The horse and carriage are obsolete as modes of transportation so we no longer need buggy whips. The cellular phone has made the traditional central phone in the hall near the bedrooms obsolete. The continuation of technology is creating the same obsolescence for paper charts. Interoperable electronic health records (EHR) will be the most dramatic change in your dental practice in the next five years. Many dental practices are moving toward paperless documentation, which is not the same. EHR is much more and about connections. Smart practitioners, no matter their setting, are beginning to position themselves toward this inevitable future.
Getting ready for EHR will take many phases. Meaningful use has not been defined for dentistry. We can take a lesson from medical meaningful use standards that apply to dentistry and start with a few simple steps. The idea of structured data can start by setting up a system for documentation. Find and/or create a place for routine documentation of:
- Smoking status
- Blood pressure readings
- Recording a diagnosis for all care (including preventive care)
This is by no means an exhaustive list. These small uniform structured data steps can be the first steps in the journey toward interoperable EHR. It is not a journey to buy a buggy whip. The biggest steps are in your thoughts, attitudes and habits. EHR is not about technology only and will be the most dramatic change in your dental practice in the next five years. You have the choice to fight it and lose; wait for someone else to set the rules for you; or to guide the winds of change and position yourself toward this inevitable future.