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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.

     

    8. Marketing

    It’s not only staff directly benefitting from EHRs. Patients are becoming more and more reliant on the ability to access their own patient data online. Being able to provide that data to your patients is a marketing benefit.

    “Patients are requiring more and more information about themselves, about their health,” Uretz says. “EHRs help you with the clinical aspects of patients. In the past, we just had our dental software support practice management functions. Now with EHRs, they are about the clinical information and health of patients. Medical groups have long seen the benefit of this, and I think this will start happening in the dental world as we get more competitive with each other and looking for that edge. The ability to give patients better care through the use of EHRs is going to be a differentiator when patients compare their options.” 

    EHRs are not widely available currently, but Uretz expects the technology to be more prevalent as demand develops. 

    “It’s expensive to develop and implement in their software and vendors have to have a reason to do it,” Uretz says. “Unless more and more dental groups ask for it and see the benefits of it, they’re not going to want to spend money or time doing it. They’re just going to want to keep going along how they are with their standard software. However, I have seen more and more innovative vendors entering the EHR market, just as we saw in medicine over the last few years — the industry started asking for it, so then the vendors started doing it.”

    And that capability, Uretz says, may attract patients. 

    “With the way consumers are interested in their own health, they would be more interested in a group that has that ability,” he adds. “I think it will be a differentiator between groups having it or not having it.”

    Trending article: Why practice management systems are crucial to practice success

    9. Analytics

    There is a lot of data made possible by EHRs. The ability to analyze the data can be used by the practice or group for a variety of purposes — both directly for patient care as well as for business functions.

    “We can see the outcomes, we can see how we’re doing,” Uretz says. “We can see if certain clinical techniques and procedures work better than others. We have all that data, but you can only capture that with the electronic health records. So now we can do analytics, which leads to better dentistry, better outcomes. Analytics, along with electronic health records, let you analyze on a higher level how your practice is doing from a clinical standpoint. 

    Those analytics can also be helpful, especially as insurance companies start requiring more and more comprehensive clinical information surrounding submitted claims.”

    Uretz has seen those insurance requirements become standard in the medical world, and he expects to see the same happen in dentistry.  

    “Accountable care has come to the forefront and EHRs are critical in satisfying where insurance is going,” he says. “You’re starting to hear more and more insurance companies talking about changing their reimbursement models, where now you have to actually show what you did and how you did it. You have to justify the procedure you did. Once insurance in dentistry changes that way, then you’re definitely going to see a need for EHRs and associated clinical analytics.”

    Practices may be resistant to making the switch to EHRs because it can be seen as a headache and an unnecessary expense.

    “We see an increase in productivity and efficiency, that’s in my mind, for a lot of practices, difficult to quantify,” Dr. Lavine says. “What you see is, ‘Gee, I have to buy more software and now I’m paying for more tech-support time,’ and ‘We have more issues,’ and ‘We’re down more often,’ ‘We need new computers,’ ‘We need a bigger server,’ and ‘We have to do all this stuff for HIPAA compliance and it’s really hard to see that they are saving money.’ In the short run, you don’t see that, because you’re just writing all these checks.”

    While EHRs can be a great way to save money and time, they may be critical to practices’ growth and overall health.

    “Groups that do not incorporate electronic records as part of their software will really have issues with how they grow and their success,” Uretz says.

    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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