The value of EHRs in dental schools

February 5th, 2014

Electronic health records are a popular staple of modern medical care. Yet, more often than not, their usage is associated solely with hospitals. Dental academic software includes an EHR program capable of streamlining inter-office workflow and providing ample benefits for students, doctors and patients alike.

Communicate better
There are several drawbacks to using paper charts, chiefly their lack of versatility. Using hard copy records, doctors and other staff members are severely limited in their workflow, as a single chart can only be used by one person at a time. EHRs provided through dental software have inter-office communication benefits that can greatly improve efficiency and boost productivity. In an electronic format, patient records and charts can be viewed simultaneously by multiple staff members and easily shared between dentists and facilities.

Prepare students for future of dentistry
According to a study from the Journal of the American Dental Association, EHR use in dental practices has jumped 50 percent since 2004. More than three-fourths of dentists now employ the technology, and researchers suspect that number will continue to grow as the technology develops.

Research showed that of the dentists who had access to a computer in their office but weren't currently use an EHR system, nearly all confirmed that they were likely to begin employing the technology within the next two years.

The future of dentistry will undoubtedly involve a transition to more computerized programs. The earlier dental students begin using and familiarizing themselves with the system, the better equipped they will be to transition into the workforce when they graduate.

Streamline billing
At a clinic, dentists will see multiple patients a day, and each one requires a certain amount of documentation. Using paper charts and filling out form after form can become tedious, which can often lead to costly clerical errors.

In Maine, several dentists are enrolled in a state-wide program subsidizing oral care for low-income patients, according to the Portland Press Herald. The program has had some success. However, several clinics recently lost as much as $200,000 because of clerical errors in their reimbursement claims. EHRs work to eliminate errors by optimizing the initial entry of information. Instead of scribbling notes on a pad, dentists enter clinical documentation, prescribe medication and capture applicable charges all during a patient's visit. The information could then be effortlessly transferred into the dental school software's billing system, cutting down on both time and errors.

Quick ROI
Searching for and pulling up a chart for a patient may seem like an inconsequential amount of time. Yet, when considering the number of charts a clinic may go through in a day, the time spent looking for paper documents can quickly become wasteful.

A six operatory dental clinic – the average size – is likely to use upwards of 40 charts in a single day, and finding each chart takes approximately 5 minutes. That's more than three hours a staff member could lose simply looking for records.

Seeing the return on investment for EHRs is easy once you consider the great amount of time a traditional paper system will eat in a year: 858 hours.

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