Paper or Paperless?...That is the Question!A McKenzie Management Case Study
Dr. Sandra Stieffel Case Study #619
A big question in many doctors’ minds is the paperless (chartless) issue. “Do we or don’t we?”
“Nancy, I have a couple of dentist friends that are converting their practice from paper to paperless. I want to stay up with the times. From a practice management standpoint, what do you think?” Dr. Stieffel is a former client of McKenzie Management so we knew she had good systems in place.
As a management consulting company we are always looking at major purchases for clients from a “return on investment” standpoint. Based on the information that Dr. Stieffel shared regarding her current situation, it appeared that if she was going to consider making the change, now might be a good time to do it. McKenzie Management recommended she seek the expert advice of Dr. Lorne Lavine who is President of Dental Technology Consultants, Inc. Dr. Lavine would be able to help her choose the right equipment and ensure that it was installed correctly.
Here are a few of the things you need to have to make the change:
It was time for her to add additional computers to her operatories as well as hygiene. Her team was computer literate so the transition would not be difficult for them.
She is limited in storage space. Going chartless definitely frees up space after you decide what to do with your “old” charts!
She has a healthy active patient base and is seeing almost 40 patients a day. This is a lot of filing and re-filing patient charts all day long. You have no idea how many charts are touched a day by the business and clinical staff. Being able to access all the information by a touch of a few keystrokes is amazing!
What about the down-side of being paper/chartless?
In my opinion, the biggest challenge the practice has when they are paper/chartless is when there is a new staff person that needs to be trained or a temporary staff person, such as a hygienist. They will be completely lost and you will need to depend on your experienced staff to input the data.
The other challenge is making the transition. My recommendation would be to transition the patients as they come in and all new patients. Be sure to record in the existing patient chart that the clinical notes are continued in the computer and date it. It is time-consuming to transfer the hard copy information from the patient’s chart to digital. All the existing radiographs have to be scanned, as well as any written information that you want to have access to in the computer chart. I would suggest a “checklist” to make sure that all the information is transferred completely and that each staff person is aware of what is to be transferred.
Do we use anything that is still paper?
There are a few “paper” items that we continue to use. The Routing Slip is the common bond for information about each patient and keeps the clinical and business staff on the same page. We still print a treatment plan for the patient to review with the Financial Coordinator but we scan the signed copy into the patient’s computerized chart.
We also still print insurance claims that have attachments for those insurance companies that don’t accept electronic attachments yet.
Dr. Stieffel made the commitment to make the transition. We developed a “game plan”, asking for input from all the staff so everyone would feel they were a part of the change. As we know, change is difficult and this change is no exception. Over the course of six months, the majority of the active patient charts have been converted.
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