Dental EHR System: Top 3 Challenges And Solutions

In recent years, healthcare organizations have been actively involved in digital transformation, embracing diverse solutions for practice management, and dentistry is no exception. According to Grand View Research, the global market for dental practice software hit $2,8bn in 2022 and is expected to grow steadily at a CAGR of 10.25% up to 2030. 

However, several challenges are blocking the extensive EDR adoption. Fortunately, they are manageable. We’ll look into three common barriers and offer some practical tips to overcome them to ensure a seamless adoption of a dental EHR system.

Dental EHR: three challenges and tips to solve them

EDR adoption challenges include resistance to change, the cost of EDR solutions, especially for small clinics or solo dentists, and EDR-related burnout among dentists and nurses.

Challenge 1 Resistance to change

Dentists have been keeping patient records for decades. However, in most cases, those were paper records stored in the clinic. As a rule, such records take up much space and require tedious manual search. 

Nevertheless, clinicians may resist EDR adoption. Doctors are mainly preoccupied with their patients’ health and don’t see why they need to change the existing record-keeping system and adapt to a new solution unless someone clearly explains the new system’s benefits. Likewise, they should see the drawbacks of paper record-keeping and the opportunity to improve the system by implementing an EDR.

Solution 1 Mitigating the resistance

Rapid deployment of EDR instead of paper-based records for oral health clinics is like a volcanic eruption. Therefore, strong resistance to such a change is understandable. However, discussing the situation with the facility’s employees can help mitigate the effect. 

A productive dialogue with dentists and other oral health practitioners can help create a firm basis for change. Streamlined communication will help involve future users in the implementation process. The dental clinic leader should explain to the employees why the change is required. They should also feature the new workflows and how they will work.

It’s important to stress that the established processes will not suffer from the updates but only improve. Then, the personnel should feel free to ask questions and offer their ideas regarding the changes. Therefore, they become invested in the change, which facilitates EDR adoption. 

Challenge 2 Dental EHR system cost

EHR and EDR costs could be a burden for healthcare providers. One of the factors determining the cost is the mode of implementation – an on-premises solution or a cloud one. 

On-premises systems could require hefty upfront costs that only some clinics can afford. For example, Epic EHR can cost from $1,200 to $500,000, depending on the features deployed and the added customizations, Costhack reports. Therefore, such a system better suits large dental practices.

Small or solo practices could opt for cloud EHR solutions, often available by subscription. Their pricing ranges from $300 to $700 per month, according to Costowl. 

However, both cloud and on-premises solutions may require additional investments. For example, if you have a сloud-based EDR, you may need to change your subscription plan to process more patient records. Besides, in the long term, a cloud solution’s total cost of ownership (TCO) could exceed that of an on-premise system. Meanwhile, if you have an on-premises solution, IT professionals should be on board to maintain and update software and hardware. So how to make the right choice?

Solution 2  Considering your needs and budgets

To select a suitable EDR solution, you should consider a full scope of factors affecting the price. A therapy-centered practice can deploy off-the-shelf solutions – standard EHR functionality should be enough. If a clinic goes beyond therapeutic services, it may need specialized modules for oral surgery or pediatric oral health. In this case, it can go for a custom EHR to cover all the required features.

If a practice is extensive and offers many services, it can allocate a share of its budget for a feature-rich EHR and additional modules. On the other hand, mid- and small practices with modest financial resources can opt for a cheaper solution with basic functionality.

Meanwhile, dental practice decision-makers can cooperate with qualified EDR consultants to facilitate their choice. Professional advisors can recommend healthcare providers turn to free dental EHRs that are monetized through showing ads or the platforms that charge patients for using the service instead of healthcare providers.

Challenge 3 The EDR-related burnout

Dentists have admitted increased burnout rates in recent years, triggered by post-COVID insecurity, staffing shortages in dental clinics, and the subsequent overwork. According to the 2021 Dentist Health and Well-Being Survey by American Dental Association (ADA), 16% of the 20,000 surveyed clinicians experienced anxiety, and 13% had depression. 

Introducing a new system can exacerbate the issue. Many dentists believe EDR will increase their daily working hours or enforce overtime.

The situation can worsen if the clinic uses a dive-and-swim deployment strategy. In this case, dentists and nurses start working with a freshly deployed solution without preparations. Unfortunately, inexperienced dentists are likely to make mistakes when dealing with EDR. Such an approach can cause harm to patients and the dental clinic’s reputation. This method can add to clinicians’ burnout.

Solution 3 Educating the staff

Getting comfortable with the EDR solution is a complicated process for dentists and other medical personnel. As a provider, you should discuss training options with the vendor to ensure your employees’ education. According to Clinician Training 2021 by KLAS Research, the staff that underwent initial training reported a net EHR experience score of 71 points in 2021. Besides, about 90,000 clinicians admit they were prepared well for using EHR. But how to organize training? It requires some effort from the vendor – your EDR implementation partner.

The vendor needs to assist the provider’s team with figuring out how to run the solution, set up the necessary templates, and other solutions facilitating data entry. Well-structured templates for filling out patient records will help increase efficiency and reduce the time for examining a patient. Besides, vendors often have ready-made training materials to help doctors learn how to use the EHR. You can discuss the training sessions with the vendor at the project’s kickoff.

On a final note

Moving from paper-based health records to electronic dental records (EDRs) is challenging as any significant change. In addition, the abundance of tech tools often stresses out doctors. According to Midmark’s paper of 2021, about 40% of 200 surveyed dentists experienced daily stress due to the need to work with some software or equipment.

At the same time, a 2021 paper published in Decisions in Dentistry states that technologies can reduce the staff’s stress and burnout levels. Therefore, the provider’s team should have effective leadership and an experienced technological partner to adopt EDR seamlessly.  Hence, with a well-designed solution and a carefully selected vendor providing training and support, successful EDR deployment and adoption is manageable.