5 critical things to consider when purchasing technology for the dental practice

August 26, 2015

The satisfaction of getting a new computer, network or piece of technology to work was the thrill of the hunt. It’s amazing sometimes that it all works together.

Is what you're getting ready to buy really going to help your business and your patients? Here are five ways to find out.

During my 22 years in dentistry, I have been both the trainer and the trainee when it comes to implementing new technology in the dental practice. People who know me see me as kind of a computer geek.

The satisfaction of getting a new computer, network or piece of technology to work was the thrill of the hunt. It’s amazing sometimes that it all works together.

The miracle that all the technology works together is actually not a miracle at all-it takes planning and professional help. It doesn’t just happen. There are five critical things to consider when purchasing a new piece of technology, whether it is for the clinical or business side of your practice. These five things will not only help bring this miracle to life but also make sure your team is as efficient as it can be:

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1. Research the product before you buy – I have been to multiple dental practices where the doctor has picked up a new printer/scanner/copier/fax machine, brought it to the office, dropped the box on the desk and asked his office manager to install it and have it working by the end of the day. This happens with many products, such as computers, monitors, Wi-Fi routers, signature devices and printers. There are many details to consider when purchasing a new piece of technology.

  • Is it compatible with my practice management software?

  • Does this product contain the proper drivers or can I install them?

  • Does it work over Wi-Fi so my entire team has access to it from all workstations?

  • Do I need a converter so I can plug it into my existing computer?

If you don’t know how to answer these questions, consult an expert hardware technician who can help guide you to the right product.

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2. Unless your office manager is tech-savvy, have it installed professionally – The dental practice I worked in only had four treatment rooms, but we had 14 computer workstations that needed the power of a hard-working network. When you implement a new piece of technology, there will be hardware specifications that need to be met so that it works properly and will continue to work for the life of the product. Here are some specifications to consider if you are considering a self-guided installation:

  • Can the network support this new product (drive space, memory, etc.)?

  • If you install a product that has some kind of output (images, X-rays, etc.), do you know where to point the data so it gets backed up every day?

  • How do you share the data over the network so all workstations that need it have access to it?
     

3. Bring in an expert trainer – Training is an investment in your team, the productivity of your practice, and the implementation of this new piece of technology. Of course, not every piece of technology requires a professional trainer. If you install a new all-in-one printer, you probably don’t need to bring in a trainer because your team already knows how to use the product. So how do you know if you need to bring in a trainer? Ask these questions:

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  • Is the new technology something that is new and has never been used before?

  • Does it require new skills?

  • Are there reservations within the team to implement the new technology?
     

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions and do not have an expert on staff, you need to set aside a budget and time to have your team trained professionally.

Team training does not have to be expensive and inconvenient. There are online courses, webinars, live online training and lunch and learns. Of course, nothing beats having the trainer come into your practice to teach you on your own equipment. Having the trainer in your office allows for customization, troubleshooting with specific issues and live Q&As with the team.

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4. Give all team members a hands-on experience – I advocate cross training and making sure the team is familiar with all equipment and technology in the office. This not only makes for a much more productive and efficient team but also lets your patients know you keep your employees educated and up-to-date on all your equipment. After you have installed and trained on your new product, set up a learning session for each team member.

For example, if you just installed a new electronic form system, make sure each team member follows the steps from start to finish so he or she has a clear understanding of how it works and what the patient experience will be.
Another example: If you just purchased a new voice-activated perio chart system, let each team member try it so he or she understands how the patient will feel when using it. This helps create awareness and understanding for your patients.

If it is a more complex piece of equipment, like a digital pano machine, all clinical team members should know how it works and the admin team should know the benefits and how to discuss it with patients.

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5. Stay up to date – Technology is constantly changing, and you must stay up-to-date with any software and hardware updates. Some practice management software companies come out with large feature updates that need team training but some updates are just driver updates that don’t require training at all. My recommendation would be to have a quarterly technology “refresher” course for the team. Someone on the team can be designated as the trainer for the next meeting and determine what equipment or piece of technology is on the agenda, then decide if you need to bring in a professional trainer or if you are just going to do a webinar.

Technology leads our dental practices and is constantly changing. Every dental practice needs to have a technology map of the practice and learning days set up for the team. Work with your hardware technician and trainers to help you customize a plan that works best for your office.

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