By Dr. Greg Grillo
Dental offices are only a small segment of the workforce, but many of us still use reams of paper. The average U.S. office employee uses 10,000 sheets annually, and Americans consume six times the global average paper volume per capita. That paper requires 535 million trees and 12 billion gallons of oil to produce. Technology continues to find alternatives for many traditional operations, including scheduling, bill payment, and record-keeping. The timing couldn’t be better for us to embrace paperless solutions. Many of us face the same staffing strain as many industries around us, and we may compete for the same workers. We need to find more ways to increase efficiency.
Are Dental Offices Required To Go Paperless?
Our patients value convenience tools more than ever, and the pandemic drove a preference for contactless processes. Although, are dental offices required to go paperless? While there’s no legal obligation to make this move, consumers set their own rules and select providers that match expectations. Who wants a clipboard and pen to fill out paperwork when it can be done on a mobile device at home? Our patients don’t expect physical paperwork, and our staff would prefer not to handle paper. It takes 10 minutes on average to retrieve, copy, and re-file just a single form. Think about your staff looking for charts and the chain of steps needed to update paperwork. The paperless model brought many benefits to our practice, and I can’t imagine going back. If you are going to make a move, how do you do it? We found that the transition moved seamlessly, and paper quietly faded away throughout our operation. Logistical challenges hold many businesses back, but integrated platforms combine the essential pieces for a stress-free move.
Dental Paperless Software Tools For 2022
1. Online Forms, Offline Satisfaction
We handle many different forms with inherent inefficiencies, from new patient intake to consent before treatment. Online forms streamline every part of our operation, and patients appreciate convenience in their busy lives. Adding a single tool that digitizes multiple documents supports the patient experience and our staff’s efficiency. SOLUTION: Legwork Paperless Forms gives our practices the ability to build forms that help us leap away from paper. The software delivers links to patients so that they securely fill out necessary forms before they arrive at the office. We can capture digital signatures on customizable forms and integrate all of them into Practice Management Software.
2. One-Click Clinical Records
Patient charts fill cabinets in many dental offices and require long-term storage for legal compliance and patient tracking. A digital clinical record adds another level of efficiency that streamlines data input, reduces misfilings, and increases access to the entire team. We can access everything we need for every patient with just a few clicks, and cloud-based solutions ensure our data is securely stored in compliance with HIPAA. SOLUTION: Choose a PMS that integrates a complete clinical record module, and consider the benefits of a cloud-based solution. Denticon from Planet DDS is one example of a tool that combines the best clinical record-keeping practices for today’s busy environment. Many Denticon users find up to 40% savings compared to legacy systems.
3. 100% Online Dentistry
Virtual visits may not seem like an obvious way to cut paper dependency, but every little bit helps. One survey found that 100% of patients who used teledentistry during the pandemic were satisfied with the experience, and many say they plan to use virtual models in the future. A virtual visit automatically includes a digital record covering all aspects of the encounter. SOLUTION: Legwork Teledentistry sets up a secure, low-cost virtual operatory to streamline certain aspects of the patient experience. Patients enjoy a completely digital interaction that includes simplified record-keeping and minimal staff involvement. It is just one more place paper gets pushed aside, and patients enjoy a better experience.
4. Instant Reminders
Some practices prefer to send appointment reminder postcards to their patients, and snail-mail offers a delivery route that can work. However, we engage better when we move more of our communication to digital channels. SOLUTION: Legwork Appointment Reminders represents a core service taken to the next level. Patients can still receive a reminder postcard in the mail, but Legwork’s software can deliver it with a customized message. Texts, emails, or calls to landlines are appointment reminder options, as well. You can even combine the tools to create a multi-pronged reminder strategy for patients that need an extra reminder.
5. Paper-Saving Digitized Marketing
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy for every practice, but digital advertising continues to grow in scope and complexity. A practice may benefit from mailers, but most realize a better ROI with digital tools. A printed newsletter is a way to stay connected with patients, but the same resource can reach more people in less time with email delivery. Limiting mailings may not decrease in-office paper dependency, but it reflects our focus on moving towards a paperless model. SOLUTION: Legwork Campaigns puts a suite of patient-centric communication tools at our fingertips. We can choose from a library of blog articles to post to our blog and introduce them with an email teaser. We can alternatively set up an email series that gives patients insight on topics that fit their interests. Effective digital workflows can eliminate thousands of pieces of paper each month and the associated costs.
Dental Paperless Forms And More For Patient Satisfaction
There may be a disconnect between how providers and patients view the healthcare experience. Our patients expect the same convenient options found in other industries, such as online scheduling. Less than 10% of healthcare organizations effectively implement resources that match consumer expectations, and this oversight may resonate differently with patients. For example, some patients may equate mailers with a disregard for the environment, and others may feel stressed rushing through paperwork in a waiting room. A commitment to a paperless dental practice delivers benefits we don’t always see until we make the change. Legwork offers a single-platform solution that helps us deliver the ultimate patient experience. Digital tools streamline communications, boost efficiency, and help minimize the impact of messy paper trails.