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Why do Dentists Still Rely on Paper Records After EHR?

Even though stage II of the meaningful use program got off to a rocky start, the success of stage I has been pretty outstanding. The combination of federal incentives as well as the threat of reduction in payments has combined to spur most practices to enroll in the program. However a significant number of dental practices still rely on paper records or manual methods of data keeping.


How significant are the numbers? A recent survey of dental professionals looking for dentistry software showed that about 51% of respondents were still relying exclusively on paper or some combination of software and manual methods (Survey conducted by dental software research company, Software Advice, November 2014). That means slightly more than half of the dentists surveyed are not even close to implementing HR systems let alone attesting for meaningful use.


There are many reasons why some dental practices still hesitate to jump onto the digital wagon. One crucial factor may be the uncertainty and rumors surrounding meaningful use and its applicability to dental professionals. While it is not mandatory for dentists to participate in a meaningful use program, those who have a significant volume of patients through Medicare or Medicaid (usually around 30%) have to do so.


Even for those dentists who are not required to adopt EHRs, state laws or private insurer plans may require that they utilize electronic billing for claim payments. Given that they have to comply with so many regulations, it is no wonder that some dental practices prefer to wait and gather information before purchasing expensive software.


Some dentists are not aware of web-based or cloud hosted alternatives especially older practitioners. Most vendors that sell client/server or on premise systems charge very high rates for licensing which means that the financial incentives from the meaningful use program are not enough to cover the costs. Similarly not all dental professionals are convinced of the benefits of EHRs and claim that writing notes with pen and paper is still faster or more efficient for them.


Clearly then, education and awareness have a significant role in persuading dentists to switch to EHRs. The use of templates, drop-down menus, auto complete and other software features make it easy for users to capture clinical data as well as reducing the time taken to access them later. Perhaps most importantly, capturing notes digitally means making them more readable – a frequent complaint against the healthcare industry.


Dovetail dental software offers a comprehensive and integrated suite of software products targeted at dental practices, regardless of their size. Whether you are a solo practitioner or part of a multi-speciality group, we have a subscription plan to suit your needs.