(DALLAS) — Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry patient records soon will be completely digital.

The college’s Office of Clinical Affairs has been working since September 2005 to implement the Electronic Patient Record Project, a two-phase venture designed to streamline patient records and radiography.

The first phase of the project, which was completed in January, included converting radiographs to a digital format and installing computers in each operatory for speedy viewing. In the past, computers were located at strategic locations in clinic and student-use areas. Clinicians are now able to serve patients more efficiently with nearly immediate access to radiographic images.

“The transition was virtually seamless to the patients as radiographs are taken much the same way as before, just processed through a digital scanner rather than a film processor,” said Dr. Stephen Griffin, director of clinics. “The imaging software provides many ways to enhance an image, which results in less retakes of radiographs that otherwise might not have been of diagnostic quality.”

The second phase of the project, the Electronic Health Record, consists of replacing current patient charts with fully electronic files and is scheduled to be in place by the start of summer clinic in June. Upon completion, all patient records will be in electronic format and little to no paper will be used in the treatment of patients at HSC-BCD.

“The Electronic Health Record provides an opportunity to improve quality of care and patient safety,” Dr. Griffin said. “The EHR can decrease charting time and errors and eliminate mistakes made from unintelligible notes. Chart chasing is eliminated as is duplication of data entry on various forms.”

Dr. Griffin assures that patient privacy will not be compromised with the introduction of the new software. Though patient information is more easily accessible, it actually will be more secure because access is granted based on necessity.

“Students can only access a record for a patient that has been assigned to them for treatment,” Dr. Griffin said. “In addition, certain staff members have restricted privileges to view and/or make entries in only the portions of the record they need access to for their job.”

Comprehensive patient records – including dental, medical and prescription drug history, appointment records, radiography, and billing – will be accessible from any workstation, facilitating better communication between the clinician and the patient or conferring clinicians. With the new software in place, faculty supervisors in the clinics will be better able to manage the progress of student clinicians and digitally document student assessment.

“While the main goal in this project is to improve patient care, it is also an important educational experience for our students, as the industry in general is moving toward digital radiographs and patient records,” Dr. Griffin said. “Most of our students will graduate into positions using this technology.”

Founded in 1905, Baylor College of Dentistry at Dallas is a component of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. HSC-BCD is a nationally recognized center for oral health sciences education, research, specialized patient care and continuing dental education.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— LaDawn Brock