Have you ever heard of Dental Informatics? Described as the intersection of patient data, computer science and dental providers, it’s an approach focused on providing higher quality patient care through better management and use of information. Evidence-based dentistry is built on this approach – it’s not what works best ‘in your hands’ it’s what works best based on research. Gordon Christensen’s Reality journal reflects this concept as well, focusing on independent evaluations to judge products.
You can use this same approach in your practice. You can use your patient data to improve your patient’s health.Here’s how: first of all, think of a clinical area in your practice – let’s choose extractions. Now, walk through your protocol for an extraction procedure – your patient arrives, you review the health history, you discuss the procedure with your patient, your patient signs the informed consent, you anesthetize (go do a hygiene check), extract the tooth, clean up, hand your patient the after care instructions, enter your clinical note in the chart, walk the patient to check out at the front desk, they pay and leave. You’ve done this hundreds of times. You assume that you follow the same procedure every time, right?
Here’s where it gets interesting. You can easily run a report in Dentrix to find all patients in the last month (or quarter or year) that you completed an extraction on. In the office manager, letters window, you can choose any procedure code and timeframe and run this report in just a few minutes. You can also choose the data you will pull from this lookup – the patient’s name, their contact info, billing info, appointment info, continuing care info, etc.
Once you have the names of all the patients you extracted a tooth for last month, now you can assign a staff person (preferably your assistant who can tackle this project during your next patient no-show) to check for a few quality care items:
- Do we have a signed health history form for every extraction patient? It should have been initialed & dated by the dentist on the date of the extraction (or at the exam close before).
- Do we have a signed informed consent form for every extraction patient? This is always a nice way to protect the practice from malpractice lawsuits.
- Do we have a clinical note on all these patients detailing the procedure? Is this clinical note complete?
Don’t you expect that you’ll be 100%?
In my practice, we’re big fans of the pop quiz – we use this exact approach to check our work on just about everything – and as good as we are (and we all know we run the darn things!) we rarely hit 100%. If you take the time to run this report and then have your assistant note next to the patient name yes or no for these 3 items – then you can calculate your % success in each.When you can see your performance in black/white – the numbers don’t lie. This is a great topic for your next staff meeting. Share your results with your assistant team – bring the charts for the patients you missed getting a signed informed consent form. Inevitably, it will spark a conversation about how so-and-so was running behind and so someone else seated the patient and they forgot (or didn’t know where the forms were). We’re human, and things happen, but this is a great teaching moment for you and the team.The great thing about Dentrix is that if you can think of a procedure you want to check, it’s easy to get the data you need to run a pop quiz. Then you are getting real feedback on your practice performance in a variety of areas – and wouldn’t you like to know how you’re doing in private practice these days?
If you’re interested in running some Dentrix reports to find out how your practice is performing (how your staff is performing??), please share your comments. Also, to learn more about Dental Informatics – click here: http://www.dentalinformatics.com/
If this approach of using actual data to manage your practice appeals to you, then you may also be interested in my report on Managing Dental Insurance, which uses data to evaluate and rank your PPO dental insurance plans.