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    9 ways EHRs save time and money

    EHRs might seem scary, but if used well they can streamline your practice and make it more profitable.

    As tools, materials and techniques continue to evolve, the things that were once considered high-tech become archaic. Amalgam fillings and film-based X-rays, for example, are no longer the cutting-edge technologies they once were. So too is the status of one of the world’s most ancient technologies — paper. 

    Electronic health records (EHRs) make it possible to rid the practice of file folders, cabinets and rooms full of paper. But beyond simply removing the clutter, EHRs make it possible for practices to do more with patient information, ultimately saving both time and money.

    Related reading: 7 common questions about dental EHRs

    1. Productivity

    Practices embracing EHRs typically see an upswing in their overall productivity.

    “When all the data is at your fingertips, you’re not wasting time pulling charts,” says Dr. Lorne Lavine, founder and president of Dental Technology Consultants. “At least, when I was in practice, I would oftentimes leave charts lying on my desk or wherever, so you have all that information available to you. Your staff is not spending time running around trying to find data, giving them more time to do things like marketing and just being more productive in their day-to-day work.”

    In many cases, practices using EHRs are probably still not getting the most out of them. Lavine observes that there is an abundance of capabilities that most practices don’t even tap.

    EHR transition“Keep in mind that, in dentistry, we don’t have true EHRs,” Dr. Lavine says. “We have practice management software systems that have been cobbled together to get them more like in an EHR system, like they have in medicine. Almost every major dental practice management system existed before HIPAA, before EHRs were a ‘thing.’ Those systems, as a rule, most people are completely underutilizing what the software can do. They are using maybe five to 10 percent of the software’s capabilities. They are using it for scheduling, for treatment planning, for billing, for insurance. They run some reports on a monthly basis. They’re using it, in a lot of ways, like a glorified QuickBooks. Where I think a lot of practices can really improve is utilizing that information where it relates to how they schedule their days, how they market their practice. There’s a lot of data they have that they’re just not using.”

    That underutilized data can be used for such capabilities as marketing and effective scheduling.

    “A lot of it is understanding the patient demographics,” Dr. Lavine says. “For example, you can run reports that let you know if there are certain times of the day that are more productive than others. Are there certain demographics, whether it’s age group or socioeconomic standing, male or female? There is a lot there that will allow you to schedule more productively, that will allow you to tailor your marketing for certain groups, and it’s all there, but people just don’t run those reports. They don’t know that they have access to that data or that they can utilize that data to change the way that they run their practice.”

    Trending article: 6 myths and facts about electronic health records

    2. Time

    Time savings is, of course, an important factor, and just being able to spend a few minutes here and there over the course of the day adds up. For instance, Dr. John Flucke, DDS, Technology Editor for Dental Products Report, went paperless in the late ’90s, and he immediately saw the time savings affording him a better work/life balance.

    “I’ve always had my assistants and my hygienists write up their patients, and then I would always review it and make any additions,” Dr. Flucke says. “I did that to save time, so that at the end of the day, I wasn’t writing everything and trying to keep up during the day. So what would happen is, this big stack of charts would hit my desk at 5:15 p.m. When we went digital, just having the digital chart notes, and people writing in them during the day, and then I would add to them when I had time over the course of the day. Then, at the end of the day, rather than getting this big stack of charts sitting on my desk, I would just pack up and go home. I was getting home from the office about an hour earlier. That was huge. Having an hour more with my family was well worth the trouble of converting.”


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    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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