Thursday, October 18, 2012
One of the fastest growing trends in dentistry is the move toward paperless records. There are tremendous advantages to paperless records including ease of access, improved patient care and lower costs. On the other hand we seem to be emotionally attached to our charts. Like old copies of National Geographic, we can’t bring ourselves to part with them.
There are three basic infrastructure elements an office needs in place in order to start using completely digital charts. First you need a good practice e-management system such as Dentrix or Eaglesoft. Second you need a network with computers in every treatment room. Third you need a digital radiograph system.
Once you have the infrastructure you need a workflow system to create a digital version of everything you used to make on paper. For example rather than make red outlines on a paper tooth chart, you click a couple of icons on a digital chart. Instead of writing barely legible notes on a paper record, you create typed electronic notes on a digital chart. And instead of chemically developing and mounting a film radiograph, you capture a digital radiograph and store it as part of the patient’s electronic record.
Once you have those two items in place; that is the hardware-software infrastructure and the systems to use them, then you stop making paper.
That last bit often seems to be the hardest part for most dental offices. Stop making paper.
Instead of gong digital, the office only goes part way. For example: The e-office may use a paper chart in the treatment room during diagnosis to mark future treatment. Then they take the paper chart to the computer and enter everything again. They will use the computer to create an estimate, insurance forms and schedule. Then they will go back to the paper chart to enter procedure notes, back to the computer to take a payment, back to paper for a prescription, back to the computer for the next appointment then back to paper to check the x-rays.
What the office ends up with is a mess. Everything is done at least twice. The paper chart is still needed and no one is ever sure if something is on paper or in the computer. As a result the computer chart doesn’t save time and money. It actually makes things worse.
Time and again the dental office has everything in place to go paperless, but it still makes paper just because that is the way it has always done it. Paper records are so last century, it’s time to stop making paper in dental offices. The future is coming and it will be amazing!
For further information on this subject, Dr. Emmott has written a 63 page guide to going paperless in the dental office.