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    9 questions to ask about EHR

    Should your practice enter the world of EHR? You should consider these things before you take the plunge.

    While electronic health records (EHRs) are widely used in medicine, it hasn’t quite taken off in dentistry. Some experts, like Mike Uretz, executive director of DentalSoftwareAdvisor.com and dental software advisor for Dental Products Report, tout the advantages and inevitability of EHRs in dentistry, while others aren’t quite so sure. Dr. Lorne Lavine, founder and president of Dental Technology Consultants, had once advocated for dental practices to invest in EHRs but is no longer a proponent. Now that the meaningful use incentive is no longer available, there’s just no real reason to invest, he says. 

    “When the funding was available and the office qualified [for the incentive], we absolutely advised [investing in an EHR], because that was a significant amount of money available to them,” Dr. Lavine says. “That opportunity is now gone, so we are not currently pushing EHR as an option. Most dental practices use maybe 5-10 percent of what their dental practice management software can do. They use it for patient information, scheduling, billing, treatment planning, charting and that’s kind of it. The things that you would normally get in a full-feature EHR module, the vast majority of offices don’t need or want.” 

    And for “most” offices, he’s talking probably 98 percent of them. 

    “I would say that, of the offices we’ve worked with, the number of those using an EHR module is between 1-2 percent,” Dr. Lavine says. 

    Related reading: What dental professionals need to know about the EHR incentive payment program

    EHRUretz disagrees with this assessment, mentioning that although having eligibility for the incentive was a nice perk for a small amount of eligible offices, there are many patient care, operational and workflow reasons to obtain EHR. “There are [also] five more years available for Meaningful Use subsidies for qualified offices,” Uretz says. “In fact, I’m helping a number of practices and groups get substantial year two Meaningful Use incentives [this year] and will continue to help them obtain funds through the end of the program in 2021.”

    Plus, one reason that some dental practices might not have pursued EHR in the past is because of their business model. In that case, Dr. Lavine believes the future could bring about a greater increase of EHR use in dentistry as the dominant model swings from private practice to DSOs

    And with the number of third-party systems that integrate with practice management software, electronic health records seem unnecessary, he says. “EHR is supposed to take a bunch of disconnected systems and have them work together, but in dental, we don’t see as much of that,” Dr. Lavine says. “It doesn’t have the traction in dental that it does in the medical field.” 

    Trending article: Are DSOs really taking over?

    But perhaps that will change as the industry evolves. 

    “Each year, the systems get better and better,” Uretz says. “Over the last three years, more software vendors have recognized the importance and hopped on board. The growth of multi-location groups has really accelerated EHR development. With groups, there are more locations and more dentists, and it’s important to standardize the patient care and manage what’s going on clinically. So that’s pushing more vendors to look at electronic health records.” 

    So should your practice take the leap into the world of EHRs? To help you decide, here are nine questions you should ask when considering whether electronic health records are right for your practice. 

    Next: What type of EHR should you get?

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