The decision to transition to dental EHRs will benefit the practice as well as the patients. As with any major process, the planning stage is crucial to success, followed by incremental milestones to keep the momentum going. The following steps can serve guidelines when tailoring a program to implement electronic health records in the dental practice:
- Make sure your dental team is on board and prepared to participate. This team will be working together and will know the needs of the practice.
- Determine software and hardware needs: Small and large offices will have different needs regarding vendor selection, types of software applications, and what hardware to choose. Also, determine paper record and other data conversion. Remember that not all software and hardware are compatible as well as may or may not be right for the needs of the office. Vendor selection, installation, staff training, support, and costs are also important areas to consider. And finally, determine how the system will be backed up to protect patient’s private information in compliance with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Investigate electronic services and digital radiology systems: Many options exist at varying qualities and costs and should be tailored to the needs of the practice.
- Create patient protocols and simulate workflow: Practice in-office sessions of complete dental visits from phone call to termination of exam. Evaluate each for modifications. Have regular meetings to determine what worked and what didn’t work.
- Detail plans to end using paper charts: It will be a timely process to carefully review records to determine what is essential for the patient’s records. This often takes months to years since records need to be kept in some form of storage in compliance with legal guidelines.
- Set reasonable goal dates: The implementation process is timely, so reasonable goals should be set.
- Determine final needs: Will you need additional or different equipment? Were the pilots successful? Is the staff confident and ready?
- Implementation: Even at implementation, unplanned events can happen. Leaders should always be available to assist. Inquire from the patient’s about the new electronic health records.
Converting to an electronic health record is manageable when implemented according to clear and realistic plans and goals. Create enthusiastic dental teams to be involved in entire process. Tailor software and hardware to the needs of the practice. Run simulated patient visits to develop comfortable workflows to help reduce staff anxiety.
Bergoff, J. (2011, March). Electronic Dental Records: Start Taking the Steps. Dental Assistant, 80(2), 18-20, 22-3, 26-8; quiz 30, 32-3. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source. (Document ID: 2592431221).