Electronic Dental Records Gaining Ground

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Electronic Dental Records(October 19, 2010) Electronic dental records aren’t yet the industry norm, but they’re gaining ground. Only one in three dentists reports sticking with traditional paper patient files.

Here’s how dentists responded to this survey:

  • 38% of practices have digital patient records.
  • 34% haven’t yet completely converted, but are working on it.
  • 29% don’t have electronic patient records.

Dentists’ opinions on electronic patient records were split on many issues.

  • 56% think electronic dental records save money in dental care; 44% think they don’t.
  • 53% believe electronic dental records improve the quality of dental care.
  • 47% worry about the security & confidentiality of digital records.
  • Only 38% think the security risks outweigh the advantages.

Here are some dentist comments:

Love for digital dental records

  • “Love having them on computer. No more x-rays lost from falling out of the chart.” (Kentucky dentist)
  • “Love them!” (Florida neuromuscular dentist)
  • “We've been using digital patient records, radiographs, and charting ever since I opened our new office in 2003. We use Eaglesoft and have been VERY happy with it. So far, no problems!” (Ohio prosthodontist)
  • “I would quit practicing dentistry if I had to go back to writing in paper charts ever again.” (California dentist)
  • “It has been 4 years and it was the best move we made.” (Bermuda dentist)

Love for paper

  • “Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, takes the place of a well-written and thoroughly documented paper chart! I may be old-fashioned, but a hard copy is so much better than some record ‘floating around’ in cyberspace.” (Alabama dentist)
  • “When there are network computer problems, you cannot get to a patient’s information. You can with paper charts. But I do love digital
    x-rays.” (Maryland dentist)

It improves the dental patient experience

  • “We find great value in the fact that each member of our team has the ability to access total patient information (clinical and financial) with just a few keystrokes. The increased access to information improves our ability to work as a cohesive unit, promotes cross-training, and creates an improved overall patient experience.” (Dental marketing for an endodontic practice)

Electronic records aren’t worth the effort

  • “I haven't been willing to take the time and effort with retirement being in the near future……” (General dentist)
  • “Any savings in staff time retrieving records, copying x-rays, or reduced storage space for files, is more than off set by the costs of constant hardware & software upgrades, as well as tech support fees. That is of course unless you happen to be an IT expert yourself and can devote the time necessary to handle that and train the staff. Oh you want to treat patients too? Ha!” (New York dentist)

Electronic records aren’t worth the expense

  • “Too expensive. Technologies that may work well for hospital-based medical practice may have little or no application for office-based dental practice. There are fundamental differences between medical practice and dental practice. For too many years, politicians have failed to appreciate these differences. The idea of expensive, technology-dependent dental records are another example of non-doctor administrative specialists trying to cram their solutions for medical practice down the throats of individual dentists. I will believe in benefits for the dental profession when I see them, but so far, the elusive ‘electronic record’ does not pass the test of cost effectiveness.” (California dentist)
  • “Who will pay for the staff O.T. to copy the records to digital and for the Q.A involved of material that is transferred to digital?” (California dentist)

It’s a worthwhile process

  • “When we moved into a new office in 2004, we incorporated digital x-rays. We were already charting in the computer and scheduling in computer. We have incorporated voice for perio charting. We scan lab slips, letters for referral and old charts and x-rays. It is much greener, so better for the environment. It is labor intensive to convert old charts to digital, but we are close to getting that task completed. We are looking to incorporating med hx and pt registration forms online to further streamline the process of electronic dental records, as right now there is still scanning of paper to digitize files.” (General dentist)
  • “It's a lot of work and planning….we've been working on conversion to a completely paperless office over the last 2 years and still are not 100% there yet! There is no one ‘off the shelf’ solution and it requires some patience and a serious financial commitment to make it happen. I'm convinced it's improved our office thus far and will continue going forward.” (California prosthodontist)

Electronic dental patient records still aren’t industry standard

  • “As a GP, I have used digital dental records since 1996. However, many of my area specialists are still not prepared to accept digital referral requests or radiograph submission from my office.” (Connecticut
  • “It will be mandated in the future.” (Virginia dentist)

It’s all about the back-up

  • “After so many computer crashes and failures of backups, I don't want to do electronic dental records.” (Michigan dentist)
  • "There should be secured and dependable back up system." (General dentist)
  • “I worry more about proper back-up and dentists losing records due to not having any hard copy.” (Texas dentist)

Going digital is a real commitment

  • “Truly becoming digital requires a huge commitment. The right hardware, software and training is essential. Real backup solutions, especially with large imaging files, can be costly when you reach over 50 GB of data. Make no mistake, it will make your practice hum, but careful attention to detail is important.” (New Jersey dentist)

Security concerns

  • “With all of the identity theft issues, getting access to a patient's records is possible with the ability of one skilled hacker.” (Tennessee dentist)


Note: Survey sample included 80 respondents. Posted 10/19/2010

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