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Dentists have a unique challenge in the medical community. Most appointments are scheduled several months ahead of time and require coordinating patient schedules and information with two different types of practitioners: dentist and hygienist.
Often, routine visits turn into more in-depth procedures, and the ability to manage these changes and the associated information can have a big impact on the time and quality spent in caring for your patient. These challenges make it that much more important to use dental software that manages patient data, images and practice information.
Although the terms dental electronic medical records (EMR), dental electronic health records (EHR) and electronic dental records (EDR) can have different meanings, the terms are often used interchangeably.
As a rule, effective dental office software will have templates specifically designed for dental practices, tooth and gum graphics and an ability to import and organize X-rays. They’ll also have features to deal with patient scheduling, billing and coding support, and patient education, and often a Web portal for patients, all of which maximize the efficiency of the front and back office staff.
As you search for dental practice management software, consider the following key features and functionality:
|Graphical tooth charting||Dentist software should have a simple graphical depiction of each tooth and gum that makes it easy to identify caries, fillings, veneers, crowns, missing teeth, gum problems and any other relevant issue. Any changes made to text-based templates should be reflected in the graphical tooth chart, and vice versa.|
|Dentistry-specific templates||Text-based templates should be present for all common procedures, and the EDR should let you add a template quickly in the event that an emergency procedure is required. Commonly used templates might include routine exams, fillings, root canals, crowns, tooth extraction or any number of customizable templates.|
|Dental imaging||The idea here is to import X-rays and other digital images, immediately connecting them to the patient, and present them in a way that makes sense to the dentist (i.e., the same order as the graphical tooth chart). Often dental imaging software programs also offer advanced features like measuring a tooth or identifying a particular region of interest, too. Although standalone imaging software does exist, combining it with the EDR software facilitates integration, which is why most vendors offer both capabilities as a combined unit.|
|Scheduling||Look for something that simplifies scheduling by coordinating dentist, hygienist and patient schedules and that doesn’t require back office staff to fast forward through six calendar months every time they need to book a patient out.|
|Dental billing and insurance||Dental billing software helps the practice in maximizing revenues through effective coding support, which simplifies billing as much as possible. As part of a dental EMR, it will likely include only those codes needed or used by dentists and can help group procedures that commonly occur together.|
|Patient portal||Allows patients to fill out their dental history, change their contact information or even receive or send bills, X-rays and other documents from the comfort of their home, saving practice time and improving office efficiency.|
Many dentists looking for dental management software are wondering if they’re eligible for the financial incentives provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Although the Medicare incentives generally do not apply (since Medicare doesn’t cover most dental procedures), dentists whose patient volume is at least 30 percent Medicaid can receive the Medicaid incentive, provided they adopt a certified electronic health record (EHR) product.
Since there currently are no certification standards for EDRs, a dentist looking to meet these requirements would have to adopt a dental EHR, which could then interface with a dedicated EDR if that’s your preferred tool.
Although this may seem cumbersome, the best dental software programs have been designed to integrate with EHRs specifically to fulfill this need, and it could qualify you for almost $70,000 in incentives over six years.
Curve Dental donates software to nonprofit organization. In January 2016, vendor Curve Dental donated practice management software to Hygienist Recommended Inc., a non-profit organization providing dental care care to underserved populations. Curve Dental also trained the nonprofit’s providers to help them record completed procedures in the cloud-based software and streamline their scheduling.
Dental industry expected to ramp up use of 3D-printing. Researchers are predicting the dental industry will soon increase its adoption of 3D printing technology for crowns, dentures and replacement teeth. In January 2016, a study published in the Advanced Functional Materials journal reported it is possible to use 3D printing to make antibacterial teeth that fight decay and infections.
Henry Schein Inc. listed among “best stocks of the 21st century.” In January 2016, financial news website 24/7 Wall St. completed an analysis of current S&P 500 member companies to create a list of the 25 best stocks of the 21st century. Henry Schein, a leading vendor of dental software and supplies, ranked 23rd on this list.
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