Practice Better: An Electronic "Medical" Record for the Herbal/Nutrition Practice
When I first started practicing in 2003, we had very few tools available for organizing clinical practice. I started practicing entirely from a distance around 2010, all scheduling, forms, and recommendations were sent via secure email, while meetings took place by phone or, perhaps, Skype.
I probably spent 15-30 minutes (or more?!) associated with each client visit on scheduling, sending forms, reminding clients of visits, and so forth.
This may not seem like a lot, but over time it really does add up - particularly as your practice gets busier!
These days, we have options. And they're great.
When I re-opened my clinical practice in late 2019, I did an extensive search to choose a client management system.
I looked at dozens.
To be fair, almost every single one I looked at was a vast improvement over what I had been doing before – doing all scheduling via email, sending and receiving forms via email, having clients mail checks, and maintaining paper records for each client.
I’m picky, though, and wanted to choose one that would best suit my needs.
I wound up going with Practice Better and couldn’t be happier. (That is a referral link!)
Here’s my review of Practice Better, after using it for more than a year.
What is Practice Better?
It’s a “practice management platform for health and wellness professionals.” Essentially, Practice Better is a paid service that assists practitioners by facilitating scheduling, payments, secure record keeping, secure video consults, client reminders, client protocols, and more.
How much does Practice Better cost?
- You can try Practice Better for free with up to 3 clients
- Up to 10 clients is $19/month
- Up to 200 clients is $49/month and includes the option to run fixed-date programs/courses
- Unlimited clients is $79/month and allows fixed-date and "evergreen" programs/courses + 1 admin assistant (you can add two more admin for an additional monthly charge)
- The Team plan is $135/month for 2 practitioners and 2 admin folks, with the option to add up to 20 practitioners for an extra monthly charge
This is a referral link!
Things I love about Practice Better
My practice has grown quickly since I started using Practice Better. I haven't had a ton of time to explore all of it's intricacies, so I'm sure I'm overlooking some significant features (and possibly flaws as well!). Based on my own needs & the way I use the platform, here are my favorite things about Practice Better:
- I spend no time on scheduling. I put in my available hours, and clients can view my availability and schedule at their convenience. It integrates with Google Calendar, so if I happen to have a dentist appointment or something else scheduled during my normal clinic hours, Practice Better won’t schedule clients during that block. It also adds my appointments (without client names) into my Google calendar so I don't have to check Practice Better to know when clients are scheduled.
- It manages packages. If a client buys a package of 5 follow-up visits, Practice Better keeps track of how many have been used, when they expire, etc. The client just needs to log in and schedule their next appointment whenever they’re ready.
- Intake and other forms are fillable online, including on mobile devices. It’s easy to update my forms (which I do All. The. Time). I get a notification when clients have completed forms, and the client can view their completed forms at any time from the dashboard. This is SO much better than having clients print out forms, scan them and return as an attachments. I also found that some platforms I reviewed were not mobile-friendly, which I consider essential these days.
- When reviewing intake forms, I can add private notes to the form and "pin" key responses that I'd like to ask about during the visit.
- It includes a secure video platform for tele-health visits (this is not included in the free tier). These days, this is incredibly helpful. Practice Better automatically sends clients the info about how to join a session, as well as a reminder at whatever interval you select (e.g. 1 day before the visit). I've found that the video conferences work well & there's a handy feature where you can open the client's records from within the session. (If you prefer to use Zoom, you can link your Zoom account to PB and use that instead.)
- Electronic records: All client records are stored securely within Practice Better. When you click on a record, you can view any forms they’ve filled in, your notes from each visit, any protocols you’ve sent them, etc. all in one place.
- Easy payments. With Practice Better, I can set prices for each service/visit quickly and easily. You have the option to require clients to pay with credit card before they schedule, or you can invoice them after the visit. It is also easy to set up coupon codes for discounts as needed. Having payments totally separated from my visits is a huge relief for me; we can just focus on the clinical work during our meeting time. I am not involved in billing/invoicing at all; Practice Better does all of it and the money just appears in my bank account.
Here’s a quick video I made about what Practice Better looks like from the client perspective.
- There is a mobile app, which works for clients and practitioners. I can easily answer questions or look up client records on the go. Clients can use the mobile app to fill in forms, attend appointments, ask questions, or fill in their food journals (there is even the option to take photos of your meals within the app & add to the food journal).
- Clients really love the way protocols are set up. There is a note from you at the top, a list of food recommendations, lifestyle recommendations & supplements, followed by a chart indicating when to take which supplements. Here’s an example of a fake protocol I wrote to show you what a client would receive (in the client version links are clickable). And here's a video from the practitioner perspective:
- Secure messaging within Practice Better means that all my communications with clients are in one place. It’s like text messages; clients can send along any questions easily from their dashboard. I only get the messages when I check in (you can set up when/how you’d like to get notifications), meaning that it’s easier to really be “off” when I’m away and to respond quickly to clients when I’m working.
- Food journals. I don’t use these as much, but Practice Better has both food and lifestyle journals that you can share with clients. As clients make entries into their journals, as the practitioner you can review and/or comment on each one. Food journals also have the option to automatically calculate some basic nutrient values (e.g. calories, protein, fat, some vitamin/minerals) if clients record entries meticulously. They can also share photos or a narrative description of their food. You can choose to share this with clients or not, which is helpful if you want to see the nutrient breakdown but worry that it may not serve the client to see it.
