Trying to figure out what client paperwork is needed for your nutrition private practice can leave you running in circles.
You’ve spent time searching for what to include in your packet of new client paperwork but come up with a confusing list of terms and forms. You are probably wondering why it must be this confusing.
Doesn’t every other dietitian seeing clients have a set of paperwork? Why is it hard to get a straight answer about what to include?
If you’ve been searching for some clear answers about client forms and policies, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide will provide an overview of the five essential forms every private practice registered dietitian should have before seeing their first client.
Before we go any further, I want to make it clear that I’m not an attorney and this article is intended to be informational only and in no way offers specific legal advice. However, having an understanding of the basics around paperwork can help you when you do work with a legal professional.
Looking for sample forms and tools? Browse our library of templates available for immediate download.
1. Client Agreement
Creating a comprehensive client agreement is an important step to get your private practice started off on the right foot.
What is a client agreement? – it is a written contract between you and your 1:1 clients. According to attorney Lisa Fraley, it “spells out your policies so clients show up and pay you.” Her podcast episode offers great insight.
Common elements included in a client agreement are informed consent (consent to treat), policies around billing, scheduling, cancellation and no shows. It also includes other important items such as disclaimers and information about email communication/security.
Be sure to grab the FREE private practice forms checklist so you can keep track of essential elements to include in yours.
Creating a client agreement
It can feel intimidating to tackle legal aspects of setting up your practice. You might worry that requiring clients to sign paperwork with formal legal language will scare them away. However, these documents don’t have to sound robotic or threatening. When written well, they provide your clients with clear information, contribute to satisfaction and practice efficiency.
Check out these sample templates from Nutrition BCS for great examples of having legal documents written in patient-friendly language. Nicole Goodrich the founder of Nutrition BCS has been a private practice owner for over 12 years with offices in two states. She uses a Consent for Services and Financial Agreement forms.
Great paperwork isn’t enough
Comprehensive client forms are important, but you also need to consider your process for getting clients to complete these forms. Will you use paper or electronic forms? When should you send the forms to clients and how do you track receipt? Having a solid process for client onboarding is a best practice for successfully launching your nutrition counseling business.
This video training offers insight into how to create an onboarding process that is efficient for you and creates a great experience for your clients.
Tips for creating a client agreement
Gather sample agreements and review. Make notes and create a working draft that reflects your specific practice. Have your draft reviewed by an attorney prior to use and to be sure you have all required elements included.
Samples and Templates:
Statement of Financial Responsibility – Free for Academy Members
2. Notice of privacy practices and acknowledgement – HIPAA
Perhaps the most intimidating term you hear as you pull together forms for your practice is HIPAA.
For covered entities subject to the privacy rule established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), clients must be provided with a notice of privacy practices.
Not all nutrition private practices will be subject to HIPAA requirements, but in order to determine if yours will be, spend some time educating yourself on this important topic. This article has helpful HIPAA basics for nutrition private practice.
Whether or not you are subject to the privacy rule, you will likely have access to sensitive information about your client. The code of ethics for Registered Dietitians clearly describes our responsibility to protect privacy of client information. Including details about how you protect patient’s privacy in your new client paperwork demonstrates professional accountability.
What is a notice of privacy practices?
This document describes how you use and disclose information you collect about patients. It also explains to patients their rights to access and control their health information.
If you are a covered entity, you will need to provide this notice and obtain a signature from the client acknowledging they have received.
Tips for creating a notice of privacy practices
Sample privacy notices are available and provide an excellent starting place for developing a notice for your practice.
Sample and Templates:
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has an entire section of their website dedicated to helping health professionals understand and apply privacy requirements. Sample templates are available in both English and Spanish.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides a sample notice to members. Non-members can purchase the template.
3. Registration Form/New Client Intake Form
It feels like your practice becomes official when you send your first client a form requesting essential information like their name, address and insurance information. Just imagining saying the words, “I’ll need you fill out some paperwork before your first visit” probably gives you a little flutter of excitement.
What is a registration form?
This form can go by a variety of names which often causes confusion. You might have heard it referred to as a profile form, new client sheet or intake form.
