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You’re familiar with Western Union right? Right? Of course you are. At one point in time, they were reportedly the second largest telegraph company in the world.
Following up on that point, did you know the last telegram sent in the U.S. was sent in 2006? Oh, and the last telegram in the world was sent in July 2013!
So what is the point of all that? It’s all about tech evolution. On May 24, 1844, Samuel B. Morse sent the first telegram over an experimental line from Washington D.C. to Baltimore, Md. That ushered in an era where the telegraph was an incredible state-of-the-art piece of communications protocol. However, 169 years (which is a long time in tech age), the device was gone. Replaced by something better, stronger and faster. In fact, the only reason telegrams were available for as long as they were was because so many people used them as their principle means of communication. The company that ran the telegraph service actually lost millions of dollars doing so. A large corporation, they had continued running the telegraph service as a sort of "community service project" to help those who depended on the service as their principle means of communication.
So why did I start this article with a long and rambling dissertation on a technology that no one uses anymore? To put it bluntly, it's an effort to keep dentists from making the same mistakes that other companies make by integrating technologies too late or hanging onto technologies for too long.
So now let's take a look at a few technologies that I feel should be on that short list of things you need to be thinking about when considering ways to improve clinical outcomes.
Digital radiography and CariVu (or other digital caries diagnostic devices)
Recently I discussed how much digital radiography has evolved (for the better) and why we now no longer compare digital to a "film equivalent." Digital and film are no longer "pretty close." Digital is now looking at film in the rearview mirror and watching as film rapidly becomes an ever-shrinking dot in the distance.
There really aren't any "bad" digital radiography systems on the market. Some might work better with your office software, but you won't get "bad" images. The best advice I can give you is to call your software folks and get their recommendation on what digital radiography system they feel works best with their system. They will not give you bad advice.
This also leads us into the world of digital caries detection. I have been using digital caries detection since the late spring and summer of 2008, and I can tell you things have greatly evolved in the years that have followed.
The latest generation of devices is visual. By that I mean they take pictures of the teeth and provide those images in a way that is easy for the patient, as well as the doctor, to understand.
Devices such as the Air Techniques Spectra, Acteon SoproCARE and SoproLIFE work using fluorescence, while the DEXIS CariVu works using transillumination with infrared energy. These devices are reliable and accurate. If you are not using one of them in your practice, you owe it to yourself to explore them.
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Doing your impressions digitally has many advantages. They are easier than traditional systems, more accurate and patients love the technology!
All of the systems on the market are accurate and reliable. We’ve been using digital impressions for six years and wouldn’t go back to the old way, no matter what! The patients love the fact that we’ve done away with impressions, the team loves being more involved with the treatment and the lab (Technical Crown & Bridge, Greenwood, Mo., 816-537-0070) loves the accuracy and fit.
The hardware involved is also getting easier to use for the team and easier for the patients to tolerate. This is definitely a field that is undergoing a tremendous growth phase right now. The competition between the manufacturers is spurring R&D and innovation that will create devices which won’t resemble today’s in a very short amount of time.
The other great thing is that you can then get a third-party mill and do some of your restorations in your office, if you’d like. We’ve been working with the TS150 Mill from Glidewell since mid-autumn. We have been doing a beta evaluation on the interface and communication between our iTero and the TS150 and my evaluation of the unit have been nothing but positive. Fit, marginal accuracy and occlusion have all been exemplary.
Also, as I stated in my April article on CAD/CAM, if you buy a mill and a better one comes along, just sell the one you have and buy the new one. It’s now that simple and it will continue to become easier as the technology evolves.
The days of waiting on this technology are over. It’s definitely something that can change your office for the better!
Digital security & HIPAA compliance
Having a firewall, antivirus and secure email are things that can no longer be taken for granted.
You should have antivirus software on every computer in your office. It should update the definitions and perform a scan every day. There are way too many viruses out there to take a chance. Make sure to take these threats seriously by keeping your definitions up to date and by doing frequent virus scans.
Any machines that get turned off at night run a scan during the lunch hour. Any machines that are left on overnight run a scan after hours. That way I’m assured that every machine is clean and yet the user isn’t bogged down.
HIPAA-compliant email is a really important part of security if you send any type of patient info via email. Most offices either are not aware or are not concerned about the need for email security. Unless encrypted, email is one of the easiest things to intercept and read. It only takes one incident for an office to incur serious fines and suffer a serious PR disaster. Encrypting your email is not expensive and it’s the right thing to do. There are several services out there that can help you and you should be using one!
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Over the years, we have seen a tremendous growth in our ability to provide information and entertainment in the operatory. It started with dual-monitor setups where we could bring patient education videos directly to the patient monitor that was streamed from a patient education server in the office. Some offices started out with DVDs that could be played with operatory computers, but the convenience of streaming from a server quickly made more sense than trying to keep track of a DVD in a busy office.
Then we saw cable and satellite TV in offices. That meant live TV shows for patients and education from the in-office server when needed.
Now we’re seeing things moving to The Cloud. Why be a slave to the schedule of the channels on TV when patients can watch exactly what they want and it starts the moment they are in the chair? There are lots of ways to do this with Apple TV, ROKU and more. However, those require hardware. Many offices that have a high-speed Internet connection are opting for services such as Netflix that only require a browser and that high-speed connection.
Let’s also not forget online music services like Pandora or iHeart Radio (and others). These are services that will stream any type of music you’d want in a “channel” type format. For instance, if a patient wants to listen to Led Zepplin, you can create a channel and the site will play songs by that artist as well as artists in the same genre.
One other suggestion would be Telcast.tv. This is a service that allows you to create your own customized broadcasts that are shown on the screen of any computer that is logged into the service. You can create custom graphics, show YouTube videos, play trivia and all kinds of other fun things for patients. The only way to get the full idea of what it does is to go to the website and take a look around.
The one thing we can always be assured of, besides death and taxes, is change. In today's’ environment with all of our technologies, both clinical & consumer based, if you don’t move forward, you really are moving backward.
The good news is you don’t have to do this by yourself. Your staff can be a great resource for consumer tech and I’m happy to help with articles like this when I can. Also, use your dental supply sales rep as a resource as well as your office IT professional.
Set up a technology budget and use it to either get current or stay ahead of the curve. In my office, I use that budget and really look upon it as internal marketing. My patients have come to expect me to be on the leading edge and I get referrals based on that simple piece. You can too; it’s really not that difficult.