Dental Record Scanning: The Push for a Paperless Practice

Your dental office manages highly sensitive patient information that is constantly updated and difficult to store. If you depend on paper records, it becomes impossible to keep your dental clinic scalable because the files take up so much space. It is also time-consuming to pull and refile patient charts every day. Most dental offices today have already gone digital to reduce costs, become more efficient, and ensure dental records are secure yet easy to access. If you’re still struggling with outdated paper records, here’s why dental record scanning is the way to go.

Why scan and digitize dental records and patient charts?

Patient charts provide an important record of your patient’s vital medical and dental history. You are obligated to maintain their records and keep them secure. This puts pressure on your team to adhere to strict guidelines to update not only records but also maintain an organized, secure filing system. This takes time and costs money. 

You are also up against advanced technology in the dental industry, where digital images and records scanning is the norm. This presents an issue as you have to create a dependable process that ensures your paper charts and digital dental images are stored together for each patient. However, document scanning creates one central file for each patient, so you can enjoy the following improvements:

  • Dental charts are easier to retrieve using search capabilities
  • More efficient record management with a single format for dental charts and images
  • Secure sharing with healthcare and dental providers to improve patient care
  • Freed up space to create a more functional office for patient care with no need for filing cabinets
  • Limitless record storage space to keep your dental practice scalable
  • Secure storage using password-only access to reduce confidentiality breaches
  • Improved workflow across all dental practice functions
  • A patient-centric dental practice
  • Disaster recovery following a catastrophic event
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance through improved patient data protection

Evaluating the benefits of dental record scanning

Dental record scanning offers both immediate and long-term benefits for your dental practice:

Immediate benefits

  • EMRs are the norm: Electronic medical records have become the norm meaning you will instantly be able to share records with fellow care providers in a common format. Also, you will be recognized as a dental practitioner who ensures they provide the best possible care through improved patient records management and sharing.
  • Improved security: You reduce the worry of data loss and HIPAA compliance issues using new technologies to enhance cyber-security.
  • Improved diagnostics: Digital x-rays stored with digital charts make it easier to create treatment plans while facilitating referral case acceptance.
  • More office space: Digital records are stored on the cloud or onsite computer storage, taking up far less space than paper files.
  • Easier chart review: Everything is scanned and stored in easy-to-view PDF formats so you can review patient charts from anywhere at any time.

Long term benefits

  • Cost savings: Over time, you will begin to see cost savings through improved efficiency and reduced overhead without the need to invest in paper, toner, and printing equipment for the office.
  • Improved patient care: Your dental practice will be able to focus more on patient care without worrying about pulling and filing charts. All patient records will be stored in one electronic patient file for easy access for your team, as well as for sharing for referrals. You will also have more space allowing you to create a more comfortable waiting room and operatives for treatment.
  • Expansion: The combination of more office space and increased savings allows you to consider expanding your dental services. You have the space and money to invest in new equipment to provide more onsite services such as same-day crowns.
  • Efficiency: As your team adjusts to the new digitized office, they will find new ways to improve workflows. Freed-up office space allows you to rethink how you use office space to become more efficient.

Why haven’t all practices adopted dental record scanning?

Many dental practices are stuck in a paper nightmare where the idea of going through the dental record scanning process seems overwhelming. Many established dental offices aren’t familiar with new technology and how it improves patient record management and security. The costs might also seem prohibitive, despite the cost savings in the long term.

Implementing dental record scanning for your practice.

The push for a paperless dental practice includes the following:

The process

  • Choosing a scanning service: Choosing a company providing dental record scanning services is the first step. They will develop a plan suited to your practice and explain how to prepare your documents for the project. It is key to work with a scanning service with dental experience to ensure the patient information is handled and protected to remain HIPAA compliant.
  • Preparing records and documents: This stage involves the organization of patient charts to ensure all relevant information is within the proper chart. You also have to match digital records to paper charts, so the scanning company files them together. Charts must be free of paper clips, folds, tears, staples etc. You can also prioritize scanning order based on active patients, inactive patients, deceased patients, etc. Charts are then stored in boxes ready for shipment.
  • Medical records transportation: Charts are shipped to a secure facility for scanning.
  • Scanning patient charts: Patient documents are scanned at a rate of 120 pages per minute. Each scan is checked to ensure it is legible and unclear pages are fine-tuned using imaging software. The process remains compliant with healthcare guidelines. Each chart is indexed and organized, so they are searchable based on various criteria, including date of birth, last name, address, etc.
  • Formatting and securing scanned files: The scanned files are saved in the same format so all pages and images are compatible. A document management system is then used to manage and store files.

Key items to consider

Some of the most important considerations before starting a scanning project include:

  • Quality Control: It is important your scanning service is HIPAA compliant while also having quality control measures in place to ensure every page is legible. You also want to ensure every page is marked clearly with the patient’s name and DOB to avoid mistakes in charting.
  • Accountability: Your scanning service must have all the certifications required to manage your scanning project such as:
    • Electronic Records Management Specialist
    • Capture and Imaging Certification
    • Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence Compliance
  • Integration: What software will you use to manage your digital files? Your new digital records require an effective electronic medical record management system.

Dealing with resistance

The best way to deal with resistance is to share the benefits of digitization and let people know how it will make their lives easier. People often resist new technology because they haven’t taken the time to learn about it. If you share information, they will see it is a positive change and reduce the risk of staff fearing their jobs will become “redundant.”

Your paperless dental practice awaits. Speak to our digital transformation experts to learn how we can help.