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Dental Technology: $50 Billion Over 5 Years for Health Care & Digital Records

February 16th, 2009 · No Comments

dentistry and economy


The recently passed US stimulus package in includes $5o billion for US health care, of which $19 billion will go toward implementing electronic health information systems. Digital health records will be part of this initiative. The hope is that the accuracy and speed of digital records will improve our health care system over all. At DentalBlogs, Dr. Larry Emmott and other contributors have discussed digital dental records for quite some time. Many dentists are transitioning from paper to digital records, though it’s not a quick and easy process. What does this part of the stimulus package mean for dentists?

A story that ran in the Dallas Morning News today says, “Doctors in the US have historically resisted using technology.”

This is also true of dentists, though our DentalBlogs subscribers tend to flock to dental technology posts. The DMN article by Victor Godinez goes on to discuss some complex concerns that justify hesitation by doctors and dentists, such as privacy issues and electronic data glitches. Just last year, a problem with the VA medical data system resulted in many people receiving improper doses of medication.

An interview by of Karen Bell, Director at the US Department of Health and Human Services last September tells us that doctors will face significant initial investments, as well as a 20% reduction in productivity in order to transition to digital records. Ms. Bell says that physician groups are able to dedicate the time to negotiate good pricing, thus nearly one-third of group medical practices use digital records now.

Will digital health records benefit the economy? After all, the whole point of the stimulus package is to stimulate the economy. The DMN article says that we spend 17% of the gross domestic product (GDP) on healthcare, according to Peter Altabef, CEO of Perot Systems Corp in Plano, Tx, and that amount is more than the GDP of most nations. The US spent $2.4 trillion on healthcare in 2008, and 30% of that was on administration. Electronic records could reduce this expenditure. Does this mean that implementing digital health records will actually cut jobs in the long run? Maybe not. According to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, if we spend $10 billion on implementing digital records this year, 212,000 jobs will be created or preserved.

For more information on transitioning your dental practice to paperless records, consult Dr. Larry Emmott, our DentalBlogs technology guru and columnist for Dental Products Report. His article, “Paperless Strategies 101” is a good place to start.

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