By Gregory Paquette

CentralReach Senior Clinical Strategist, BCBA           

Are you tired of doing manual data entry for your Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) practice, when you could be spending that valuable time helping clients? Are you thinking of moving to an electronic platform for your clinical needs? 

We’re here to give you a roadmap to success.

Whether you are currently in the process of “taking the leap,” or thinking about making the transition from paper to digital, the change can seem daunting. There are several steps to navigate through when considering using a digital platform to run your business.

Luckily, CentralReach helps countless organizations audit how their practices are performing, develop project plans, and successfully roll out the implementation of our end-to-end software every day, so behavioral therapists can watch their clinical workflows flourish and get back to what matters: accelerating superior outcomes for their clients.

If you are ready to ditch the paper data collection and move to an efficient cloud-based software, here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Why Transfer from Paper to Digital?

There are multiple benefits to evolving your practice from paper to digital. Some organizations undergo audits and observe the challenges around the collection of paper notes, hard copies of data, and signatures. Some organizations struggle with managing data due to the constant revolving door of behavioral therapists coming and going -- which adds to the confusion over who is responsible for papers and increases the probability of important documentation being misplaced. Others are merely looking for a better solution to cut down on the time spent graphing data, prescribing prompts, or analyzing graphs that have been collecting dust for weeks.  

Whether your practice is struggling with these areas, or is just looking for an easier way to stay HIPAA compliant and manage your data, digitizing your ABA therapy workflow is a proven way to minimize errors and regain more time with your clients.

What Should You Transfer?

Take a second to think about your paperwork and all the hard copies of documents you have developed over the years. There may be numerous templates such as consent forms, progress notes, contact notes, or intervention plans. Maybe you have piles of assessment forms or incident reports. Depending on your ABA practice’s funding sources, there are many versions of treatment plans, evaluations, and progress reports you could be dealing with on a day-to-day basis.  

The key takeaway here is that nearly all ABA agencies have tons of documents that their administrative and clinical staff are required to fill out and log every day.  

So what should you transfer? The answer: everything. 

Digitize all of the aforementioned documentation related to your practice in a way that saves your staff time.

How to Get Started?

A successful clinical onboarding and implementation begins with choosing a project manager. Each agency has unique needs and their own timelines, but a dedicated project manager makes the dream a reality. First and foremost, it’s important to identify this person to create priorities and deadlines, learn the ins and outs of the platform, loop in key stakeholders, keep the process moving forward, and eventually, streamline that processes within the software.

Here is a checklist to ensure you stay on track:

  • Define your unique needs, goals and, priorities
  • Choose your project manager to lead the project
  • Research the technology
  • Choose your system
  • Collect the necessary documents and templates to import and upload
  • Train your clinical and administrative staff on the software 
  • Roll out in systematic stages
  • Monitor progress and take steps back if needed

There could be many reasons your practice may want to ditch the paper process -- but don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Breaking up this complex goal into manageable tasks and checking them off as you go is one recommended method for success.

Same Methods, Faster Results

There is one important point to keep in mind. When exploring software, never change your clinical methods. While software should help you streamline processes, increase billable time, and ease administrative workflows, it should never dictate how you teach. Make sure the platform shares the same data collection methods you use. Be sure you have the flexibility to set up programs the way you want. While electronic binders and data collection may take some getting used to at first, as opposed to traditional pen and paper methods, your agency will have the at-a-glance data analysis capabilities and new streamlined business operations that will allow practitioners to get more clients progressing faster.

How to Train Your Staff?

You are almost a digital data pro! You have identified your pain points (reasons why you want to go digital) and have gathered all the document templates. Your project manager is in place and you have chosen a platform that best fits your clinical needs.  

The next step is to select and train your team, as well as set the date you’d like to “go live” and start collecting data. When doing this, it’s important to plan your attack and give your team sufficient time to ensure they are fully trained and comfortable with the software. Based on your unique goals, there are a few training strategies to choose from that will come down to what makes the most sense for your unique practice.

Some agencies deploy a smaller team (sometimes known as “champions” or “super users”).  These people train first, aid with set up, and make critical decisions on how everything looks in the software before rolling it out to tiers of staff one at a time. Other agencies will train the next layer of staff altogether, and have them start working in the system.  

Spend time thinking about your team and what makes the most sense with your timeline, your internal rollout, and from a software training standpoint.

Ongoing Monitoring

The key to successful implementation is to monitor your plan on an ongoing basis. Keep track of your project plan and ensure operations are running smoothly. If problems arise, it may be that things went too fast, or prerequisite skills were not mastered before moving to the next skill. If your implementation is going well, continue to make sure you are sticking to your original goals and plan, while checking in with staff members on their performance and comfort with the software. Having checklists can also be helpful when it comes to monitoring each stage of the implementation process.  

Transforming your ABA practice from paper to digital is an exciting and rewarding process.  Although it can be intimidating at first, the pros greatly outweigh the cons when it comes to optimizing performance and increasing efficiency to help more people with autism and developmental disorders.

About the Author

Gregory Paquette has been working in the field of Behavior Analysis since 2005. He received his Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and became board certified in 2008. Gregory started his work in the field at the renowned New England Center for Children outside Boston, MA, where he served a variety of roles helping children and adults with autism and related disabilities reach their full potential. After leaving the center, Gregory worked as a BCBA conducting school and home consultation in both Massachusetts and Florida. While serving as a Director at Butterfly Effects, he oversaw ABA services in the Southeast United States and later opened an Early Intervention services division for a large agency in western Massachusetts. His passions in the field include building independent living skills for consumers, increasing effective supervision processes and limiting staff errors while increasing quality assurance in program implementation. Since starting at CentralReach almost 4 years ago, Gregory has worked across departments, helping clinical users onboard, implement, and roll out their workflows agency-wide using the platform. His current focus is working as a strategist for enterprise clients who are improving their workflows electronically and working to scope new clinical products to help agencies streamline their processes.