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Jane Kaminski

“But it is the way we have always done it! Is going paperless really worth it? What does it do for me? It’s too costly! We don’t have the time to train and implement!”

The truth is, paper is costing you time and money and here is why.

Imagine answering the phone in your dental practice and the patient on the other end has a question regarding their insurance. You put them on hold, go to pull their paper file and sort through the stacks of paperwork and charts. After 5 minutes of searching, you finally return to the phone with the information you need. Even worse, you might have to call the patient back due to the amount of time it takes. Meanwhile, you just wasted not only your patient’s time, but your staff’s time as well. Time is money and that is money out the door.

Now imagine your office when the same patient calls with the same question. There is no placing the patient on hold, no searching for a paper chart in the stack of files, no searching through their paper health history. Instead, all of their information is available with just a quick search in your electronic filing system. Easy access for any question asked. Answers given in seconds instead of minutes. Who has the time to waste these days?

Let’s use our 5 minute phone call as an example to describe how much you can save by implementing document management into your practice. Let’s say an average size practice sees approximately 3,000 patients a year. If you pay your staff $20/hour and it takes approximately 5 minutes per patient to handle phone calls and administrative paperwork this will equal out to 600 hours/year or as much as $12,000 per year spent in employee time on patient paperwork.

Can you afford to not go paperless? In today’s dental practice, going paperless is about placing all of your patient information in one centralized location for easy access. It is about streamlining your processes and being able to access all of your patient information at a moments notice. It is about serving your customers in a more convenient way not only for your patients, but also for the sake of your dental business. What needs to be taken into consideration is not what the cost of going paperless entails, but what it is costing your team in the time it takes to do their jobs and serve your patients. Time is money. Time that can be spent on more important jobs such as filling holes in your schedule or following up on unscheduled treatment plans.

Think about the most successful practice that you know. Why are they successful? Are they cutting corners to save a few bucks here or there? Probably not. They are the ones investing in technology to grow their practice. They are the ones that have a yearly budget for technology in their financial plans knowing that they need to invest in it to help them grow.

The following are the most important reasons to set up a good document management program in your dental office.

1) To Control the Creation and Growth of Records: Despite decades of using various non-paper storage media, the amount of paper in your dental practice continues to escalate. An effective document management program addresses both creation control (limits the generation of records or copies not required to operate the business) and records retention (a system for destroying useless records or retiring inactive records), thus stabilizing the growth of records in all formats.

2) To Reduce Operating Costs: Record keeping requires administrative dollars for filing equipment, space in offices, and staffing to maintain an organized filing system (or to search for lost records when there is no organized system). It costs $25,000 to fill a standard size filing cabinet with 20,000 pages and at least $2,000 every year to maintain them. There is an opportunity to effect some cost savings in space and equipment, and an opportunity to utilize staff more productively – just by implementing a document management program.

3) To Improve Efficiency and Productivity: Time spent searching for missing or misfiled records is non-productive. A good document management program can help any organization upgrade its record keeping systems so that information retrieval is enhanced, with corresponding improvements in office efficiency and productivity. A well designed and operated filing system with an effective index can facilitate retrieval and deliver information to users as quickly as they need it.

4) To Assimilate New Document Management Technologies: A good document management program provides an organization with the capability to assimilate new technologies and take advantage of their many benefits.

5) To Safeguard Vital Information: Every organization, public or private, needs a comprehensive program for protecting its vital records and information from catastrophe or disaster, because every organization is vulnerable to loss. Operated as part of the overall document management program, vital records programs preserve the integrity and confidentiality of the most important records and safeguard the vital information assets according to a “Plan” to protect the records.

6) To Foster Professionalism in Running the Business: A business office with files askew, stacked on top of file cabinets and in boxes everywhere, creates a poor working environment. The perceptions of customers and the public, and “image” and “morale” of the staff, though hard to quantify in cost-benefit terms, may be among the best reasons to establish a good document management program.

Investing in technology gives you the potential to improve patient care and diagnosis, facilitate patient treatment procedures, and streamline the storage, transfer and retrieval of patient information. Technology also provides a secure backup of your patients’ images and patient data, which is critical to re-establishing the practice should fire, flood earthquake or any other disaster strike.

It is clear that you save both time and money taking your practice paperless. What you save in time and money will help you to focus on taking care of your patient’s health and growing your dental practice. Going paperless is financially efficient and an economically sound decision.

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