Minimum Requirements to “Go Paperless”

by Larry Emmott on May 14, 2013

in Paperless

The following are the Minimum Requirements that must be in place before the office can go paperless.

Software:

Operating System and Network

Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008

There are other options but Windows is far and away the industry leader. Using an alternative like Linux or Mac is possible but very limiting.

Practice Management System

Dentrix, Eaglesoft, Practice Works,

These three products dominate the market in the US. They will all work for a dental office wishing to go paperless. They each have strengths and weaknesses but are all acceptable. There are other products which could also work like XLDent. However, these are more regional or specialized.

X-Ray and Image Management

This could be an extension of the practice management system or a stand alone application bridged to the patient record. It is not possible to have a paperless record without paperless diagnostics. At a minimum a paperless office needs digital radiography.

Business Suite

Microsoft Office (Standard)

Again as with the practice management systems there are other options but Office dominates and will work well for a dental office and it is easy to get training and support.

There are several versions of Office. Microsoft changes the packages frequently, however the four products now offered in the Standard Package; Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel, are what a dental office needs.

Hardware:

Network

Having a single computer or carrying a laptop from room to room will not work. In order to be paperless the office needs a server – workstation network. That means a central computer (the server) to store the data and workstations connected to the server through a network to gather, retrieve and display the data. Workstations need to be positioned wherever the paper charts were used in the past.

At a minimum there needs to be a workstation in every treatment room and at the front desk. Other places the paper charts were used and a computer workstation would be useful include the doctor’s office and a consultation area.

Tablet computers or Cloud systems may eventually replace a traditional workstation server model but are limited at this time.

Printer(s)

Remember you have a paperless record not really a paperless office. You will print statements, estimates, letters, photos and more.

Scanner

The scanner will be used to import paper received from outside sources; such as a report from a specialist. A flatbed desktop scanner with a transparency adaptor is ideal. If you do not wish to scan x-rays the transparency adaptor is not needed.

Security:

You have a legal and an ethical obligation to protect both medical and financial information stored on your computers. At a minimum you need firewall protection from Internet hackers and HIPAA compliant systems. For extra security consider encryption systems for data storage and transmission.

Diagnostics:

Digital Radiography is the only Diagnostic that is required to get started. Either a sensor system or a PSP “wireless” system will work, however I much prefer the sensor systems. Other digital diagnostics such as Florida Probe or a digital camera are desirable but not essential.

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