Using dental software to teach EHR to students

November 14th, 2014

The best way to train students in the use of electronic health records (EHR) is to have them work with dental software that provides this training. For example, dental enterprise software is effectively an EHR program that allows those working in the school's clinic to record appointments and keep dental records together. For patients, this is very convenient because if a dental student notices something he or she doesn't know how to treat, then that patient can be sent to a clinic with experienced dentists along with his or her records, which can be sent electronically. As such, the entire process is easy. Patients enjoy it when everything at the clinic is streamlined, so offering this service will help to retain patients or even bring in new ones.

But actually using EHR software is tricky. It takes time to understand, and the best place to learn is in a relatively low-risk place such as dental school.  According to the American College of Physicians, doctors, dentists and oral hygienists are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their EHR software. The reason might be that they simply don't know how to use it properly.

"There are several reasons physicians end up unhappy with their [EHR] systems, and one of the most common is flawed training," said Jeffery Daigrepont, healthcare IT expert and vice president of the Coker Group, a healthcare industry advisory firm, in an interview with Physicians Practice.

Teaching EHR
According to statistics cited by Physicians Practice, most people get trained in EHR for perhaps three to five days as part of their orientation, but this isn't enough to handle the sophistication that such software affords. As such, training should be a constant "work in progress." Students should start learning as soon as they are able to work for the on-site clinic, and they should practice as much as possible. The training sessions should be ongoing and continuous, highlighting different aspects of the software, such as the codes for insurance and different medical conditions. Common errors could be shown to make sure these are not repeated. Students who are just starting out can have their work double-checked for accuracy. If a mistake is found, the student should self-correct, so that the lesson is more firmly rooted in place.

Some people will naturally excel at EHR compared with other students. These are so-called super users, and they should be the ones who train people who aren't as good at the software. This is a much better choice than having super users actually input the code for everyone else, so that only a handful of people are familiar with the tools.

"Often practices train just a few key employees, which is a mistake, "said Tammie Olsen of Management Resource Group, a firm that brings financial management and support services to the healthcare community. "If all your staff is not trained properly, there will be a breakdown in the flow of your practice which can lead to patient dissatisfaction, work backlog, and interruptions in your revenue cycle."

On the contrary, for those who are particularly challenged when it comes to EHR, the training should be more intense, so they don't make as many mistakes, which could hurt their future careers.

Ways of using EHR to streamline practice at the clinic
A separate Physicians Practice article highlights the ways that dental enterprise software and other forms of EHR can help to make things run more smoothly at a dental clinic. For example, looking at the logs inside the dental software can show who is using software the most. People that are using the software a lot are likely stressed out from the extra work, so they should be given more time to recover, while other people can get some extra time with the software to help balance the load that everyone faces.

People can also have meetings about EHR to discuss how everything is working out for everyone. Items to address include ways that people can speed along the process of working with the software in order to better time the EHR inputs with actual patient time, so that patients get timely records they can view online, just like with the software that professional clinics use. Experienced professionals who help to run the clinic can also sit down and help the students learn some of the EHR tricks and shortcuts they might not otherwise have known about.

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