by Kent Stapley, DMD
Today's high-tech offices don't have some "magical" lock on all the benefits of paperless technology. Any practice can go paperless to whatever comfort level and benefit they desire. Some offices are content with their current paperless level, while others are willing to introduce new technologies. I would like to share three paperless items that your practice might consider adopting.
Integrated digital X-rays
I am a late adopter of digital technology (I added digital X-rays just last year), but I can tell you that the single biggest productivity gain for my practice has been digital radiography. Perhaps the easiest way to illustrate the impact digital imaging can have on an office is to make a simple comparison to the digital camera. Chances are you have not used a 35 mm camera in years. Why? Your digital camera produces an instant image that lets you take and retake pictures until you have the perfect shot. Additionally, you don't have to pay for or wait for film to be developed. You can easily adjust a photo to your liking (think removing red eyes), the image quality rivals or is better than film, and it is convenient to share your photos. Also, sorting through and finding the right picture is a breeze. These benefits also apply to digital X-rays. If you have not already gone digital, consider it. There are many great digital X-ray systems in today's market. I use the DentiMax digital system because I think the image quality is excellent, and it is tightly integrated to my practice management software.
After digital X-rays, many offices adopt some type of digital document software. This kind of software captures, organizes, and stores patient insurance cards, driver's licenses, financial forms, privacy and patient release forms, and other printed documents. Documents such as patient release forms can be captured electronically in your office (the patient signs a signature pad) while everything that comes into your office on paper can be scanned into the digital document software. Digitizing documents will free up an amazing amount of office space, and has the additional benefit of helping you easily find and retrieve patient forms from your computers.
Electronic prescription writing
As powerful as the paperless tools are for the front desk, I tend to get more excited about the paperless features designed for the clinical areas of my practice. I am adopting the latest release of DentiMax practice-management software, which includes the ability to send electronic prescriptions via the Internet. Not only can I electronically send prescriptions for all classes of drugs, I have access to drug interactions, allergy interactions, disease interactions, renewal requests from the pharmacy, and a two-year history of what medications a patient has taken. This makes my job easier, and provides better service to patients.
I am amazed at the technology my office uses as compared to just a few years ago. My office is living proof that a practice can benefit from the adoption of simple, paperless technology. As I focus attention on the digital X-ray displayed on the monitor, and later as my patient signs a treatment plan using a digital signature pad and the prescription is sent electronically to the pharmacist, I wonder why I waited so long to add paperless innovations. So, what are you waiting for?
Kent W. Stapley, DMD, has practiced general dentistry in Mesa, Ariz., for the past 16 years. Dr. Stapley owns and practices in one dental office, but at one time he owned four offices. His practices have used various software programs, including SoftDent, Dentrix, Easy Dental, and DentiMax.
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