General Dentist, Specialist Collaboration

A major challenge our office and every dental office has is collaborating with specialist offices. For many years x-rays and a referral slip were sent to the specialists office along with the patient. Now x-rays are digital files, most of the patient data is digital data, so the idea of sending x-rays and referral slips via postal mail is really backward thinking. With the advent of the internet collaboration of all types of media is viable. X-rays, Letters and Photos can be transferred from office to office with ease. If it’s so easy, why are we still getting snail mail letters via postal mail along with stacks of referral slips.

It’s easy in theory, but not in practice because the most common electronic tool used today is email.

Who is responsible for checking the email? Does the referring office even have email? Often the doctors communicate via email but the offices don’t. What happens when “the” Email computer goes down. How do you handle spam? Who checks the email?
Who sends the email? How do you keep track of specific patient data? Is it secure?

Email is a poor project management system. Email is great for one on one communication, but lousy for groups of people to work together.

I’m thinking an application like Basecamp from 37signals, might be something worth looking into. A specialist office can create a “camp” for each of their referring doctors offices and provide access to whomever they choose from that office, the doctor, a treatment coordinator, a member of the front office staff etc. Now whenever that doctor is referring a new patient over the office staff can upload necessary x-rays, health histories, treatment plans, whatever. This area is secure between the two doctors offices. When the specialists sees the patient and create their report, instead of faxing or emailing that report is uploaded to the “camp” and an email or RSS notification is sent to the referring doctor’s office to go look in the “camp” for the info. I’d be interested in hearing some comments of whether or not this is viable or not in your practice.