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    What a paperless practice really looks like

    How real dentists have gone paperless in their practices.

     

    Patient benefits

    A paperless system allows for easier and more flexible scheduling.

    “If you walk in and there’s a 10 o’clock opening in hygiene, where’s your short call list? You can have something written on a piece of paper, or you can push a button and there’s everyone that’s due for hygiene,” Dr. Hyman says. “We work very closely with Solutionreach as well, so we can zip an email first thing to 50 patients who are due for hygiene and say, first one in gets this 10 o’clock appointment today.”

    Related article: How to lower overhead and increase productivity with optimized scheduling blocks

    Dr. Hyman says that in one six-month period of working like this, his practice experienced a $100,000 increase in appointments that had “fallen through the cracks.”

    Of course, not having paperwork lying around the office means no growing piles to file or scan and no chance to lose information. Having digital prescriptions (i.e., “e-scripts”) also keeps them safe from forgery. Doctors can issue e-scripts with their software, which are instantly sent to the pharmacist. E-scripts keep patients and doctors safe from lost or altered prescriptions.

    Paperless files also make patient communication easier. With patient portals, patients can access patient forms online, upload completed forms and even pay through the portal. And with mobile, digital files, doctors can help patients stay on top of their diagnoses and treatment plans — even if they aren’t currently following one.

    “I have two screens in my office, so if someone comes in with four bitewings, I’ll put an enlarged bitewing on one screen and the patient’s chart on another screen and look it over,” Dr. Flucke says. “If someone has something from their last visit that they didn’t get done, I see their chart and know that I can remind them to have a situation taken care of since it’s been six months or a year since we told them about it and it’s not getting any better.”

    Having imaging software in the operatory that captures and displays the images to the patients has helped to enhance patient education for Dr. Watts.

    Related article: How to fix your scheduling problems in one day

    “I have the imaging software on tablets and they can instantly load into the cloud software,” he explains. “From there, I’m able to analyze and educate patients by handing them the tablet I use. We go over their X-rays together and we dictate the treatment from there.”

    Beware of crashes

    With a digital, paperless practice, there has to be some form of backup. A practice can choose to back up their data to a local server, or they can back it up to the cloud. There are risks to both, which is why having more than one form of backup is smart. As Dr. Flucke says, it’s good to have a “backup chain” with as many links in the chain as possible. To ensure a good backup chain, he says, practices should strongly consider having an expert set up a good backup system for the practice.

    “A lot of times, dentists think that if they have a carbonite backup, they’re good,” Dr. Flucke says. “You might be. But you need to have a disaster plan in place. I’ve had my system go down three times in my career. If patients come in and don’t remember what they’re here for, it’s a nightmare.”

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