Paper Charts are NOT Free

bps_messy_patient_filesPaper 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 $3.00 to the cost of each chart for these contents adding another $7,500 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. A 10’x 5′ file room will cost $7,500 to build. That is 50 Sq. Ft at $150 per foot. Not to mention all the “inactive” charts stashed away somewhere else?

So far our inexpensive paper files are costing us $25,250, 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 $13,800 per year. You also have the expense of renting the office space the file cabinets sit on, at $25 per Sq, Ft for $1,250 per year. (Double that if you are in New York or San Francisco)

What we have is a paper chart system that is really quite expensive costing $25,250 to create and $15,050 per year to maintain for a total of $40,300.

On the other hand a great digital management system including the computers and network will cost about $30,000. Need some help? Look Here.

One reply on “Paper Charts are NOT Free”

Dear Dr. Emmott,

There seems to be a difference of opinion about the comparative cost of EHRs and paper dental records. You say paper cost dentists $15,000 a year more than Schein’s Dentrix, yet days ago, Melissa Flygare, Sales Account Executive for Schein, responded to me by email: “To answer your question – is software cheaper than paper? No – paper is rather cheap.”

So whom should we believe? You or a Schein official?

D. Kellus Pruitt DDS

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CC: Dentrix

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