Articles, Dentistry

Is a paperless office feasible?

‘The paperless office’ is a hot topic (hot to the extent that any topics revolving around administration can be).

As a digital enthusiast it appeals to me a great deal, a clean, clear office space that Google would be proud of (I imagine that Google offices are immaculate and achingly trendy).

That said, my day-to-day is based in an office packed to the rafters with paperwork, which I would be loathed to be parted with, not to mention critical for me to have access to — and therein lies the problem, access.

I know that my notes are there whether my computer is behaving itself or not.

I am not solely dependent on a machine that can be temperamental and that could potentially become corrupted.

I find paperwork a comforting thing, I have to declare that I find it difficult to scan and shred every important document sent to me (as my husband repeatedly implores me to do).

I thought I would consider whether any paperless office is feasible, particularly in the environment of a dental practice, for example would it have implications on patient care, or is it the next natural step in the evolution of administration.

A paperless dental practice

I myself work daily using a practice management software. This software runs off a cloud-based system.

It backs itself up to three different locations automatically, which is a comforting prospect.

I could potentially upload all of my existing paperwork to the system and run the office from that creating a pristine, minimalist workspace.

The back-up of the paperwork generated on my practice manager system is probably its most essential function.

If you are considering investing in software to aid the running of your practice, I would implore you to find one with an automatic backup system in place.

As a dentist you will deal with vitally important patient files and histories, which to lose would be unthinkable and catastrophic, therefore a cloud-based management system is superior in terms of data security.

With a cloud-based system you could potentially move one step closer to the elusive paperless office.

However, just as a cloud-based system has huge strengths in terms of backup, it also suffers a great weakness in being dependent upon internet connection.

Only recently our clinic suffered a monumental meltdown of its servers, which left me unable to run my software (and everyone who was linked to the clinic network).

Fortunately, I still had access to the hard copies of the patient files.

Different intentions

The episode highlighted to me the unfeasibility of currently running a practice paperlessly.

The BBC posts some interesting questions and issues about the realities of becoming paperless in its article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-22293817).

Like the article suggests at the end, perhaps our intention should be less paper than totally paper-free.

Paperless protects you from fires and floods (if your data is backed up) but the sheer scale of the task of becoming truly paperless would put most people off.

Based in the world in which we work, a world in which patient care is dependent on us possessing and having to hand the information relevant to them, paperless is still a far-off concept. 

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