Have you heard that there is a new government regulation that requires dentists to have electronic records by the year 2014? I have heard or read a number of variations on this theme in the last month along with various rants and dire warnings regarding the alleged new rules.
Lets get the really important information out there right now; at this time there is no federal requirement for dentists to be using paperless or electronic records by 2014 or any other date. What there is is a lot of confusion, speculation and scare tactics the same as we saw when OSHA and then HIPAA first plagued the dental profession.
However, as a dental practice consultant, setting up an electronic dental record (EDR) or what is commonly called paperless dental records makes sense for many reasons even if the law does not yet require it. Paperless records are: faster, more accurate and less expensive than traditional paper records.
EDR are in essence part of the complete electronic medical record or EMR. This is good as dental health is of course part of overall health and many general medical conditions are important to dentistry and dental conditions affect general health. On the other hand, it is bad as dentistry has become lost in the much larger battle over creation of an EMR which has many more players and much more money involved than we have in dentistry.
In 2004, President Bush set a ten year goal for most Americans to be using an EMR by 2014. The current administration through the dept of Health and Humans Services (HHS) has made stimulus money available to health care providers to help them get paperless by 2014. I assume dentists could get in on this federal stimulus give-away although it is obviously designed for hospitals and physicians.
All of this is made more complicated by the political circus that has become healthcare reform. Bureaucrats are meeting to come up with the actual rules and the speculation is that some deadline will be imposed. When that will be and what the rules will be is anyones guess. In the meantime dont wait around for some bureaucrat to tell you what to do, develop EDR for your office just because it is the right thing to do.