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Dental Records: Best Practices for Information Management and Retention

Course Number: 532

Electronic versus Paper Documents

Many dental practices have taken the leap into electronic dental records. While the equipment necessary to make a change from paper to electronic format requires a considerable investment, paper forms still require purchase and must be continually ordered, generated, and protected from the public and elements for several years in large storage containers. Monies used to pay for some postage needs will be saved when moving to electronic means, including the money and time lost in submitting insurance claims and pretreatment claims. The cost of single appointment books will be saved with the electronic software calendar screens that can be accessed from several stations including chairside. Access to electronic inventory management can save money and time as well. As technology has advanced, even the way that information is secured and encrypted has reduced in price due to cloud-based computing.

Photo of computerized schedule.

Figure 1. Computerized Schedule.

Once the office invests in the equipment, the ability to expand how treatment is offered also develops. The ability to incorporate an intraoral camera and CAD/CAM for in-office crown design and creation changes how treatment planning can be discussed and scheduled. The costs involved with digital radiography equipment can be directly compared to the costs invested in traditional film, processors and the processing solutions, film mounts, and the time required to process the film. Depending on the patient’s signs and symptoms, the image captured can be magnified for more detailed diagnosis. Should the patient require it, the need to duplicate films versus electronic forwarding to a specialty practice or insurance company is an additional consideration.

Before a dental practice software is chosen, all of the applications available and how different dental team professionals plan to utilize them should be researched. Practice goals must be discussed so the full potential of the purchase is eventually realized. Finally, the practice owner must decide on a third-party or a cloud-based system as this will determine how the practice plans to back up and secure the files. As the dental team researches options for dental software and the hardware to operate it, issues to consider involve the substantial initial costs and the continuous software updates that may also require occasional equipment expansion. At certain points, training requirements should be expected for anyone using the technology.