Obviously, the timeline and transition process to go paperless will vary for each practice. It all depends on what systems you already have in place, how open you and your staff are to change, and a number of other factors.
I couldn’t possibly go over all the ways your practice can go through this change. I can, however, tell you about the parts that I find most important.
I recommend that you ease your office into each step. Take one step at a time and let everyone get used to the new system before adding another process or element for everyone to learn.
The Essentials of Going Paperless
Your #1 priority should be to update your practice-management software. This is the framework that everything else at your office will fall into. In fact, Lorne Lavine, DMD, describes it as, “the glue that holds everything together.”
Your software choice will help to dictate other paperless decisions, too. You should not buy any computers, back-up systems, or other hardware before you know that they will all be compatible with each other AND your new software.
Once you have your practice-management software in place and your staff is used to it, you are ready to add in this next step.
I highly recommend that you transition to digital X-rays if you haven’t already. There are quite a few reasons why your practice will benefit from digital X-rays.
Kent Stapley, DMD, says that transitioning to digital was the “single biggest productivity gain for [his] practice.” You probably don’t use your old 35mm film camera anymore, so why are you using the same, outdated technology in your dental office?
With digital imaging, you can see the X-ray immediately, retake photos as many times as necessary, and you don’t have to pay someone to develop your film for you!
You will notice a big jump in productivity, especially if you make sure to have your practice-management software work with your X-ray program. Having all of that information in the same place will help you create treatment plans.
Digitize Your Documents
I know this seems daunting. Chelsea Patten from Dentaltown Magazine describes a great way to make this a much easier task.
Step 1: Get new patients started with your new system right away. Don’t waste your time by having them fill out paperwork the old way.
Step 2: When returning patients come in, have them make the switch. This one-at-a-time approach will be simpler to manage than an all-at-once plan.
Step 3: You need a plan for patients who aren’t coming back. Come up with a duration of time, after which you can get rid of their files. By only working on the charts of returning patients, you won’t be spending valuable time on patients who have moved on.
This process can take anywhere from 1 year to even a few years, in some cases. As I said in the beginning, it all depends on where your office stands.
Regardless, to make sure the transition is smooth and done correctly, you need to be patient and open to learn and make mistakes.
You can do this! If you are ready to go paperless, make the leap!