Healthcare continues to lag behind other industries in adopting digital technologies. The digital transformation has been a mixed bag for medical professionals, with adoption varying significantly among specialties. Dental practices have come a long way over the last decade. Encouraged by federal programs such as the meaningful use initiative, quite a few dentists have invested in dental software like EDRs and practice management applications.
EDR Systems – Then and Now
The software products that dentists use today bear little resemblance to the early versions. At first, dental professionals had to make do with EHRs that were not designed with dental workflows in mind. Clunky UI, difficult navigation, and lack of integration with existing dental tools hindered adoption quite a bit. Early adopters struggled with on-premise systems that needed regular data backup, expensive hardware to work, and shoddy support from vendors.
Fast forward to today and EDR software has changed beyond recognition. Many EDR vendors now offer cloud-based services that work on multiple platforms and devices. Data is backed up instantly to protect against any disaster, either natural or man-made. The latest EDR software is designed around the needs of a dental practice. Gone are the days and employees had to adapt their workflows to compensate for poorly designed applications.
Turning Point for EDR Software
As dentists become more comfortable with EDRs and practice management suites, their weaknesses become more apparent. No software application is perfectly suited for every dental clinic. Hence EDR vendors strive to incorporate new features in their software to close the gap between expectations and reality. The next few years will be a turning point for EDR software as the dental technology landscape changes to keep up with patient-centric care.
The Shift from On-Premise to Cloud-based Systems
Cloud-based EDR systems offer many advantages such as:
- Almost unlimited storage capacity on robust infrastructure
- Continuous software updates without licensing requirements
- Up to date security patches to protect data integrity and confidentiality
- Subscription-based pricing model leading to lower costs for practices
Cloud EDRs are also available on multiple platforms, including mobile devices. Compared to these benefits, on-premise software doesn’t offer much. With cloud vendors offering more customization options than ever before, practices using on-premise systems at a distinct disadvantage. It’s not difficult to imagine that cloud EDRs will grab more market share in the next decade.
Increased Emphasis on Data Sharing
Interoperability and the ability to share data with multiple entities is becoming crucial to EDR software. Long gone are the days when data was locked up in silos with no communication between different tools. Dentists demand the ability to share data with interested parties such as insurance companies, colleagues, patients, testing labs, and many more. Even qualifying for the meaningful use program requires using certified software that can export data in a standardized format.
Improved User Interface
Bad design in software is often brushed aside as necessary. Some developers argue that functionality is more important than aesthetics. However, design is not just about how an application looks on the screen. Well designed software reduces the learning curve for users. It becomes easier for dentists and hygienists to become familiar with the EDR. Intuitive workflows can boost productivity significantly. If entering medical data for a single patient takes 30 minutes, how can dentists ever catch up with documentation?
As the healthcare model shifts from fee-based delivery to patient-centric care, clinics can no longer afford to rely on out of date or inefficient software. The EDRs we have today are more capable than ever before but there is certainly room for more innovation!