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    A glimpse of the future

    Practice Activator is an online e-service that contacts and re-activates non-responsive patients.

    I believe I just got a glimpse of the future.

    For some time I have been speaking and writing about the far out ways we could be using digital technology in the future. Things like cloud computing, data mining, self learning virtual brains, data base marketing, artificial intelligence and fully automated e-services.

    All of these far out future ideas have been put into play with a new online service called Practice Activator from ActionRun.

    Practice Activator is an online e-service that contacts and re-activates non-responsive patients. This is not a new idea, what is new are the tools that ActionRun has developed and applied to this task.

    Early attempts to use digital technology to re-activate patients simply automated the tasks we had sought to do with paper records. That is to look up patients who have not been seen in a couple of years and then send them a notice. A slightly more sophisticated application could scan uncompleted treatment plans and send messages to those people which could even include a motivational note.

    However, a car is not merely a faster horse. To truly take advantage of the power of digital technology we can apply tools that were just not possible with paper records; tools that essentially mimic the thought processes of a human mind.

    Here is a really simple example. The computer examines records and discovers a patient who had a root canal completed on a molar but has no record of ever having a final restoration placed on that tooth. The system knows this is a potential problem; with no intervention from a human operator.  The patient is then contacted and advised to return for treatment.

    However it gets even better. The computer looks at the patient’s personal factors, such as age, sex, insurance status, motivators, medical conditions etc. and tailors the re-activation message to appeal specifically to that patient. Mass customization.

    It gets better. The computer tracks the responses and learns what works and what doesn’t and modifies its search and response tactics as a result. This is a type of artificial intelligence called a self learning system. What makes it even better and more sophisticated is that the system uses aggregated data from well over one million connections. The learning is not restricted to your office and your data but can call upon the accumulated wisdom or knowledge base of many many dentists.

    The program can be effective with very basic digital data. That is patient demographic information (age, sex, address) and a ledger (what treatment was done when). However additional data such as treatment plans, histories and diagnosis will add to the system and provide even better results. While a relatively new system, Practice Activator has already proven to be highly effective for those offices that have put it to work

    Let’s review. Data is retrieved from your dental office computer and is analyzed (mined) by a sophisticated system online (in the cloud). Based on over a million transactions a self learning system (artificial intelligence) identifies a patient needing treatment. Based on his/her need the patient is contacted (data base marketing). All your office staff needs to do is answer the phone when the patient calls to schedule (automated e-service).

    The future is coming and it will be amazing!