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How Insecure Are Paper Files and Are They Putting Your Dental Practice at Risk?

By Planet DDS
May 3, 2021

The “paper trail” was once an idea that made you feel secure or at least in control of outcomes. Nowadays you might feel otherwise.

And it raises the question: how insecure are paper files and do they put your dental practice at risk?

“Risk…, you say?”

Holding a paper document naturally creates a feeling of security. But once it leaves your hands, what then?

Sure, paper has been the standard for who knows how long. And frankly, it’s not going to completely disappear any time soon as many are slow to go totally paperless.

  • Governments rely on paper
  • Signed paper documentation carries legal clout
  • Paper has a timeless value and feels good in hand

Although mobile technology and cloud solutions are narrowing paper’s market share. One could quickly reply that digital options have their share of security risks – and they’d be correct.

Document security is a top priority and for good reason.

  • External security risks have impacted over 75% of companies since reported in a 2013 Ponemon Institute study.
  • 90% of US organizations have experienced some form of loss or leakage relative to their sensitive or confidential documents. [1]

Basically, any documentation – paper or digital – is subject to a security threat. Even so, when comparing paper to digital documentation the risks “tip” toward paper.

Paper-based risks that are worth your attention

1-Unfortunate catastrophes

A catastrophic event has a broad impact on your dental practice. Any paper records that aren’t duplicated and securely stored will suffer the impact too.

Unforeseen events such as a fire, a water leak, or natural disasters like a flood or earthquake can damage or destroy paper documents. Even stored documents can be subject to damaging moisture resulting in mold, mildew, or pests.

Cost-cutting measures can also cause you to defer to paper storage that’s not fireproof, watertight, or secured off-site. Crisis or catastrophe typically comes without warning so being able to immediately protect the amount of paper you generate would be next to impossible.

2-Information leaks

Natural occurrences aren’t the only security threat to paper records. Loss, theft, or misuse can cause damage.

Take a moment and assess who has access to your files and who’s tasked with managing them. Those with access likely encompasses most if not all of your dental staff. File management might involve less people.

Either way, once a document leaves its referenced source it’s open to risk. And that’s not necessarily the result of negligence or malicious intent.

Leakage can also occur when choosing to digitize a paper document using open-source tools like a “free PDF converter.”

Consider the impact an information leak can have on your dental practice.

  • Loss of patient trust
  • Financial liability
  • HIPAA violation or other compliance issues
  • Legal recourse

3-Reckless document disposal

The good thing about paper is that it can be easily discarded. But as you know a wastebasket is not the ultimate end of a document. Shredding is, of course, much more of a safeguard.

The clincher is that forgetfulness or a backlog of documentation awaiting the shredder can catch you off guard. It’s easy to delay document disposal due to available team energies and other priorities demanded by daily practice workflows.

Documents that are not disposed of in a timely way leave you vulnerable. The sooner the better although it’s common for “sooner” to come later…and with it risk.

How to pivot your paper dependency

If you’ve considered a more paperless-trail (of sorts) there are ways to ease into it. View it as a transition rather than putting your scanner on “overtime” and putting your local shredding service on immediate standby.

Do a paper “audit”

Determine how much paper you actually use, move, file, and store. Evaluate when and why you print documents.

Determine your paper costs

Keep in mind that paper is baseline. How much are you spending in paper plus printers and maintenance, ink, toner, filing and storage?

Default to digital

Gradually invest in new paperless technology. And begin to adapt your workflows to an online, digital mindset. Train your team to recognize their paper dependency and reset their default to digitizing documents.

Check out these resources to help you adjust your mindset and workflows to more paperless solutions:

The Rise of the Paperless Dental Practice: Making the Transition from Paper to the Cloud an Easier Decision

Why Denticon is Superior to a Paper-Based System

Planet DDS’s Denticon can vouch that cloud-based Dental Practice Management Software exceeds paper-based systems. It’s been proven in today’s market among solo private practices, private group practices, and top DSOs as a leading paperless dental practice solution.

Contact us for more information about how Denticon can streamline your systems and operational tasks.