Implementation Strategies for Chartless Dental Office

For dental offices interested in implementing and adopting and electronic health record (EHR), the first question will often be where to begin. This will all depend on and whether they currently use technology in their office. Some are at the very beginning, paper administration practices and patient charts; some use minimal practice management (PM) software and paper charts; and some have separate PM and digital radiology systems and paper charts. In other words, variability abounds as dental offices get more engaged with technology and EHRs.

That variability can extend to staff as well. As the dentist and employer, your primary task in the decision to transition to an EHR is to include the staff. Though it might be initially rough, most staff will be motivated to learn the new technologies with training and support. At its worst, there may be the occasion when the staff member may simply will bow out or let go.

However,

“The three most common observations about these employees are they are set in their ways; they are not comfortable with new technology; or they are simply unwilling to move forward into the digital era” (2012).

Another area to consider in the EHR process is whether to integrate or bridge software. As a general rule,

“Always insist on having integration over bridging” (2012).

Bridging tends to require more process steps that integration which operates more smoothly and seamlessly. For offices that have an established, if only partial software, working with the current vendor’s products might be the best option to enhancement. For first time EHR seekers, investigating a variety of vendors will be worth the effort.

“If your current practice management software does not integrate with any image management software on the market, there are two options: find the best suitable product to complement your current practice management software or begin shopping for a complete digital software solution with proper integration” (2012).

Once the decision has been made to transition to an electronic PM and EHR, there is no turning back.

“Occasionally you will refer to information from a chart. Simply pull that particular chart, retrieve the information and place it back in the archive. Some offices will scan a particular document, such as the treatment plan from each chart to further reduce the need to handle the paper charts” (2012).

Lessons learned:

  • Paper practices, such as scheduling books and chart will need to be eliminated or archived.
  • Create or update job descriptions, policies and procedures to reflect new technology practices.
  • Provide training and support for staff even if it means hiring temporary staff.
  • Keep staff updated on EHR implementation and transition progress.
  • Make sure vendor support is available on demand.

 

Scappatura, C. BA, EDP, Contagious Enthusiasm Inc. (2012, Jan.). Avoid the pitfalls of creating a chartless office. Texas Dental Journal, 114-117.