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Software of Excellence Blog

Paperless Practice – dream or reality?

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In the UK, the government’s drive towards a paperless NHS has been an on-going goal for about five years and the pressure to use digital communications is growing. NHS claims will all need to be completed electronically by 2019 and regulatory tasks such as the Friends and Family Test are much easier to manage if completed and submitted without paper.

But the desire to run a paperless practice is also coming from within the profession itself, with over 75% of practices surveyed for our most recent Whitepaper ‘Paperless Practice – dream or reality?’ aspiring to this ideal. As increasing corporatisation starts to dominate the dental landscape, general practices need to be more aware of solutions that can help them create more efficient and streamlined businesses in order to compete, as was revealed in the Whitepaper.

The reality

Many tasks performed in a dental practice are traditionally very time-consuming, particularly for the front desk team. Managing recalls, appointment bookings and short notice cancellations are all vital to the smooth running of a practice and anything that can be done to minimise the time required to complete these tasks adds to the productivity of the business.

Appointment management: the majority of respondents claim that certain aspects of their practice administration are paperless and top of the list is appointment booking, 83.7% of the cohort claimed to have a paperless process for appointments. Short notice lists are less popular, 43% of respondents are failing to use paperless techniques for short notice lists, meaning they are still relying on handwritten notes to remember which patients are most likely to fill appointments at short notice, leading to gaps in the diary and underused resources.

Patient data management: 78% of practices said they collect patient data manually, which considering the amount of data and the frequency with which it is collected is a time-consuming task. For example, our research discovered that a medium-sized practice with 4000 patients, which takes 2.5 minutes to input data collected data once a year, will spend 10,000 minutes on this task per year. 10,000 minutes is 166.67 hours, which for an average seven-hour day equates to 23.8 days – a staggering total of ‘lost’ staff days per year.

Patient feedback: patient feedback has seen one of the lowest adoption rates of paperless systems, with less than a third of practices carrying out this task using paperless methods. Collecting patient feedback is a regulatory obligation, and we can therefore assume that this task is being undertaken manually by over two-thirds of practices, at an unknown cost in terms of staff hours.And it doesn’t stop there; treatment estimates, patient communication and practice marketing are other areas in which practices are missing out on efficiencies by continuing to use time-consuming, paper-based, manual methods.

Using our knowledge of what makes the most successful practices more efficient, Software of Excellence has applied Best Practice methodology to develop and publish a checklist of recommendations designed to help practices get closer to realising that dream of a paperless practice.