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Tips & Tricks: Case Notes and Billables

Is there a better time of year to get organised? Annika shares some tricks of the trade for Support Coordinators.

By Annika Stagekat

Updated 15 Apr 202412 Jan 2021

Case notes and billables … they can sometimes feel like the bane of every Support Coordinator’s existence. Case notes take up too much time, energy and effort. Billables are hard to capture and can make a day feel like it is never going to end.

At least that was how I felt for the first six months of my Support Coordination career. The thing is, case notes and turning what you do into billables can take a while to get right. So here we go – my top five suggestions for falling in love with case noting and billables (hint: work smarter, not harder): 

 

1. Find out exactly what you can bill for and put some value on yourself!

First and foremost, KNOW YOUR BILLABLES! Just like you need to know Section 34 and the latest version of the Price Guide, you need to know exactly what you can and cannot bill for. Generally, you can bill for those tasks that you perform that have a direct benefit for the NDIS participant you are working with, for example: 

  • a phone call with members of the support team 
  • a meeting with the participant 
  • an email to the hospital team 
  • research to find the participant a new activity.

However, you cannot bill for tasks that relate to the general cost of running a business – for example, supervision, admin tasks, the time it takes you to travel to the office, etc. 

You also cannot bill for reading this article or attending a workshop as part of your professional development. However, if you have an agreement with a participant about reading and summarising a long article about X or attending a specific workshop about Y, you can bill for that (if X and Y are both relevant for the participant and within the scope of your role as a Support Coordinator). 

Now that you have identified what you can and cannot bill for, make sure you bill appropriately. And by appropriately, I mean: do not undervalue yourself. So many Support Coordinators bill for less time than it takes to complete a task. By doing this, not only are you undervaluing the work that you do, but you are also potentially putting the participant in a weak position for plan review by not demonstrating how many Support Coordination hours are actually required. You also put yourself at risk of burnout because you spend way too much time stressing about billable targets and not capturing your time. Nobody can pour from an empty cup.  

 

2.  Sticky notes!

 Apart from accountability, one of the most important reasons for keeping clear case notes is that you may need to refer back to them in three months, two days or maybe even just one hour. Depending on what platform you are using, it can be difficult to log your case notes in real time. You end up with five different scraps of paper, a few Word documents, notes written on your arm and way too much information stored in your brain. I have a quick fix for you – sticky notes.

 Yes, that’s right, find your sticky notes. And I am not talking about the old-fashioned paper sticky notes that you desperately try to keep track of on your desk. I am talking about digital sticky notes. Go to your computer search bar and type “sticky notes” – you should get a little yellow sticky note symbol that you can pin to your taskbar (on Macs they are called “Stickies”). Whenever your phone rings or you think, “Oh no, I really need to do (insert critical task that you’d forgotten all about over the last two weeks)”, you can start a new sticky note. You do not have to worry about saving the note – it will automatically save and be there next time you need it. You can even link it to your Outlook, search through all your old notes and refer to the exact date when things happened. If you want to get real fancy, you can even colour code them. 

  

3. Surviving long phone calls

We all have them – the kinds of phone calls that you know will go on for a minimum of 30 minutes. Now add a global pandemic, working from home and poor office chairs. No wonder you feel like going for a little walk – only problem is that those billables are staring at you. A 30-minute walk can equal 30 minutes of lost billables. But why not combine the two? While you walk, take short notes on your phone (again, use the note section), clearly highlight any action points and when you get home, forward it to your email and log it in whatever system you are using. 

  

4. Use your notes to build capacity and establish responsibilities

You have a busy day, you are driving from appointment to appointment and your phone keeps ringing. You are starting to lose track of who needed the new wheelchair, who was complaining about their speech pathologist and who would like to know if they can buy an iPad with their consumables funding … you do not have time to stop and you will lose both case notes and billables if you rely on your brain to remember everything by the end of the day. So, what to do? Well, if you are talking to a provider or somebody who is able to text/email you, ask them to send you a summary – “Hey, that sounds great, I will follow up on that for you – are you able to send me a quick little summary of what you would like to me do?” As a bonus, it can be a great capacity building exercise for participants and supports. But it also clearly identifies roles between providers. If that does not work, try saying, “Hey Siri” – you can then dictate a note and log it when you get back home. (You will be happy to know that I just dictated the last two lines of this paragraph. Now I just need to find out how to insert a smiley.) 


5. Organise your workday and be honest with yourself

 When I first started Support Coordination work more than two years ago, I quickly realised how much time I had previously “wasted” on coffee-chats, Mondayitis, 2 pm slumps and Fridays. When you have a billable target, there is no way to hide behind a lazy day. By tracking my billables, I realised that I hardly got anything done after 2 pm, I spent way too much time jumping from task to task and Fridays were a complete waste. 

I started planning my day with this in mind. I would start work before 8 am, dedicate time for emails with no other distractions (turning notifications off and silencing the phone), scheduling reporting days, starting to stack my meetings, scheduling phone calls and writing to-do lists of specific tasks to do after 2 pm. I know that I find it very hard to motivate myself on a Friday, so I often work one hour extra from Monday to Thursday and have a lower billing target on Fridays. That may not work for everyone, but I urge you to spend some time finding out what works for you. I know that I can get about six or seven hours of billables done in about eight hours from Monday to Tuesday, but on a Friday, I struggle to get three hours of billables done in eight hours. 

If you want to learn more about case notes or billable hours, we have teamed up with The Growing Space to produce some quick and practical eLearning modules:

Authors

Annika Stagekat

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