Mastering DAP Notes: A Comprehensive Guide with Templates & Examples

Updated: May 29, 2024

Since the inception of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), structured data capture has revolutionized clinical documentation. However, it has done little to reduce the time practitioners invest in completing lengthy session notes.

A recent study concluded that the quality of documentation has a direct impact on patient care and safety while decreasing medical errors. Standardizing notes positively influences documentation quality and reduces note completion time. According to the American College of Physicians (ACP), "When used appropriately, macros and templates may be valuable in improving the completeness and efficiency of documentation, particularly where that documentation is primarily limited to standardized terminology, such as the review of systems and physical examination findings.”

The DAP (Data, Assessment, Plan) template is an invaluable resource for therapists and clinicians alike. Discover how TextExpander can supercharge your DAP note-taking processes through the use of clever, customizable Snippets.

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What is a DAP Note?

DAP Notes are a type of documentation used by healthcare and therapy professionals to record the details of patient sessions. They are known for their clear, organized structure, which assists in the efficient recording of significant session details. DAP stands for:

  • Data: The objective information collected during direct observations and patient-reported symptoms
  • Assessment: Interpretation of the information completed by the clinician
  • Plan: The treatment plan, care coordination, and follow-up

DAP notes provide a standardized method for capturing clinical documentation during a therapy session. The simple format makes it easy to remember and effective for both concise and thorough documentation.

Difference between DAP and SOAP Notes

In addition to DAP notes, there are other acronym-based notes to help clinicians streamline documentation, each with its own specific emphasis.

  • SOAP: Useful when the patient’s perspective is the focus of documentation
    • Subjective: Information reported to the clinician by the patient
    • Objective: Observations collected through direct interaction
    • Assessment: The provider’s interpretation of the collected information
    • Plan: The treatment plan, care coordination, and follow-up

For a detailed understanding of SOAP notes, check out our dedicated article on SOAP notes.

  • BIRP: Useful when patient behaviors and responses to interventions are needed
    • Behavior: Directly observed or patient-reported behaviors
    • Intervention: Recommended therapies
    • Response: Patient outcomes and response to recommendations
    • Plan: The care coordination, follow-up, and changes to treatment recommendations

For further insights on BIRP notes, we recommend our article on BIRP notes.

  • DARP: Useful as an extension of DAP notes, when documentation of patient responses is required
    • Data: collected through direct observation or patient-reported symptoms
    • Assessment: The provider’s interpretations of the data
    • Response: Patient outcomes or response to plan of care
    • Plan: The care coordination, follow-up, and changes to treatment recommendations

What are the benefits of using DAP notes?

DAP notes help clinicians streamline narrative therapy progress notes by providing a consistent data collection method and documentation style. The benefits of DAP notes include:

  • Focused Documentation: They enable professionals to focus on critical aspects of the session without unnecessary details.
  • Enhanced Clarity: DAP notes’ clear structure makes it easier to follow the patient’s progress and treatment plan.
  • Time Efficiency: Their structured format allows for quicker note-taking, saving valuable time.
  • Improved Communication: DAP notes facilitate better communication among healthcare teams, providing a concise and clear overview of the session.

The length of your DAP notes will vary depending on your assessment of the patient’s needs. DAP notes allow you to quickly and easily review pertinent data from previous sessions to inform your clinical practice at each visit. Imagine reviewing your narrative notes with the same speed and accuracy as your structured health record data. TextExpander DAP Snippets make this a reality.

Writing effective DAP notes

  • Objective data collection: Record only what you observe or what the patient explicitly states.
  • Confidentiality: Filter the data to include details pertinent to the patient outcomes.
  • Safety: Include any concerns about the client’s safety and steps taken to address these concerns.
  • Clear and concise assessment: A direct, succinct assessment with clear language is best practice.
  • Specificity of the plan: The plan should include clear, actionable steps, and intelligibly show how they relate to the assessment.
  • Reflect the client’s voice: Incorporate the client’s words and perspectives to accurately represent their experiences.
  • Regular review and update: Review the notes regularly during the session to ensure they accurately reflect the patient’s current status and treatment plan.
  • Review before finalizing: Ensure the note accurately reflects the session and meets compliance standards for coding and professional standards before finalizing.

How TextExpander can help with DAP note templates

TextExpander is a clever and efficient smart assistant for all of your documentation needs. By creating personalized templates, called TextExpander Snippets, you document in real-time complying with legal, quality, and best practice standards. To illustrate, let’s examine the case study, below.

