As a dentist considering private practice for the first time, the cost of start-up can and will run thousands of dollars. However, by going digital at the onset, the cost savings in the long run will more than pay for itself. Establishing an all-digital dental office includes implementing electronic health records (EHRs). The federal government may at some point require dental practices to implement electronic records even though it has already become the standard for many dental and medical practices.
Dr. Brad Dykstra is a general dentist with a private practice in Hudsonville, Michigan. His office is fully digital and he discusses the benefits and cost savings between traditional paper- and film-based versus digital dentistry. While he conveys the initial start-up costs are comparable, the maintenance and hidden savings from digital and electronic systems far outweigh traditional methods. Here is a sample breakdown of cost differential analysis of traditional versus digital operations:
Some of the hidden cost savings include reducing the square footage required to hold large office furniture, file cabinets and film processing equipment. Also, the amount of time to put together, file and store, maintain paper quality and integrity, and review and repair paper charts adds up. As practices grow, so does the need for physical space and staff. EHRs eliminate this altogether. No more paper, no more charts, less staff, supplies and cost to maintain them. Processing film will no longer be necessary since it too, will be gone as well as the equipment and processing supplies. The choice is clear; electronic records in the dental practice are a must and necessary part dental offices.
- EHRs save dentists time and money.
- Decide on start-up equipment such as computer workstations and desks.
- Get networked with Internet access.
- Select hardware and software that will grow with the practice.
- Select practice management software for patient information, scheduling appointments and processing insurance claims.
- Select digital intraoral radiography system capable of integrating with practice management software including EHRs.
- Establish back-up system such as an external hard drive or an online service.
- Plan for regular upgrades to support EHR operations.
- EHRs eliminate paper and film.