This paper chart is free, why invest in a computer?

by Larry Emmott on July 27, 2007

in General,Paperless

Dentists often take the attitude that paper charts work fine and they don’t cost anything so why invest in an expensive computer system? However the truth is; the costs to create and maintain paper charts can be significant but we often don’t see it because it is hidden in the process of doing business.

Paper charts don’t just appear in the office for free. The paper folder and all the other papers cost about $2.50 each. If you have 2500 charts they cost you at least $6,250 to create and every time a new patient walks in it’s another two-fifty; cha-ching.

Other chart contents, like x-rays and photographs can be even more costly. A set of bitewings with film, processing and mounts can be a dollar or two. A photo printed from the intraoral camera is $1.50 or more. It is reasonable to add at least another $2.00 to the cost of each chart for these contents adding another $5,000 to the cost.

Storing the records isn’t free either. A typical office with 2500 charts will need three or four full size lateral files to hold them all. Depending on how nice the files are they will cost about $4,000 and could be a lot more. They will take up office space costing another $550 per year. Plus all the “inactive” charts stashed away somewhere else?

So far our inexpensive paper files are costing us $15,800, but that’s not the total cost. There is the human effort to make the chart, type the label, arrange the contents, file new bits when they arrive in the mail, write the notes, pull the charts every day and then re-file them. And of course there is the daily ritual of the lost chart, which no one can find only to have it turn up days later either misfiled or hiding in a stack on the doctor’s desk. The human cost is at least $11,520 per year.

What we have is a paper chart system that is really quite expensive costing $15,800 to create and $11,520 per year to maintain for a total of $27,320.

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