Data: [Patient name] is a [age], [gender] who is experiencing [symptoms] Patient reports [special concerns] and is concerned about [specific outcomes or therapy recommendations]

Assessment: Patient is [enter observations and behaviors]. Assessment reveals [document specific clinical metrics/symptoms].

Plan: Recommendations for continued care include
– [document recommendations for care]

DAP note examples

DATA: Mr. Gonzalez is a 75-year-old male who is experiencing sadness, hopelessness, and insomnia. Patient reports his wife died six months ago and he has not been able to enjoy life, have any sense of hope, and stopped sleeping through the night. He is concerned these feelings and lack of sleep are causing problems in his relationships with his children and grandchildren. Mr. Gonzalez reports he is unsure he wants to continue living “like this”.

ASSESSMENT: Patient is seated in a chair, is disheveled, with poor hygiene including noticeable body odor. Assessment reveals symptoms of clinical depression with some self-harm ideation and insomnia. Patient’s PCP prescribed sleeping medication, however, it is not helping him sleep.

PLAN: Recommendations for care include

  • Weekly grief counseling sessions
  • Family therapy and grief counseling twice per month
  • Coordinate anti-depressants and sedatives with PCP
  • RN Behavioral Health Care Manager to follow due to self-harm ideation
  • Order sleep therapy

Best practices for supporting your DAP note documentation

  • Detailed: DAP notes should contain pertinent information to concisely communicate the client’s care plan and responses to treatment. Treat each note as if another therapist needs to read the notes and continue the treatment plan.
  • Clear language: Use language any clinician can understand and spell out words rather than using abbreviations.
  • Observations: What you observe as the therapist must stand out from the patient’s reported symptoms or behaviors. Your objectivity is paramount in successful therapy.
  • Client point of view: As important as your observations are, including the client’s point of view is essential for continuity of care.
  • Assessment: Document problem-focused complete assessments each visit to ensure an effective plan of care.
  • Plan: The plan should directly reflect the assessment and logically relate to the problem-focused assessment for next steps and follow-up.
  • Treatment plan review: Document a review of the treatment plan in each session and clearly outline the client’s progress toward goals. Include changes to the treatment plan as informed by the assessment.
  • Confidentiality: Include the information necessary to provide direct care and omit personal information without diagnostic or prognostic value.
  • Promptness: Complete documentation at the time of the client session. Writing therapy progress notes after the session leads to inaccuracies or omissions of important data.
  • Consistency: Complete clinical notes using a consistent method of narrative data collection. Consistency aids in patient safety, patient education, and continuity of care.

Mastering DAP notes involves more than completing required documentation—it’s about ensuring optimal patient care through clear, comprehensive, and efficient communication. By understanding the nuances of DAP notes and leveraging template tools, healthcare professionals can enhance documentation skills, streamline workflows, and advance quality of care.

TextExpander can help streamline documentation, reduce keystroke time, improve provider communication, and support quality of care. Ready to take back your time and improve patient outcomes? Sign up with TextExpander today and access your FREE 30-day trial.

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Data: [Patient name] is a [age], [gender] who is experiencing [symptoms] Patient reports [special concerns] and is concerned about [specific outcomes or therapy recommendations] <br> <br>Assessment: Patient is [enter observations and behaviors]. Assessment reveals [document specific clinical metrics/symptoms]. <br> <br>Plan: Recommendations for continued care include <br>- [document recommendations for care]
Data: <br>- Patient reported feeling anxious about upcoming job interview; displayed nervous behaviors like tapping feet. <br> <br>Assessment: <br>- Anxiety levels appear to be increasing as the interview date approaches. <br> <br>Plan: <br>- Focus next session on coping strategies for anxiety, specifically targeting interview scenarios.
Data: <br>- Child patient showed improved interaction with peers during group play therapy. <br> <br>Assessment: <br>- Positive development in social skills, seems more comfortable in group settings. <br> <br>Plan: <br>- Continue with group therapy sessions; introduce role-playing activities to further enhance social skills.
Data: <br>- Elderly patient expressed frustration over recent mobility limitations; struggled with basic stretching exercises. <br> <br>Assessment: <br>- Patient's frustration is impacting their motivation and engagement in physical therapy. <br> <br>Plan: <br>- Introduce modified, low-impact exercises; discuss emotional coping strategies in next session.

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