you have the EHR park your files, allowing the Executor the option to  access for a certain period of time?  What are the costs that need to be covered to keep your EHR account accessible? 

Contacting the EHR Company:  EHR companies will not release information without your consent.  Should your Executor attempt to contact your EHR company asking for access to your files, they would likely be turned away.  This can be precluded simply by ensuring that your Executor has the username and password to access your EHR.  That being noted, your Executor may still encounter issues if you have changed your password in the interim without updating your Professional Will accordingly. In order to avoid this potential pitfall, you may want to consider providing documentation to your EHR vendor in your Professional Will with instructions and information regarding the release of information on your behalf. Note that a Power of Attorney may become invalid upon your passing, and as such, likely to be insufficient to effect such a release of information.

Client List and Contact Information:  Your EHR has all of this information organized for you.  Your Executor will be able to quickly access information pertaining to your active clients.

Client Treatment History:  Since most EHRs are all-in-one practice management systems, your client's treatment history will be available to your Executor.

Referrals for Continued Care:  Most of your clients may be referred to the same therapist for continued treatment, but you also have the opportunity to document a different referral direction in the client's profile page, should you decide on a different direction of care for a particular client.

Contacting the Client:  This is another area that allows specificity  within the client's profile.  Most systems have a place for a client's contact information, including if you are allowed to leave a message, send an email, etc.   

The digital age has altered our considerations of future practice needs.  The use of EHR, in particular, necessitates attention to the terms of Professional Wills. Implementing these suggestions can help ensure that the interests of both your clients and your Executor will be better protected in the event of either your passing or incapacity.



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