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DPR Tech Census 2011

Issue 10

One of the many things we learned in our annual Technology Census is that the readers of Dental Products Report really do like technology, but that the large majority is not just going to jump at the newest gadgets without a little investigating.

One of the many things we learned in our annual Technology Census is that the readers of Dental Products Report really do like technology, but that the large majority is not just going to jump at the newest gadgets without a little investigating.

The online 2011 Tech Census was recently completed by 128 respondents, three-fourths of whom are dentists with the remaining being hygienists or dental assistants. When we asked you to describe yourself in terms of incorporating new technologies into your practice, 73% chose “I’m a researcher. I need to see a hands-on demo, clinical studies, etc.” Another 18% describe themselves as an “ROI fanatic” who needs to see how this new technology will improve their bottom line. Just 7% admitted to being impulse shoppers who see something and want to go for it.

With this year’s Tech Census we included a Personal Technology section with questions geared toward how much time dental professionals spend online, whether they are into online reviews or Googling themselves, and how much use they have for smartphones, tablets and social media.

Own/plan to own

Of the 15 categories of technologies we included in the survey, the four most common were each owned by at least 7 in 10 respondents, with LED curing lights leading the way at 86%. The other most-owned technologies were practice management software (77%), digital x-ray system/digital sensor (76%) and intraoral video camera (70%).

These categories have experienced solid growth in recent years. In DPR’s March 2009 Technology Survey, 47% of the respondents indicated they own a digital x-ray system, meaning a much greater percentage of those who participated in this year’s survey are now using the technology. In our June 2008 Technology Census, 74% of the respondents owned an LED curing light and 61% an intraoral video camera.

Other interesting ownership numbers from the survey include computerized shade matching device/system (22%), tablet PC for check-in and patient education (20%), caries detection device (36%), DVD or online-based patient education (51%), digital impression taking device (19%) and soft-tissue lasers (29%).

A look at the “Plan to Purchase in the Next 12 Months” responses leads us to expect to see soft-tissue lasers (18% plan to buy) and tablet PCs (19% plan to buy) continue to grow in popularity in the next year or so.

Purchasing influences

Forty-one percent of this year’s respondents indicate it is somewhat important to have high-tech offerings to compete with other practices in the area. Another 41% consider it either “Important” or “Very important” to do so, while 18% think that is “Not important at all.”

When it comes to considering new technology for the practice, more than half of you feel integration is “Very important” (52%). Another 30% answered “Important” when we asked just how important integration (the product’s ability to interact with your existing computer system, imaging system, practice management set-up, etc.). Not surprisingly, just 2.3% indicated this integration ability was “Not important at all”.

Dream technologies/ROI

While technologies such as chairside CAD/CAM, cone beam imaging and lasers have proven benefits and have become a staple in many practices, high costs have kept them from becoming mainstream, although competition among diode laser manufacturers has led to lowered prices and enabled plenty of practices to add a soft-tissue laser or two to their practice.

We asked our readers what high-tech clinical aid they would incorporate into their practice if money were no object, and with little surprise CAD/CAM led the way with 24% indicating they would add that if cost were not an issue. Cone beam imaging and lasers were next up, both coming in at 22.5%, with a number of the respondents specifying either hard-tissue or multiple-wavelength with their laser wish lists.

If money were not an obstacle, 12% would add a digital impression system to their practice. That same number, 12%, also indicated a wish to either add digital x-ray to the practice or add sensors and computers in the operatory to expand their current digital x-ray capabilities.

Two in 10 respondents indicated digital x-ray is the one high-tech clinical item that has provided the biggest bump in their practice, with intraoral cameras (15%) the second most popular choice. Other highlights from that question included 10% selecting CAD/CAM as providing the biggest boost, while 8% indicated practice management software and another 8% stated that lasers have provided the biggest boost.

Personal technology

This section of the survey was designed to help us learn a little about how dentists use technology on a personal basis, and we were able to have a little fun asking questions about Googling yourself and social media use.

What we found out was 41% of you spend a minimum of 10 hours online each week, with another 16% are online 7-9 hours each week. Twenty percent are online between 0-3 hours a week, with 23% online on average 4-6 hours a week.

When we asked if you’ve ever Googled yourself or your practice, 79% answered Yes and 21% said No. Also, 58% of you have written an online review for a product or service, dental or otherwise. Just less than one-third put some effort toward encouraging patients to write online reviews about their practice.

Seven in 10 own a smartphone, and 52% own a tablet PC or an eReader, indicating that dentists are very into using some of today’s more popular devices such as iPads, Kindles and one of the many available smartphones.

The survey does indicate, however, that when it comes to social media, the dental staff is more into using it on a personal basis as opposed to using it to promote the practice. When we asked if the practice utilizes Facebook, YouTube or Twitter for marketing or patient loyalty purposes, 36% indicated they do. When we asked about those same social networks in terms of your personal life, 64% said Yes.

So while the wish list of high-end technologies indicates there is room for growth in terms of adding more clinical technology to the practice, DPR’s Tech Census 2011 also indicates there’s plenty of room to grow in terms of using popular outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to help promote and grow your practice.

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