In the past two months, I have had three different dental practices in three different markets reach out to me because they are ready to move forward with transitioning to digital records in their Dentrix software. All three offices are 100% paper charts (except for imaging) and have team members who are having a lot of anxiety about the entire process. I get it! It is very common to feel like the process of going paperless is much more stressful than the inefficiencies of keeping your paper chart.
Any time I see an uptick in questions or requests for services in a particular topic, I feel it is time to write an article, do a podcast, or build an online course. Now, it is very challenging to transition an office to a paperless environment without going in and mapping out the workflow for the team. You also must help the clinical team engage the patient with the computer by using strategically placed monitors for health history, imaging, and patient education.
The benefits of going paperless far outweigh the reasons to stay with a paper chart. I know that is easier said than done. However, I have seen hundreds of offices go through the process and not one of them would go back to a paper chart.
There are three big reasons to eliminate the paper chart:
- Efficiency – Any time you have a paper chart, there will be redundancy. You are duplicating information in multiple places so that you can find it and so that you can give this information to your patients. For example, you might be writing down the treatment plan on a blue piece of paper in the patient chart only to have the admin team enter it into the computer so they can produce an estimate for the patient. The other problem with a paper chart is that only one person can have the chart at any given moment. When you eliminate the paper chart, you have given the accessibility of information to everyone on your team.
- Consistency – The one thing about the paper chart clinical documentation is that everyone writes notes differently … and half the time you can’t read their handwriting. When you use a computer for creating templated notes, forms, and clinical diagnosis, then it is easier, faster, and way more thorough to read. Not only is it easier to read for your team, but it is better for insurance narratives and other doctors to decipher. If you have temps coming into your practice to fill in for a clinical team member, it is critical that you have templated notes they can follow so their documentation meets your standards. I have two online courses that tackle this very topic and both are included in my membership. CLICK HERE to learn more.
- Security – It is up to you to make sure your patient records are secure, no matter if you have a paper chart or a digital chart. If you have paper charts, then you must lock them up so someone doesn’t walk out with one of them. If you have a digital chart, you must put security in place to keep your patient’s information secure. You can easily put passwords in place and backup protocols to protect your patient’s information.
My recommendation for a training and implementation process would be a phased approach to give the team the time, resources, and follow-up needed to master each level before moving onto the next. Since the front desk is grand central, I always start here first. It is also a good idea to make sure your core systems are working well before adding on layers of paperless systems. Assess your recare system, accounts receivable management, and scheduling before moving forward with new systems.
After the admin team has a good workflow for managing paper, notes, and patient communications, then I would move into the clinical world. Remember, for every page of your paper chart, there is a digital alternative. I suggest having a spreadsheet for the team so they can learn and master where to find information in Dentrix. The one thing that will break the trust is not finding information.
Finally, you will know when you can stop pulling the paper charts. You will get to the day when you are not looking in them for information because everything you need is in the computer. It may be six months or a year, but you will get there.
I am here to help you with the process, whether you are interested in a self-guided approach or one that involves me being in the trenches with you and your team. CLICK HERE to learn more about my Dentrix resources, my courses, and in-office options.