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    How I managed to create a paperless office

    The transition to paperless can seem daunting, but in the end it could have big benefits for your practice.

    Back in the days before chartless,  it was absolutely mandatory to have everyone as organized as possible. That’s because if you didn’t have a high degree of organization, the office was destined to spend lots of time (and hence, overhead) looking for items that should have been in a chart but unfortunately were not.

    I can personally remember several times in different doctors’ offices where I sat for 30 minutes or more while staff scrambled desperately looking for my chart, or something missing from it. Luckily that never happened in my dental practice, but it certainly was not immune from that possibility.

    Seeing the light

    In the early days of the “technology curve,” there was a lot of printing and storing in an actual physical folder that held chart notes, all radiographs, images, referrals, letters, etc. That manila folder was the center of the patient universe as far as the practice was concerned. If you couldn’t find it or couldn’t find something that was supposed to be in it, you were dead in the water. 

    KeyboardThen came the new millennium and with it the ever-expanding power of the computer. As computer power expanded, so did the integration of clinical technologies. This meant that you no longer needed a digital X-ray program, an imaging program, an accounting program AND a dental management program. Suddenly all of those processes could take place in one central area. The office management program became the hub of the wheel and all of the sundry uses became spokes off of that wheel. For the first time in the history of clinical practice, the computer became the center of information storage instead of the chart. 

    More form the author: Using apps to improve efficiency and security in the dental practice

    So, a few of us jumped on the tech train at this point and began to work on eliminating the paper from our offices (as much as possible). However, this is not some business proposal that can be adopted easily and mastered on the fly. 

    On the contrary, even though myself and my entire team saw the tremendous advantages to being totally digital, we also understood that making such a wholesale change could be complicated and might even be initially disruptive to our business and cashflow. However, all involved also understood that, long term, this would be a tremendous business advantage and so we undertook the journey. We knew and agreed that there would be bumps in the road, but we also knew and agreed that the benefits would certainly outweigh the disadvantages. With those thoughts in mind, we attacked this head on!

    To kick off the process, we knew we would need to take small steps and that each step would need to be totally conquered before moving on to the next. One day, we had a very exciting all-hands staff meeting. We had been discussing the chartless concept for three or four months at this point, so the staff knew what we would be discussing, but it was still important to get us all together at the same time and get our bearings for the journey ahead. At this meeting, we discussed the idea of what it would take to go chartless. We agreed to meet again in one month and for each department (assistants, admin and hygiene) to meet beforehand and bring to the meeting their strengths and weaknesses about going chartless. We referred to this meeting as the Strategic Planning Session.


    Next: How do you implement the change?

    Dr. John Flucke
    Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and ...


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