Next time you walk into your dental office, pretend you’re a new patient. If you’re greeted by a wall of paper charts and a reception area featuring a sliding glass window and a clipboard, think about what you are communicating. Impersonal reception areas, clipboards and paper charts scream “yesterday.” Now consider that, rightly or wrongly, patients form beliefs about the quality of your dentistry based upon these seemingly innocuous things.
Next time you walk into your dental office, pretend you’re a new patient.
If you’re greeted by a wall of paper charts and a reception area featuring a sliding glass window and a clipboard, think about what you are communicating. Impersonal reception areas, clipboards and paper charts scream “yesterday.” Now consider that, rightly or wrongly, patients form beliefs about the quality of your dentistry based upon these seemingly innocuous things.
By contrast, a reception area populated by genuinely welcoming humans, uncluttered desks sporting computer screens, iPads, green plants and art work also communicate something about your dentistry. Before patients who walk into that kind of atmosphere ever open their mouths, they already feel more trusting of you because they already believe your practice employs the best modern dentistry has to offer.
The thriving dental office of the present and future is an all-digital office, and an all-digital office is a planet friendly office. Green dental offices understand that digital patient communications, charting, scheduling, marketing and billing not only mean a lighter environmental footprint, but higher profitability and improved doctor and staff efficiency.
The difference paperless makes
A conventional dental office uses an average of 10,000 sheets of paper every year just to populate paper charts, and that doesn’t include the paper used to make the file folders themselves. In 20 years of practice, all that paper and the processes used to make it, dispose of it, and store it in landfills, will add 25 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Printing billing or “walk-out” statements for patients generates an average of 50 sheets of paper a day, or another 10,000 pieces of paper each year. And the vast majority of the paper we buy is not from recycled or sustainable sources, but is still made from trees that, if not cut down, would be doing their job emitting oxygen and filtering carbon dioxide from the air we breathe. Making matters worse, 85% of the paper Americans use is not recycled.
It saves time and money
Now think about how many hours your front office team spends each day “pulling charts,” filing and deciphering doctor and hygienist notes, trying to find Mrs. Jones’ lost chart, or locating x-rays that have been misfiled. If you are one of the about 60% of dental offices that has not integrated digital charting, challenge yourself to track the amount of staff time that is spent on these non-productive tasks. Imagine instead your team members using all this “found” time to educate patients about the connection between oral well-being and systemic well-being, or taking the time to sit down with a patient and knowledgeably discussing their treatment plan and arranging financing, or helping your patients complete a digital survey about their wonderful experience in your dental office. And if these benefits aren’t enough, consider that a survey done by a national consulting firm concluded that the fully digital dental office saves nearly $9,000 a year.
If you are still sending a paper newsletter to your patients, think about how much paper that newsletter uses, and what it costs you to print it and mail it “snail mail.” Now think about the opportunities presented by a digital newsletter, one that requires no trees to be cut down, no postage, and one that is instantly delivered to your patients’ inbox, allows them to click through to request an appointment while you’re sleeping, and that also allows patients to pass information about your office to a friend or family member at the push of a button.
Your office will get more done
Consider the efficiencies that a paperless office affords the clinical team. We know of offices that have integrated iPads, loaded with digital forms that allow the hygienist to check off areas of specific concern for the doctor to focus upon in a re-care exam, or to chart where the margins of an old crown are causing food to get stuck. Instead of having to pass the doctor a cryptic “Post-It” note (more paper) or resorting to hand signals in the hallway, the hygienist can “push” this clear information to the doctor’s iPad, setting the doctor up for a time-saving, more focused and more productive exam.
It’s time to make the change
While we know old habits are difficult to break and that we humans are attached to “the way we’ve always done it,” the paperless dental office has truly reached a tipping point. More than 80% of patients look for a new dentist online, and more people world-wide have a cell phone than a flush toilet. And the postal service may soon be a thing of the past, as more and more Americans eschew the “hard copy” in favor of the digital copy.
Don’t let your office be the last to join the digital age. Embrace this change now and you too can enjoy the substantial environmental, economic and efficiency rewards of the digital world.
For more information about the Eco-Dentistry Association or how you can get involved, visit ecodentistry.org.