There are now just a few weeks left for dental practices to act before the NHS stops processing paper claims for courses of treatment on 1st May 2019. After this date all claims must be made electronically, so it is urgent for practice owners and managers to fully comprehend the changes and decide what action, if any, they need to take to ensure a smooth transition into the new era of a paperless NHS.

The shake-up essentially comes as part of the NHS’s commitment to a digital ambition, Paperless by 2020, in which the aim is for “fully interoperable electronic health records so that patients’ records are paperless” and is supported by a Government commitment in Personalised Health and Care 2020 that, “all patient and care records will be digital, interoperable and real-time by 2020.”

Benefits of going paperless
The use of paper has been reduced in many industries where new technology has provided a solution that consumers have embraced. For example, in the airline industry, more than 70% of flights are now booked online. And where once, a paper ticket was a critical ‘trusted’ travel document, today around 95% of tickets are issued digitally as e-tickets[i] with apps and smart phones increasingly the method by which such documents are kept and displayed.

In the same way paper usage can be reduced or in fact eliminated altogether in dentistry by using a computerised practice management system (PMS).  Such systems are now in the main highly sophisticated and aid operations in a number of different areas including patient communication, record keeping, clinical notes, recalls, reminders and business metrics. The benefits of a paperless practice are numerous and include of course reduced waste and costs. But the benefits go far beyond this – traceability of information, auditability, improved governance, improved accessibility for patients and staff, time savings and improved quality of care and patient experience can all be attributed to paperless operations and the effective use of a computerised system.

Dentistry is almost there
Today around 10% of dental practices are still reliant on paper records which places a great weight of responsibility on reception staff. In addition, using paper is much more impactful on the environment and likely to cause long-term storage issues within the practice. But the benefits of a system in which paper is entirely, or mostly absent extend way beyond the admirable desire to operate a greener business. Evidence shows that paperless practices are more efficient2, secure and scalable and have the time and ability to provide the highest standards of patient care and this can be successfully achieved by digitising and automating many time-consuming processes.

There may be many reasons why a practice has not embraced computerisation, but now the time has come when all practices delivering NHS contracts need to make a decision. Software of Excellence has spent many years developing two software systems – EXACT and Dentrix Ascend that will enable practices to manage administrative tasks more effectively. With the May deadline looming, now really is the time to act and find out which system will best suit your long-term needs.

1 National Information Board report – Personalised Health and Care 2020
2 Paperless practice – dream or reality. Software of Excellence Whitepaper 2017

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