• Tonya Burns

Has Your Dental Office Moved to a “Chartless” Practice?

Dental practices are typically working toward implementing advancements in technology. What about advancements in your documentation and where you store patient records? Becoming a paperless or chartless practice can seem radical by some standards and it can be normal operation by other standards. Either way you feel about the subject, are you truly documenting what you need to in either situation. Sadly, as my friend and colleague Duane Tinker of Dental Compliance will tell you, probably not. So, that brings the question, “Why be chartless or paperless?”

In my experience, there are two major cons to paper charts. The first one is the time wasting it takes to pull and file for daily patients. The second is lack of consistency in documentation. Every time you get a phone call with a question and it's not noted in the chart because it takes too long to pull it and record it. Utilizing your Practice Management Software may not solve both problems, but it can help make your team more efficient, which in turn, gives them more time. Having consistency in documentation is a learned behavior, it also must be regulated and your team must be held accountable. You may be thinking this is too difficult to implement and is it really that big of a deal? Are you willing to defend yourself in court, based on the documentation your team completes daily? Having accurate documentation is critical to your business.

Now that I have your attention, let's go back to those cons. Utilizing note/documentation templates will ensure that your team is putting in the correct information. Many softwares make the provider “sign-off” on notes, but let’s be honest. Most providers do not read every note that is done. If you do, great! Keep up that great work. Again, it is your license on the line. But what if I told you the team member documenting could be held liable too and face jail time, if found guilty?

The dominating factor in utilizing your Practice Management Software is for consistency. This software allows your practice to have systems and processes for consistent documentation with easy review. Most dental practices I encounter do not utilize their software to its capacity. Worse, they spend money on another program that they may already have in the software they use daily. Why? Because training stops after the initial “conversion training” and teams never have time to learn more. In fact, they didn’t absorb most of what they learned in the first sessions because it is too much information to absorb at once. That is a lot of money to put into something and then never use it completely.

You don’t have to cut the cord in one day. I recommend moving to a chartless practice over a 12-24-month period. It lets your team get comfortable in each aspect and makes it a less painful change. Keeping your team productive and happy in any transition should be your goal. If you don’t know where to start, there is a lot of help available, starting with my team!

Written by our owner, Tonya Burns. Consultant, Coach, and Pediatric Dental Specialist

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