"There are no federal mandates or deadlines for dentists who do not submit claims to Medicare, or who do not see large numbers of Medicaid patients."
While talking to people at our booth at the ADA meeting in San Francisco this year, we heard several mentions of a 2014 deadline for going paperless. We have also heard from a few of our clients who have expressed anxiety over this looming "Charting Cliff". Since we had heard nothing about this deadline and hate to be the last to know, we did a little research on the subject. According to the ADA regarding the use of an EHR, "There are no federal mandates or deadlines for dentists who do not submit claims to Medicare, or who do not see large numbers of Medicaid patients." When talking about going paperless, what we are really talking about is called an EHR or Electronic Health Record. If you are a Kaiser patient, you are familiar with this. All of your records are stored electronically and are available at any Kaiser location. (I am occasionally asked why Datacon doesn't do that and I am quick to point out that this cost Kaiser something like 4 billion dollars to implement.) The goal of the federal government (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is to have all healthcare providers transition to these systems. The intent is to provide better patient care and reduce healthcare costs. The sharing of patient health history, prescriptions, etc. between providers would be less prone to error, simplify the demands placed on patients and enable better preventative care.
Like photos of Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster, the picture of the timeline for required use of an EHR is rather fuzzy. Currently, the only federal mandate is for providers billing for Medicare and Medicaid. Beginning in 2015, if you have not adopted a certified EHR system, your Medicare reimbursements will be reduced by 1%. The deduction rate increases to 2% in 2016, 3%, in 2017, etc. The ADA in conjunction with the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) are busy developing their recommendations for just what features and capabilities should be included in an EHR system for a dental practice. We are in communication with the ADA and have received a copy of the draft of this report. We will continue to monitor the progress of this important project. If you are interested in more information visit the ADA website. See http://www.ada.org/5348.aspx as a starting point.
So what is Datacon doing about this? The first and most important step was to transition our software from the old Alphamicro platform to something that would support the sorts of secure communication and storage that is required for systems of this type. At this time, most of our clients have transitioned to using a Mac server. Many of you are now using patient folders to store digital copies of paper charts, consent forms, images, and patient communication. We have quite a few offices entering chart notes thru our software and we are continuing to improve on this functionality. Your switch to paperless doesn't need to happen all at once and we are encouraging our users to gradually start taking advantage of the features we currently offer as we continue to improve the software based on your needs and feedback.