Small Steps to a Paperless Oral Surgery Office

What is a realistic approach to eliminating paper and duplicate data in a dental office? The office manager at the New Jersey oral surgery practice described below is taking small steps and balancing the needs of staff, patients, and referral doctors in the movement toward a paperless practice.

This manager highlights that going digital is not a contest.

“Be realistic. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s not a race to see who can be completely digital first. If you run too fast, and your shoes aren’t tied, chances are you will trip along the way.”

She prefers talking to other practices about their experience and using time-tested software over being a beta tester.

Beyond their basic practice management system and scheduling, the practice started their most recent transition by placing digital forms on their website using truForm Assist. This step allowed the front desk to adopt paperless technology before the doctors. Following that was the move to digitize the anesthetic records. Next on the agenda was the implementation of Carestream’s Point-of-Care CR digital radiography module.

While getting each step right before moving on has been this practice’s main goal, they have had to set deadlines to make certain they complete each transition step and move on. When the dental team updated from a UNIX-based to Windows-based practice management system with a scheduler, they found themselves using both paper and electronic schedules until they finally established a deadline.

As a referral practice that depends on communication with other providers, having various systems available that other practices can work with during this transition time to electronic records has been a priority. Otherwise, referrals might decide to go elsewhere. Also, the practice makes sure to have options for clients who may not have embraced digital technology or feel uncomfortable filling out online forms.

The bottom line is to learn to be flexible and always expect new patients and referral practices to catch on quicker than established ones.

Lessons Learned:

  • Implementation of a paperless digital system requires striking a balance between small steps and setting deadlines, and between finding the right time-tested software and customizing the system to meet your needs.
  • Set deadlines to enforce implementation milestones.
  • Be flexible in offering a variety of systems for collecting and exchanging information so that referring doctors and patients can still work with you.

Elwell, C. (2011, Winter). From one office manager to another: Going digital is about communication and flexibility. American Association of Dental Office Managers: The Observer, 20,33.