Dental Practices and Implementing EHRs

Electronic health records (EHRs) shall become a part of dental practices by 2015 according to the federal mandate. The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that EHRs have not become fully recognized by the dental community. However, given the consensus among the medical and in some cases, the dental communities, electronic health records will impact dental practitioners sooner than later. For those dental practices that already use some form of electronic dental records (EDRs), the upgrade to formal electronic health record (EHR) technology will be a much smoother transition.

SNODENT, the acronym for Systematized Nomenclature of Dentistry, is the universal language of dental concepts and will be used for documenting in the EHR. Additionally, the ADA is investigating software dental practices may consider implementing. Dental practices that implement EHRs will be in a better position to co-manage treatment plans for patients with complex medical histories. The frequency at which a patient must have radiological exams can be reduced with EHRs that offer more interoperability.

According to Mary Beth Swift, a dentistry operational manager, dentist practices that embrace the new technological advances will benefit from implementation.  As with any major change, preparation in planning is first on the agenda. Dental practices that already use some form of technology will find the transition easier. Additionally, researching potential vendors will pay off when the time comes to eventually go digital.

Her experience with dental practice software has allowed her to engage staff to the benefits of using EHRs. The payoff has shown as well. Patients describe how efficient their office has become. Also, the transparency of the exams allows patients to view their information. Their streamlining and integrating systems incrementally have led to successful digital dental practices that have pleased their patients.

Lessons Learned:

  • Implement EHRs in the dental practice as soon as possible.
  • Transitioning to EHRs is easier if some technology is already in place.
  • SNODENT will make communication and documentation in the EHR universal.

Swift, Mary Beth. (2010, Nov). Preparing for the transition to electronic medical records. Dental Economics, 100, (11), 112-115. Retrieved March 9, 2012, from ABI/INFORM Trade & Industry. (Document ID: 2224862931).