Oral Health Group

Primer on dental data encryption – going paperless – from the ADA


November 11, 2011
by ken

DENTAL ENCRYPTION DUDES at the RCDSO – come out, come out whereever you are.  This need not turn into a Rick Perry, Jan Brewer debate, because the taunting is simply to get you lads to COMMENT………the erudition will come from the content you provide in response or advocacy, but do consider responding.  You are going to unleash a conflagration on the profession and the industry is unprepared…….make folk aware in advance.  Paperless??? what percentage of dental offices in Canada are connected to the INTERNET, what percentage use digital radiography anon……….slippery slope lads, slippery slope, concept is excellent, the introduction and execution in this dentoid’s opinion needs massive and copious quantities of transparency and castor oil.

From the ADA Council on Dental Practice Division of Legal Affairs.

Not decrying the need to encrypt dental records and communications, simply the MANDATING of something that save for a few, is going to causing a kerfuffle of Lehman Bros. proportions to the profession without a slow, step by step,coordinated,integrated introduction.
Electronic Patient Records 
The use of electronic records is dramatically affecting the dentistry profession.  As a member of the administrative dental team, you must also take the initiative to learn the terms and the tools of the new electronic world– especially with regard to electronic records and HIPAA regulations. 
Digital technology, the advancement of networked computing and the digitization of information, will continue to  change the profession of dentistry in numerous ways–from the clinical to continuing education and, from practice  management transactions such as payment and marketing to e-commerce.  Software programs allow electronic transmission of patient records with sound, text and images to dental specialists for second opinions and preauthorization for insurance purposes.  Instead of written descriptions with tooth charts, digital clinical photographs may be attached.  For more information on HIPAA Security regulations 
related to electronic records and communications, consult the ADA HIPAA Security Kit available for purchase through the ADA Catalog. 
Communicating with Patients by E-mail 
Electronic communications use in the dental office can be very beneficial.  For example, it can help the dentist save time, and put an end to phone tag with patients.  For patients, it may help them compose more detailed questions for the doctor and complete tasks such as scheduling appointments or refilling a prescription. However, using e-mail for patient care purposes can also raise significant considerations.  It is difficult to ensure confidentiality and to confirm the identity of the person when communicating via unsecured e-mail.  E-mail could be misdirected in error, or forwarded to an unknown third party without proper controls.  Patients should be made 
well aware of these risks and agree to accept them before use of electronic communications. 
But will a patient’s acceptance be a binding release?  If patients agree, how will these communications be  incorporated in the dental record?  Can you minimize your exposure/risk or lessen your liability for business you conduct online?  And, are you insured?  Answers to these and many other open questions will take time to evolve, as users get more familiar with emerging technologies, and the courts grapple with how to resolve bad outcomes arising out of their use.
Making the Transition to a Paperless Office 
Digital patient records are an increasingly common practice management tool as technology advances and become more effective. During the transition from a paper dental office to an electronic one, manual filing and record keeping continue to be extremely important.  Dentists should educate themselves as to the legal, ethical, and technological issues that are related to an electronic medium — including whether state law mandates backup paper record keeping. Some states may have “quill” laws that fail to recognize certain types of electronic records as valid in legal proceedings. Carefully check laws related to electronic record keeping as changes in this area occur rapidly. Even with advancing technologies, practitioners and staff must realize that the transition to “paperless records” is not seamless, totally safe, or problem-free and may not eliminate the need to keep paper records due to legal requirements in some states.   
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