Paper or Paperless? The Best Patient Charts for Your Practice

Posted by Brett Lindstrom on 2/26/2014

What kind of practice would you like to have, one with paper charts or one with electronic charts?  Both options are available and both have their pros and cons. 

First pay attention to the federal regulations.  I’m sure you've heard by now that federal regulations require dental and medical offices to be “paperless” and implement complete Electronic Health Records (EHRs) by 2014.  While it is true that dentistry is included in the fine print of these regulations, it is important to note that the only consequence of not complying with these paperless requirements is a reduction in Medicare reimbursements.  Since general dentists do not treat Medicare patients, it is not necessary for them to become paperless.

However, there are still advantages of incorporating EHRs in your practice and it’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the investment or not.  Many dental schools are now teaching students to use EHRs, so younger dentists are very familiar with them, but everyone is still faced with the decision to buy paper forms and charts or buy software programs.

Paper charts are simplistic to use by anyone and will be much more inexpensive in the short term.  However, using paper charts will require you to keep purchasing new charts in the future, but it won’t require as much staff training or technical support that is needed with software.

Using complete EHRs may be a very large initial investment, but the idea of this is to save you money in the long run by not having to constantly purchase new paper charts.  If you setup your office correctly, using EHRs also has the ability to automate patient flow throughout your office and make you a little more efficient.

Determine how you’d like new patients to fill out their paperwork.  They can complete them on your office website electronically or by printing PDF forms.  For those patients who need to complete their forms in your office, do you want to go the traditional route and give them a clipboard with paper forms, or do you want to setup a computer for them to electronically complete their forms?  Tablets are becoming more popular, but do you trust handing a $500 device to your patients?

Security is of course always any issue to look at.  With paper charts, your patients’ information is left vulnerable to a burglar, but has no risk of any computer viruses or hackers trying to get into your network.  On the other hand, paper charts can be lost forever in a natural disaster or fire, while electronic records are always securely backed up (or at least they should be).

The choice is yours, so make sure you do your research and weigh your options.  Whether you choose paper charts or EHRs, The Dental Record has both options available and is the only record keeping system endorsed by ADA Business Resources.  

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