Every dental office should have an integrated practice management and electronic records system in use to provide maximum benefits for the patients as well as the staff. In this context, “integration” refers to comprehensive connectivity between multiple computers including home access, and means any actions taken or changes made from any workstation are immediately updated or reflected in every other computer or module connected to the software. The offices run better and more seamlessly; and patients are happier. Additionally, they are more satisfied knowing their dentist keeps abreast of technologies to improve their oral health.
“The benefits of an integrated system are unquestionable: Information is shared instantly and easy to access. This makes virtually every aspect of patient care smoother and more straightforward, and helps create and organized, professional environment” (2011).
As with any software applications, it is important to evaluate the needs of the practice. Practice management systems come in many varieties with eager vendors prepared to sell the latest and greatest. Understand the utility of the office environment’s EHR and consider the whole office. Do you want patients more engaged with the technology by being able to check-in for an appointment from the waiting room? What about an Internet accessible patient portal that allows patients to pre-complete forms from any browser before arriving to the dental office? Do you want to be able to connect to your office PM system remotely? Just some things to think about that may be part of the practice.
“Software integration provides you with helpful ways to connect with your patients. Integration also creates the option for doctors or office managers to connect from home computers. A few practice management programs have proprietary applications that let doctors connect via smartphone” (2011).
And finally, of major importance is system back-up. All EHR/PM software systems and especially systems that need to be HIPAA compliant must have effective reliable back-up. Without one could potentially cause dire consequences in the event of a disaster. Therefore, some type of system to protect patient information will be necessary. And if given an option, choose a reputable remote service if one is not included with your PM system. It reduces the risk of a disaster destroying onsite back-up storage systems; and off-site hard storage devices could get lost, damaged, or compromised by theft.
- Integrated systems allow more flexibility.
- Information shared instantly and is easy to access.
- You can engage your patients by having them interact with the system.
- You need proper hardware resources to support computer integration
- Don’t rush to scan everything at once while becoming paperless