"We are a Paperless Office"

From speaking with several dental practices it is apparent that if a dental office is chartless then that defines them as a “paperless office.” In this case study we explore what defines a “paperless office” and the benefits of becoming a truly “paperless office.”

The Belief

With advancements in today’s technology, dental offices are dramaticly changing the way they handle their dental business. It is a common practice for dental offices to integrate practice management software into their practices and produce electronic charts instead of paper charts. Insurance claims are submitted electronically instead of by paper and mail. Patient forms are scanned into the computer system for storage while x-rays are taken digitally.

HOWEVER, does this constitute a paperless practice?

The Reality

Take a look around your office, the front desk and the treatment rooms, where do you see paper? Are patient forms digitized? Are invoices sitting in the outgoing mailbox? This does not constitute a paperless practice. According to Wikipedia, “A paperless office is a work environment at which the use of paper is eliminated.” The key word here is eliminated. This requires eliminating all paper forms such as, medical history, patient consent forms, registration and financial forms, patient routers, paper schedules, charts and anything else that is printed on paper.

Even though an office has computers in the operatories or computer charting software in place, when you truly take a look around it isn’t hard to miss the printed daily schedules or the patient routers. Step into the waiting room and you can see patients filling out medical history forms and consent forms that are then scanned into the computer to make one think they are paperless. Or the paper chart that is then typed into the computer after it has already been written down.

In order to draw the benefits of a paperless system, the office has to have the appropriate resources in place. This includes the appropriate technology and the right training for learning how to integrate the paperless technology. On average, it costs $15,000 to create and store paper charts and another $13,000 just to maintain and store 2,500 paper charts. By bringing digital solutions into your practice you can save $28,000 in just one year.

Conclusion

Many dental offices believe they are a paperless office when in fact they are not. However, with proper practice management software and the correct digital tools, an office can eliminate paper. Patient forms can be emailed to the patient prior to their appointment and filled out electronically upon arrival. If email isn’t an option, handheld computer pads can be used to gather information or acquire signatures. Patient invoices can be sent electronically or sent out to a third party billing company who then handles the paper portion for your office. Insurance claims can be submitted electronically with any digital images that are required to be attached to the claim.

So ask yourself, are you truly a paperless practice?

*References Available Upon Request