PracticeNet®

Routine and systematic collection of data about the professional activities and service delivery patterns of professional psychologists provides an invaluable resource for the Practice Directorate to serve the changing needs of its members.

Overview
  • Does the “typical patient” seen by professional psychologists today differ from five years ago? Are the actual or perceived burdens of managed care interfering with the psychologist-patient relationship? What should one (a prospective client) expect to happen in an initial session with a clinical psychologist? These are just a few of the questions addressed to the Practice Directorate within the last year.
  • Routine and systematic collection of data about the professional activities and service delivery patterns of professional psychologists provides an invaluable resource for the Practice Directorate to serve the changing needs of its members. Additionally, this data can be used to guide policy and advocacy efforts on behalf of professional psychology, and to demonstrate the value of psychological services to the public, insurance companies and managed care organizations, and legislators, among others (Bobbitt, 2006; Phelps et al. 1998). 
  • In response to this need for current and growing need for systematic practice-based data, the APA Practice Directorate developed PracticeNet as an infrastructure for collecting real-world data on the activities of psychologists (e.g., professional activities, work setting, patient care load, descriptive and diagnostic information about patients) enrolled in the PracticeNet Practitioner Network. This information is rapidly collected, analyzed and summarized for members as a source of practice-based evidence, and used by the Practice Directorate to support advocacy efforts on behalf of the profession and to facilitate development of useful resources for APA members and their patients.

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Purpose

PracticeNet is a “Practitioner Network” and web-based survey system developed and managed by the Practice Directorate to promote professional psychology in the following interrelated ways:

  1. an avenue for improving bi-directional communication between the Practice Directorate and its members;
  2. a demonstration of productive collaboration between researchers and clinicians;
  3. a tool to help the Practice Directorate understand and address the needs and concerns of its members, as well as to elucidate current clinical and administrative practice patterns and trends to guide policy and advocacy; 
  4. a source of data to demonstrate the value of real world psychological services to promote the stature of professional psychology in the eyes of the public, other health care providers, insurance companies, legislators, and other policy makers.

The development of this system and the initial surveys were supported by a grant from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), as part of the agency’s mission to better understand the treatment of substance abuse problems by mental health care providers.

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Network

The PracticeNet Practitioner Network includes practicing psychologists or graduate students, interns or postdoctoral trainees who provide clinical services and have consented to complete no more than four surveys over the course of the year. The Practice Directorate is encouraging all APA members who provide direct health services to participate in PracticeNet. Participant recruitment efforts are ongoing, and eligible members may enroll at any time. At the time of enrollment in PracticeNet, participants provide basic demographic and clinical practice information.

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Enroll

In order to participate in the PracticeNet research network, volunteers must be:

  1. members of either APA or American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS);
  2. licensed to practice independently as a psychologist or, if the individual is a graduate student, intern, or unlicensed postdoctoral fellow, practicing under the supervision of a licensed psychologist; and,
  3. providing at least 5 hours/week of direct clinical services.

Enrollment in PracticeNet is a two-step process. First, potential participants provide information about themselves and their practice, including the following: gender, date of birth, work setting, postal zip code, race/ethnicity, degree field(s), membership in APA divisions, number of years providing behavioral health services, hours in a typical week spent in independent/private practice setting (solo or group), hours in a typical week spent in an organizational/institutional facility.

This information is reviewed by the PracticeNet administrator to determine eligibility (See eligibility criteria above). Eligible psychologists or trainees are sent an e-mail directing them back to the PracticeNet website, where the applicant is asked to provide the hours in which he/she normally provides direct clinical services. The information is used to generate a grid representing the typical practice hours for each participant. PracticeNet members are then asked questions on subsequent surveys about activities that occurred during their typical practice hours. 

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Methodology
  • Information about psychological practice has typically been obtained using mailed surveys, which rely on practitioner recall of events and aggregation of activities over a designated period of time (Shiffman et al., 2008; Stone & Shiffman, 2002). This retrospective self-reporting may result in recall biases and cognitive errors that diminish the quality of survey data (Janicki, Kamarck, Shiffman, & Gwaltney, 2006; Stone & Shiffman, 2002).
  • PracticeNet employs a unique approach to sampling referred to as Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) or Real-Time Behavioral Sampling (RTBS) designed to collect practitioner information about a randomly selected single, specific, recent episode of care in the practice environment. Combined, these “snap shots” of psychological practice can inform APA about current practice patterns in professional psychology and address questions about general practice patterns of the psychologists, specific practice behaviors, or specific client characteristics, and provide data to improve the Practice Directorates' advocacy efforts on behalf of its constituencies. This sampling approach is a particularly useful methodology for survey research, because it reduces sources of inaccuracy and response bias (e.g., mental averaging, subjective inferences) characteristic of conventional survey methods (Litt, Cooney, & Morse, 1998; Stone et al., 1998; Stone & Shiffman, 2002). 
  • All practitioner members of APA are invited to join the network and to participate by completing brief (i.e., about 15 minutes), routine (e.g., bi-monthly), and confidential web-based surveys from their workplace about their practices and related issues with reference to a specific time period. This information is rapidly collected, analyzed, summarized for members as a source of practice-based evidence, is used by the Practice Directorate to support advocacy efforts on behalf of the profession, and facilitates development of useful resources for APA members and their patients.

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FAQ

What is PracticeNet?

The systematic and routine collection of practice-based evidence assists the Practice Directorate in meeting the diverse and evolving needs of its members and in effectively advocating for the profession. PracticeNet is a Practitioner Network and web-based survey system developed by the Practice Directorate to provide this capacity. PracticeNet utilizes state of the art technology and research methodology to provide reliable, valid and representative data about the practice patterns and emerging needs of professional psychologists in APA. This data can provide an up-to-date picture of what professional psychologists are doing in every day practice, contribute to the Practice Directorate’s efforts to effectively respond to the needs of its members and to help shape its policy and advocacy agenda, and better demonstrate the value of psychological services to the public, managed care companies, the federal government, and policy makers.

Who can participate?

All independently licensed psychologists who are members of APA, as well as APAGS members who are graduate students, interns, and postdoctoral trainees providing direct health services under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.

How do I enroll in PracticeNet?

Enrollment in PracticeNet can be completed online here.

Is PracticeNet secure to use?

PracticeNet is protected by a security measure known as the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Sensitive information is scrambled by SSL in such a manner that only our server can read it. If someone were to intercept the transmission, the person could not read the data. SSL also allows you to know when you have entered a protected area of the site. The URL will begin with "https:" instead of the standard "http:". Double-clicking on the padlock icon in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser will provide information about the secure server. You can use this information to be sure that you are communicating with the PracticeNet servers.

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