Going Paperless to Save Your Practice

If your dental practice is still using paper records, charts, images, appointment calendars, ledgers, statements and correspondence, you’re losing money.

The longer you wait to transition to a paperless practice, the more it will cost you in at least three areas:

Losses in the first two areas are difficult to measure, so let’s focus on office expenses.

Some dentists believe paper-based systems are the inexpensive way to go because digital systems are so costly. They see the cost of transferring to electronic records as a huge hurdle that isn’t worth making because of the digital tools they have to purchase, monthly charges for using dental software, and training time needed to learn the new system.

What if those dentists are wrong? What if it actually costs more to use a paper-based system to run your practice? It’s worth taking a closer look at what all that paper is costing you.

The Real Cost of Paper

Buying file folders, charts, appointment reminder postcards and other paper supplies may not seem like a financial burden—until you count up the cost of printers and copiers for your office.

While printers may cost a few hundred dollars, the ink or toner you must buy for each printer over its lifetime costs more than the printer itself. And copiers range from around $300 (monochrome) to a few thousand dollars (color), not including the cost of ink or toner.

Sending postcards and letters requires postage, plus the cost of the paper and labor involved in stamping, addressing and stuffing envelopes.

Paper charts and patient information in file folders can take thousands of sheets of paper and hundreds of file folders each year, not to mention the cost of storage space for the filing cabinets in your office. Another hidden cost of paper-based files is time; it takes time to locate patient records in your filing system, and filing errors make it take even longer.

The Benefits of Going Paperless

Saving money isn’t the only benefit. According to the American Dental Association, being a paperless practice by using electronic health records (EHRs) offers “the potential to improve care quality and patient safety by enhancing both the quantity and quality of information available to providers for decision making.”

Other EHR benefits cited by the ADA include:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists these benefits of EHRS:

Going paperless saves your team time, and this is perhaps the biggest reason efficiency and patient care improve. Tracking and updating patient records, appointments, insurance information and accounts receivable are significantly faster with dental software.

Practice management software can streamline or replace several time-consuming tasks, such as sending appointment reminders, checking in patients, verifying insurance eligibility, processing claims and sending statements.

The Benefits of Going Cloud

If you’re ready to become a paperless practice, consider going to a cloud-based digital solution. The advantages of cloud-based dental software far outweigh traditional in-office software solutions.

In general, a cloud-based solution gives you anywhere access, saves you time and lowers your office costs. Other benefits include more flexibility in your schedule and your computer choices, and fewer IT worries.

Cloud-based dental software lets you access your practice management system to view charts, X-rays, schedules, patient data and more—at any time, from any location. All you need is an Internet browser. This means you and your team can use any operating system and any device that gives you Internet access, including Macs, PCs, iPads or any combination of these devices.

If you go cloud, you won’t have to worry about time-consuming IT tasks. The system performs automatic backups and software updates. Every time you make a change to a patient’s file, it’s automatically backed up and stored in a remote data center that has redundency and failover protections.

Also, you won’t have to download, upgrade, install or maintain your dental software because you always access the latest software each time you log in. Offsite experts maintain and support your cloud-based system, so the time and money you used to spend on IT issues is reduced, and system downtime is rare.

Why Go Digital Now

There are at least two more reasons your dental office should go digital as soon as possible: patient satisfaction and 2016 tax benefits.

Today’s patients expect your office to be digital. They don’t want to sit in the waiting room filling out paper forms before appointments, and they don’t want to wait in the chair while the dentist or hygienist fumbles with paper charts, trying to decipher handwritten notes.

Approximately 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone, 90 percent own cell phones and 42 percent own tablet computers. Asking this population to use paper is old-fashioned at best, and annoying at worst. It makes your practice seem behind-the-times.

Transitioning from paper to digital not only makes your practice more up-to-date, it gives your patients convenient ways to access their account information and contact your office. This increases customer satisfaction and earns you more patient referrals.

While you’re considering going paperless, consider doing it during the 2016 tax year. Certain deductions on office equipment and software may not continue after December 31, 2016.

Talk to your tax accountant to see if you can qualify for Section 179 deductions as high as $500,000 this year. The IRS provides an online calculator to estimate your Section 179 tax savings.

The sooner you switch to a paperless practice, the sooner your practice can improve its image, lower office expenses and possibly save thousands on taxes this year.