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EHRs provide long-term savings, convenience

As technology advances and government regulations continue to encourage, or even push, the use of electronic health records, electronic forms are becoming standard in dental and medical practices.

While there can be high up-front costs for incorporating an electronic health records system, the investment can provide tremendous savings over the long run, said Brett Lindstrom, director of The Dental Record, the only ADA Business Resources-endorsed record-keeping program.

"An office using paper records will pay approximately $4.50 per complete chart. With 20 new patients each month, that's over $1,000 annually on new patient charts alone, and that doesn't include the cost of forms for returning patients," he said. For offices that scan paperwork, treating 2,500 patients annually would result in spending $2,000 every year just for the staff time of scanning forms. Therefore, when converting to electronic records, most practices experience a positive return on investment within the first year.

In addition, EHRs can be more convenient, Mr. Lindstrom said.

As a first step to adopting EHRs, many practices choose to offer online forms so that their patients can take their time completing forms in their own homes, rather than in an office waiting area. Patients who don't complete the forms can finish them using a desktop, laptop or web-based tablet at the dental office.

The Dental Record offers some advice on EHRs for ADA members.

First, if they haven't already, dentists should build a practice website because patients who can't find a practice online will quickly move on to another. A recent ADA Business Resources survey from 2011 found that 35 percent of members do not have a practice website. ADA Business Resources has chosen PBHS Inc. as its endorsed website design and practice marketing firm. Visit
adabusinessresources.com and click on Website and Marketing Services for more information on ADA member benefits and discounts.

Second, dentists should carefully consider the practice management software that will enable easy access to electronic forms. If the practice's current software doesn't have an electronic forms feature that fits its needs, an already established program such as DentForms from The Dental Record is a good option.

For more information on electronic record keeping, visit dentalrecord.com or call The Dental Record at 1-800-243-4675.