Starting up a college clinic

January 8th, 2015

Health clinics run by medical students are on the rise, according to HealthDay News. Universities offering programs such as dental schools or oral hygiene facilities are finding that having a clinic on site where students can learn is a major benefit. In fact, over half of all medical students, dental or otherwise, are involved in a medical clinic when they have the option to be. In 2005, there were only 110 student-run clinics, but now there are more than 200 in existence.

The students at these schools are learning important lessons about how to care for patients and program electronic health records.

"Despite the lack of academic credit at many institutions, most medical students are volunteering in this setting. Given the ubiquity of [these clinics] in the education of future physicians, further research is needed to assess their educational and clinical outcomes," said Sunny Smith of the University of California, which studied the existence of these schools, according to HealthDay News. "The lack of funding and sufficient faculty supervisors identified as the biggest challenges in [these clinics] are actionable items because institutional support could help stabilize and improve these educational opportunities for years to come."

The basic message, therefore, is that these clinics could potentially be major game-changers when it comes to helping students prepare for the profession. But they need support from those in charge of campus finances.

One way to support these schools would be to provide enough funding for dental enterprise software. Such a program works to help run the facility without much help from faculty. The technology serves as a management device and web portal for students and patients alike. Students could log into the software in order to control appointments and program EHR, send out bills to patients and insurance companies. Meanwhile, patients can use the technology to check up on their records and see about any outstanding payments they need to make.

Implementing dental enterprise software
While having this tool at hand in order to begin making major improvements to a clinic is useful, there are still important considerations to make when implementing the software. For example, according to Health Care IT News, there are many lessons to be drawn from other hospitals that have undergone a change in their EHR software. This is especially true when moving from a system that is relatively basic to something more complex and nuanced, requiring greater skills.

Because students are entering a profession that is always changing and becoming more advanced, it's important that students gain access to the most complex software available, so that they will learn on tools that will function as they do in real life. Remember that clinics are not intended to be places where students' hands are held. They are for learning and for gaining the strength it takes to persevere through to becoming a real dentist with a certification to practice in this field. Hygienists will also benefit from having the most challenging software available for students for much the same reasons.

Having said this, it is still a challenge for many to begin the transition away from something easy to something harder and more realistic. As such, the transition should be gradual and include some assistance from more advanced students and professors. A major issue with EHR migration is that this "transition" will effectively happen every time new students come into the clinic. They will go from being EHR illiterate to having a fuller understanding of how to do EHR coding. This will have to be built into the clinic's training program.

Keeping people aware of what is happening
A major benefit of good dental enterprise software is that is functions transparently. This will be helpful as when students are learning with these tools, they will likely make mistakes, and the people watching over them will need to keep a close watch as they continue the process of learning on the new tools.

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