Google isn't always the most efficient way to find answers that you need on a frequent basis. For diagnoses, procedure codes, and other reference tools, it's better to find websites or apps that are helpful and easy to use, and to bookmark them for quick access. Here are four types of resources that mental health clinicians typically need. Many are available for both computer and smartphone.
1. Codes for insurance filing
The American Psychiatric Association sells a DSM-5 app for IOS and android phones. It's pricey ($69.99) but less expensive than the paper version for sale on their site (although you can find used copies of the manual for less at sites such as Abe Books). Also, the app is updated with the coding changes added in October 2017. The ICD-10 codes, which overlap with DSM-5 and which are used by most insurance companies, are available free online at ICD10data.com and other websites.
There are also phone apps for ICD-10, some of which provide conversion from DSM-IV or ICD-9.
Whether you submit bills to insurance companies on behalf of clients, or you provide clients with a receipt that they can submit themselves, you should be familiar with procedure codes for psychotherapy, evaluation, testing and other procedures. Many insurance companies use Medicare codes, but check with those who insure your patients. Also, check insurance companies' websites for additional documentation that they might require for certain procedure codes. For example, some may need a referral by a physician. Others may require justification or explanation for extended sessions or for testing.
If you use practice management software, the above codes are built in.
Some of your clients take psychotropic medications. Although you may not be licensed to prescribe medication, it's important to be aware of dosages, side effects and interactions. A summary of 100 common medications (sorted by generic and by commercial names) compiled by Drs. Ed Zuckerman and Pamela Kaden is here.
Several phone apps, such as Epocrates and PsychMeds, allow searching for meds by diagnosis, in addition to providing information on dosing, side effects and contraindications.
Please note: Unless you are licensed to prescribe, these resources are for your edification only, and not intended to be used in recommending specific medications to patients.
3. Scholarly writing tools
Writing a journal article, a book chapter or an entire book is professionally satisfying and it adds to your credibility as an expert. But it's also a lot of work. Even a short article is a major undertaking, which involves multiple stages and activities:
Information gathering and storage
As you read articles and other material in preparation for writing your piece, you probably want to store these together. You can keep them in a folder on your computer, but cloud storage is better if you want the option of accessing your content from more than one device. Dropbox is a popular cloud storage tool. It's convenient and accessible from computer, phone or tablet. However, unless you use a third-party app, there is no tagging function. That may or may not be a deal breaker for you if all your collected content goes into designated folders.
Tagging comes in handy when a given file can be assigned to more than one folder. For example, let's say you have downloaded an article on depression with dementia. If you have separate folders for depression and for dementia, you may need to copy that file, so that it appears in both folders. On the other hand, if you can tag that file with keywords depression and dementia, you will be able to find it by searching for the tags, regardless of where it is stored.
Alternatively, Evernote allows you to add as many tags as you want. They need not even be words from the article you're saving. For example, let's say you want to earmark certain articles to send to your colleague, Fred. In Evernote, you can add the tag, "Fred" or "Send to Fred." Later, you can run a search on that tag to quickly identify all the articles you want to send to Fred. Evernote can be used offline and online, with optional syncing.
Another resource for storing and organizing your research material is Microsoft's OneNote. It works well with other Office apps, but is not as convenient as Evernote for clipping and saving web content.
When two or more authors or reviewers are working on the same document, using email to collaborate can get confusing, as different edited versions are sent back and forth. A better way is to store and edit the document online, so that all members of the team see the most recent revision.
Google Docs is easy and it's free. Microsoft has similar online collaborative editing, but all authors need to be subscribed to Office 365.
For project management beyond group editing, check out Asana or Slack. These services enable you to keep track of documents, communications, calendar items, deadlines and other information in one central location.
If you write scholarly articles you will need to keep track of citations of your source material. Zotero and Mendeley both have this capability. To help you decide which citation manager is right for you, the University of Chicago library has put together a comparison of these two free tools, along with Endnote, which is not free.
Editing reference tools
Effective writing requires, proper spelling and grammar, as well as precise language. One of the best sources for help is the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). In addition to lessons on language and grammar, it includes a section on using APA style.
Microsoft Word has built-in spell check and grammar suggestions. But Grammarly is more robust. It's available as an add-on for the Windows version of Microsoft Word, or as a browser add-on for Windows and Mac. The latter is useful when editing online documents, such as Google Docs.
WordHippo is a an online thesaurus plus much more. It offers alternatives not just for single words, but also for colloquial phrases. For example, if you ask WordHippo for another way to say, "burn the candle at both ends," you will get several suggestions, as well as related words and phrases. Other tools help you find antonyms, rhyming words, various forms of words (such as plurals and tenses) and pronunciation guides.
4. Other resources
Dr. Ken Pope has a bountiful collection of links to ethics codes of several mental health professions, informed consent documents, and clinical resources for assessment and treatment.
Your state and national professional associations have information pertaining to your field. As a member, you will likely be notified in case of legislation or other issues that can affect your practice. At the very least you should bookmark these sites and check them often.
5. Bonus Tip
For quick access to the tools you use on a regular basis, bookmark them in the bookmarks toolbar of your browser. Even more efficient is to combine them all into a folder on the toolbar. That way, you save real estate on your bookmarks bar, while still keeping all your practice-related links readily accessible.
If you use practice-related apps on your phone or tablet, group them together in a separate window, so that you can easily spot the one you want, without being distracted by email, weather and other app icons.