Here's a video of the food journals/lifestyle journals from the practitioner perspective:
Bells & whistles
- If you have a Zoom account with a signed BAA, you can use Zoom for your visits (and for group sessions if you have one of the higher PB tiers.) The Zoom integration is seamless, and PB will send out reminders with the Zoom link before your visits. Note that with a signed BAA, the regular (~$150/year) Zoom Pro plan is HIPAA-compliant.
- Ability to run classes and programs. The more expensive plans allow you to run courses through Practice Better, which I’ve just dipped my toe into recently now that I’m offering my Roots course. So far, it’s working out well & is relatively easy to use. We’ll see how students in the course feel when the feedback comes in!
- Fullscript integration. At first, I didn’t think I’d use this very much. Fullscript is an online natural products dispensary. Once they verify that you are a health professional (e.g. licensed, have the RH credential, etc.) you will be able to connect your Fullscript account to Practice Better. When you create a protocol and recommend a supplement sold by Fullscript, it will create an order for your client that includes all specific products you recommended. The client can edit or add products as they like before ordering. They don’t carry a ton of herbal products, but they do have Gaia, MediHerb/Standard Process, some HerbPharm, some Wise Woman Botanicals, etc. They also offer the standard higher-end multivitamins, probiotics, and other supplements. The main reasons I like using Fullscript are: 1) easy for clients, they have a cart full of the specific products you recommended & don’t need to hunt for each one individually, 2) they guarantee quality & authenticity, which is not true of Amazon or similar, and 3) as a practitioner you can choose whether to offer a discount to your clients. The max discount you can offer is 35% off retail, which means you make no commission. You can also have clients pay retail prices, and you will make a 35% commission. (For the record, I choose to offer the full 35% discount to my clients, meaning they get a price that is usually better than what is found on Amazon & co.). Bonus: Fullscript is now carbon-neutral.
- Here’s a sample of some of the prices from the protocol above with the 35% discount applied:
- Automations. Practice Better will automatically send clients (some or all, you specify) intake forms, waivers, etc. It will also send reminders to you and/or clients about tasks to complete, upcoming visits, and so forth.
The Less than Ideal
Here are some of the challenges I've had with Practice Better:
- Email list integration: You can add new clients to your email list using a Zapier integration, but it’s not a very elegant solution. For example, there isn’t a way to tag or otherwise indicate which clients are which (e.g. which clients are reproductive health clients v. those who are mentoring clients v. those who signed up for a class). There also isn’t an easy way to ask clients if they’d like to be added to your mailing list. I’d love to see a smoother process here, as well as the option for clients to opt in/out. Right now I don’t use this integration at all for these reasons.
- Group messaging is only at highest tiers. It would be handy in some cases to send a message to all clients, or to some subset of clients (e.g. send a discount code to all clients who have completed an initial consult but not a follow-up, or send a message to all clients that your rates will be going up next month). This isn’t possible unless you’re paying the max amount.
- It's tricky to have other Practice Better practitioners as clients. If you have a client who is also a practitioner using Practice Better, there is no way to integrate the two accounts. They need to use an entirely separate account, including a new email address, in their role as someone else’s client. As more and more practitioners use Practice Better, it seems like this will need to be addressed. (Note that if someone works with more than one practitioner, they can use the same email address for any interaction where they are the client.)
- It’s tedious to create forms. This one isn’t specific to Practice Better. There’s really no getting around it. If you want to make online forms, you’ll need to go through the process of creating them. It takes a while. (If you'd decide to use Practice Better & would like a copy of my intake form to import into your account for editing/use, you can get a copy here.)
- The templates available for taking notes and protocols are relatively limited compared to some other practice management systems. You can create your own templates for each of these, which I haven’t had time to play around with. The ones that are built in work well enough for me, but I’ve seen nicer ones out there J.
- It’s not exactly intuitive how to save & reuse individual pieces of protocol. You can save entire protocols for reuse if you’d like to. There is the option to save individual pieces of a protocol, but I still haven’t worked out how to get back to them when creating a different protocol. Something else to learn when time allows!
- You are charged by total number of client files, whereas some systems charge by the number of clients you see each month. If you’ve been in practice for a while, you will likely have many inactive clients or those who you see once or twice a year. Once you get above 200 clients in Practice Better, though, you’ll be paying for the highest tier that includes unlimited clients anyway so it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the long run.
- There are an overwhelming number of bells & whistles. It takes a relatively long time to figure everything out. There are many features I haven't been able to explore fully because I just haven't had the time to investigate. Support is great, there are tons of training videos, a support site, etc. It just takes a while to get acclimated.
Pros and Cons of Practice Better: The Summary
I'm sure there are more! This is from my point of view only.
I'm happy with my decision to choose Practice Better. The ease of Zoom integration was ultimately what made the decision for me, and it's been a huge part of my work this year. If you aren't using a practice management system of some sort, I urge you to give one a try. The time savings are immense & you'll have more time/energy to work with your clients once you start using one!
Check out Practice Better for yourself
I recommend poking around to see if Practice Better is a good fit for you. It won't be the best for everyone, and there are tons of excellent platforms from which to choose. The link below is a referral link.