Paperless Mistakes

One of the common mistakes dentists make with electronic charting is that they only go part way. Sometimes we miss the obvious, it is the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” In this case the trees are the individual processes that can be used to create digital information. The forest is the paperless record. If all you see are trees then you might use an electronic chart for treatment planning but make progress notes on paper. You might install a digital radiograph system and not link it to other records. You might have a computer up front for finances and scheduling but don’t have computers in the back for charting.

The tendency is to concentrate on individual processes or technologies without integrating the process into the whole.

For example: The office may use a paper chart in the treatment room during diagnosis to mark future treatment. Then they take the paper chart to the computer and enter everything again. They will use the computer to create an estimate, insurance forms and schedule. Then they will go back to the paper chart to enter procedure notes, back to the computer to take a payment, back to paper for a prescription, back to the computer for the next appointment then back to paper to check the x-rays.

What the office ends up with is a mess. Everything is done at least twice, the paper chart is still needed no one is ever sure if something is on paper or in the computer. As a result the computer chart doesn’t save time and money it makes things worse.

Another mistake is to gather digital information, such as photographs, but store it in separate dental software that is not part of the patient’s digital record. To be most effective the digital information must be all part of the same record using either a fully integrated system or linking each system using computer bridges.

Time and again the dental office has everything in place to go paperless but they still make paper just because that is the way they have always done it. Overcoming the inertia of change is frequently the most difficult task of going paperless.

There is also an element of fear. Often it is the dentist but it may be the staff; one or the other is afraid of what they do not know, the future, so they hold on to what is known, the past.

For more help on creating a paperless record look here:

e-Services Paperless

More Than Paperless Charts

I recently received a call from Ed Dolan a dentist from the Seattle area. Ed told me how he was using some imaginative online e-services to outsource basic office work. I thought it was a creative way to leverage technology in ways we have yet to consider in dentistry. With these online e-services you can begin to create a completely paperless office not just a paperless record. I asked Ed to write up some short articles outlining what he was doing. Here is the first installment.

Interested in creating a paperless office?  I found a service that enables us to view and manage our postal mail online.

 It’s called Earth Class Mail (ECM).  After signing up for the ECM service, they gave us a new mailing address.  Our ECM address is Lakeview Dental P.O. Box 34628 #29275 Seattle, WA 98124 (The #29275 is our ECM number) 

We gave out our new mailing address to insurance companies, our patients, and our vendors.  So now our postal mail goes to downtown Seattle, and is opened and scanned at ECM.  If there is a paper check in the mail, they deposit it directly into our business bank account.  Then I direct ECM to shred, recycle, or store our postal mail.  Utilizing this service helped us to eliminate one full-time employee in our office.  It eliminates the need to open mail, prepare a bank deposit and drive to the bank to make a deposit.  Obviously, this also helps to prevent embezzlement.  When my receptionist receives a check payment over the counter, she mails the check to ECM for scanning and deposit.  

Having the EOB information accessible online has enabled us to outsource our data entry to a woman who works remotely from home in Georgia.  On her dual monitors she logs into our ECM account on one monitor and logs into our Dentrix software on the other monitor using  Then she posts payments from patients and insurance companies by viewing the EOB information in ECM and manually entering information into each patient s individual ledger in Dentrix.  I have utilized ECM in my practice for the last 2.5 years and am very satisfied with their security and high level of customer service.  

Utilizing this service has increased my peace of mind knowing that we are minimizing the opportunities for embezzlement through separation of duties.  

After our vendors mail payables to our ECM address, my accounting firm in South Carolina logs into ECM and pulls the PDF files of our bills from ECM and enters them into  Then I log into, view the PDF files of the bills, and either approve or deny the payments online.  Then takes an ACH transfer out of our business bank account and distributes the payments to our vendors.  The benefit of this is that it has eliminated the need for me to personally sign paper checks and we no longer keep paper checks in our office.

If you would like more detailed information, please feel free to contact me:

Edward S. Dolan, DDS
Lakeview Dental
Mobile:  425-283-9656
PO Box 34628 #29275
Seattle, WA 98124