Three Common Questions on Dental Health Records

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The vast majority of clinics and hospitals across the US now use some form of electronic health records. The change from paper to digital did not happen overnight and federal programs like meaningful use have helped to accelerate the trend. Unfortunately the dental industry is only now starting to adopt their own version of the EHR.

Electronic Dental Records can help streamline administrative and clinical processes, bridge the gap between the dentist and patients as well as improve collaboration between various members of the patient’s care team. As dental practices embark on the EDR journey, many will have questions about the new systems. Here are three of the more common ones:

What’s the Difference between Dental Charting and EDR Systems?

There is a common misconception amongst dentists that they already have EDR systems. In reality, what they have is a digital charting tool and a few elements of an EDR. A comprehensive EDR system has the ability to capture all aspects of the patient’s care – right from the moment they step into the office. The dentist should be able to bring up their entire history with a couple of clicks.

Advanced features like treatment planning, checklists, claims processing, data analytics and clinical alerts are an essential part of the EDR system. Interoperability with other EDR systems, the ability to exchange data with other clinics and patient portals are also required components. Some vendors even include population health management tools in that EHRs systems and these are slowly making their way over to dentistry as well.

Who Should Be Involved in Buying and Implementing EDR Systems?

The standard process to acquire new technology for businesses is a top-down approach. Managers or even higher ranking executives typically make the purchase decision. Depending on the size of the company and scope of the project, entire teams will be involved in planning and implementation.

EDRs are different. The system will have many users on both sides of the administrative and clinical divide. A hygienist will use the system in one way while the receptionist will use other modules. Practice owners should get team buy-in before purchasing any system. You can even collaborate with the vendor to customize certain aspects of the system to make it easier for daily use. EDR implementation will be a failure if the entire team is not on board.

How Much Training Does a Practice Need for EDR Systems?

There is no hard and fast rule for determining how much training you need. It depends on various factors such as the technical proficiency of various team members, the complexity of the software, business requirements of the clinic and so on. Clinics that have invested more resources in planning will find that training goes a lot easier. Enthusiastic team members that are committed to learning the system will become proficient faster than others.

Even the simplest EDR system will be hard to understand if it has a convoluted interface. Misplaced buttons, long scrollbars, multiple windows etc. needlessly complicate clinical workflows. A well designed system will flatten the learning curve for users. Above all, any EDR is only as good as the data you give it. Your staff has to use it actively and input correct data to get the most out of the system.

No matter how small your clinic is, buying and implementing an EDR system will be a big project. A little bit of planning and forethought will help smooth the path to adoption and use. You are almost guaranteed to face a few obstacles along the way but none are insurmountable. In the end, you will have a system that will help you be more effective and improve patient outcomes.