Typically, this form includes details such as name, date of birth, contact information, email as well as mailing and billing addresses. If you accept insurance, you will also collect member ID number, member services phone number and details about the insured if not the client. Clients may be insured under a spouse’s plan.
Some private practice RDs choose to combine their registration form with a health history form. For this example, we’re going to consider them separately. More details on why in the next section.
Digital or paper forms?
Choosing a method to have new clients complete their paperwork can be a place that people get stuck. There are pros and cons to each, but what is essential is that you have clarity about what information you are going to request from your clients. The method of delivery can come next.
For example, you can have clients arrive to their visit early and complete the paperwork in your office. Another option is to send blank copies of paperwork via email and have client bring them to their first visit. Another popular option is use of secure web forms that allow clients to complete forms online. Practice management tools (or electronic health records) usually include secure forms as part of their included features. Note that secure refers to HIPAA compliance.
Registration forms include personal health information. Providing clients with a secure way to submit should be a priority unless you’ve chosen the in-office forms completion method. While patients do have the right to non-secure communications, protecting the privacy of PHI should be priority for you and your nutrition practice.
Tips for creating a registration form
Gather sample registration forms to review. A web browser search for “nutrition registration form” or “nutrition history form” yields a wealth of results. If you are using a practice management tool (electronic health record), there may be templates available for you to use as part of the service.
Sample Registration forms and Templates
4. Health and Nutrition History Form (Nutrition Assessment Form)
Collecting information about your clients prior to the first visit isn’t required, but many private practice dietitians choose this approach. It can save time during the initial visit. Rather than collecting objective data, you can spend more time focusing on establishing a rapport and developing a plan of care.
What is a nutrition assessment form?
A nutrition assessment allows you to capture details about medical history, usual diet, height/weight and other essential information. This is also often referred to as an intake form or patient questionnaire.
Some RDNs choose to combine the health history form with the registration form. However, if you serve different populations (i.e. pediatrics vs adults) you will likely want a different health history form for each. Keeping your registration form separate will allow you to choose a specific set of forms to send to each client or client group.
Tips for creating a nutrition assessment form
Filling out forms isn’t a favorite activity for most clients. Just think about the last time you saw a new provider and we’re handed a giant stack of paperwork to complete.
When creating paperwork, think about how you can make it as easy as possible for your clients. This might include using fillable forms that clients can type directly into and then print to bring to their appointment or submit securely. Online forms or a practice management tool are other popular options that make it easy for clients to complete paperwork.
Think about the order in which you ask questions and try to create a logical flow of information. Be sure the layout is organized and take advantage of checkboxes or other predefined responses to save clients time and provide examples of what type of information you’re looking for.
Including a 3-day food record or food frequency information in your form will add significant length to your form. Consider whether you will gather this information during the initial visit or will have clients complete in advance.
Sample Health and Nutrition History Forms
5. Release of Information
If you’re seeing clients, it’s likely you’ll be interacting with other members of their care team. Maybe you want to send a visit summary to their primary care physician after the visit. Perhaps you want to obtain laboratory results or other clinical information.
You need to get permission from clients to share their health information with others. Other care providers and organizations will require that you have permission prior to sharing information with you.
This is the same type of form you’ve been required to complete and submit to obtain a copy of your own medical records or have them shared with another provider.
What is a release of information form?
This release when completed by your client, allows you to share their protected health information to another healthcare organization or person. You may also hear this form called a HIPAA release form.
When completed, it doesn’t give you permission to share this information with anyone. Quite the contrary. This form requires client to specify which people are authorized to receive this information and what type of information can be shared.
Tips for creating a release of information form
Making sure you have a few required elements in place. Besides client name and signature, client will need to specify the type of information that can be shared as well as indicate that your practice may have access to the information. Don’t forget to have a place for the client to specify how long the permission lasts.
Templates and Examples:
Summary: Nutrition Private Practice Paperwork
Creating a comprehensive set of paperwork for your nutrition practice can feel like a daunting task.
One of the things that makes deciphering information about client paperwork difficult is that more than one term is used to describe the same form or content within a form. Additionally, essential items are often combined into a single document.
With a solid understanding of the purpose for forms as well as what type of information they include, tips for creating and sample forms, you are ready to pull together a set of forms for your practice.
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Browse our library of templates available for immediate download.