Dr. John Flucke takes a look at what the dental industry can expect in 2014.
One of the great things about my position here at Dental Products Report is getting the chance to see and tinker with some pretty cool dental products. One of the other great things is getting to tell you about them.
But this time it’s all about discussing what I see happening in the year ahead. So read on for a breakdown of the top 10 products and technologies I see trending in the dental industry in 2014, and why they should matter to your practice:
1. Internet-connected equipment
I’ve mentioned my newest autoclave in DPR before. The Statim G4 from SciCan has all of the bells and whistles you have come to expect from SciCan’s top-of-the-line high-speed sterilization system. The new advantage it brings to the table is its ability to communicate.
The G4 has an Ethernet port that allows it to connect to your network by either a wired or wireless connection. It sends to the doctor, via email, all the pertinent info on sterilization cycles.
However, it also contacts SciCan and your preferred service technician if there is a problem. It will even notify them of what’s wrong.
There are a few other devices like this and more in the product pipeline. In 5 or 10 years, we’ll wonder how we ever got along without connected equipment.
2. The cloud
This has been a big buzzphrase for a few years and it is only going to continue to grow.
The concept behind “the cloud” is simply using a computer on the Internet to do something rather than doing it on your computer. Online banking, booking airline travel, ordering with Amazon-all of those situations and applications use the cloud.
Today, many offices use cloud backup with systems like Liptak Dental’s DDS Rescue. The next big thing on the event horizon is cloud-based software to run your dental office.
Imagine needing only an Internet connection and a Web browser to run your dental software! No massive software updates, no network configuration problems, and no computers to upgrade because of software incompatibility.
Cloud systems like Curve Dental have been around for a while and are gaining traction, and Henry Schein recently launched Dentrix Ascend, the first cloud-based system from a company with an established client/server program. When the big boys enter this market, you know the trend is here to stay.
Dentrix Ascend from Henry Schein.
3. Electronic Health Record (EHR)
For those of us who have been “chartless” or “ paperless” for a while now, this doesn’t seem like too big of a deal. However, for those offices still languishing in a paper-based charting world this may be a bit intimidating.
The Electronic Health Record (also known as EHR) is basically an electronic chart. The idea has been around for years now. The original concept was a medical record that could be added to and read from any medical office.
If you think of financial records, a person can go to an ATM almost anywhere on the planet and the system knows how much money you have available and can dispense it to you. Yet health records are not universally available in a similar manner.
To decrease costs by increasing efficiency, the federal government would like to see a true EHR that any provider could easily access. We’re not there yet, but there is a focus on the situation.
Will dentistry also be involved in a truly “universal” EHR? Only time will tell. However, from personal experience, I can tell you that being chartless provides for a tremendous amount of efficiency.
The concept of patient privacy has had a much greater focus since HIPAA went into effect.
Offices now find they are shredding anything that might contain even a hint of patient information. In our office, we are shredding.
Post-It notes, envelopes, you name it. We feel it is much better to err on the side of caution.
One thing that will change in the not-too-distant future is email. We have begun testing a service that provides email encryption any time something with any type of patient data is transmitted.
The service (which I’m currently not at liberty to announce) is simple to use and provides the security necessary to make sure secure data stays secure.
It uses an encryption algorithm similar to an electronic credit card transaction so you know it is secure.
Want more great advice from Dr. John Flucke?
Watch this video on caries detection devices:
5. Cone beam
The science of 3D cone beam imaging continues to make inroads into the everyday practice of dentistry and it shows no signs of letting up in the near future.
Ask anyone who either owns a unit or has access to one if they would like to go back to 2D and you will hear a resounding “No!”
The ability to see things you’ve never been able to see before gives your treatment a greater amount of predictability and lets you see every potential problem—before you start the procedure.
Now that we are seeing digital impression systems becoming more and more common, companies are creating ways to merge the data from 3D systems and those digital impressions. This creates a constantly updatable database of the 3D patient. How amazing is that?
In the early days of technology in dentistry, we were forced to use carts to haul our equipment around the office.
We had to do the same when CAD/CAM systems came along. The acquisition units needed to be wheeled to where the patient was located.
While not a dealbreaker, dentists have always wanted a smaller, more portable system. That system is now here with the arrival of Planmeca PlanScan from E4D Technologies, formally NEVO.
The Planmeca PlanScan is an acquisition camera that plugs into a laptop or operatory computer, when you want. Expect other CAD/CAM and digital impression companies to follow suit.
Watch this video for more details:
This subject cannot be emphasized enough. Data breaches happen everyday and many of them are not discovered until much later, if at all. It’s because of this that we have to be hyper-vigilant in protecting our data.
Unfortunately, this is really beyond the skills of the average person in a dental office, so I highly recommend a regular security assessment from your IT personnel.
When I say “IT personnel,” I mean just that. Find people who really know IT security and let them do their job. That does not mean hiring a high school kid or an employee’s child who is “good with computers.”
The security chain is only as strong as its weakest link and you do not want that link to be your IT expert!
I advise finding someone who is really good and sticking with him or her. For my office, it is the IT Department at my supplier, Goetze Dental. They hire the best IT folks, plus Goetze has a vested interest in keeping my practice secure, running and profitable.
At the very least, you should be running anti-virus, anti-spyware, and some type of firewall software. This stuff isn’t cheap, but neither is a data breach. Look at it as insurance.
Want more great advice from Dr. John Flucke? Watch this video on how to choose the right curing light for your practice:
I will admit to being a bit OCD about my backups-and I don’t mean just my office data either. I have multiple redundant backups of my data spread over multiple locations. Basically, short of global thermonuclear war, I should be good.
However, I seriously doubt many of you could say the same thing, right? Right? Hey, I’m talking to you! Yes, you!
So, what should you do? Would you want to spend all of your free time keeping track of your backups and reconfiguring them when the need arises?
That’s what I do (I never told you it was easy being me).
In the past three or four years, many of you have begun trusting companies to do your backups for you. These companies are installing a program on your server that then uploads your data to a secure server somewhere offsite.
These storage companies and their servers are in the cloud.
I recommend these services for any office that wants to make sure it doesn’t lose data in the event of a disaster. However, I don’t recommend every service.
Many of these companies are setup to provide backups for families not wanting to lose bank records or family photos, but they are not set up to provide strategic backup for a thriving business that needs access to its data now in case of a disaster.
My recommendation is to use a company that has a vested interest in keeping you in business. By that, I mean using a service from a dental supply company. Patterson and Henry Schein both offer online backup solutions as do regional dental suppliers such as Goetze Dental here in the Midwest.
These companies want you to stay in business and their online backup solutions are designed not only to keep you backed up, but to help you recover and see patients as fast as possible after disaster strikes. By partnering with a dental company, you know they have your best interests in mind.
There’s also the most amazing office backup system that I have ever seen-so much so in fact that it is the winner of the Pride Best in Class award for two consecutive years.
DDS Rescue is a self-contained computer that is shipped to your office by Liptak Dental and plugs into your network via standard network cabling. A program is then installed on your server that allows the DDS Rescue system to see the server on the network and connect to it.
The DDS Rescue system creates multiple bootable backups of your data onsite. However, that’s only half of the amazing part. The other half is that these same bootable backups are uploaded to the cloud and stored in a secure server farm.
If a disaster ever befalls your office, these bootable backups can be accessed, giving you access to your data. My buddy, Dr. Marty Jablow, lost power in his New Jersey office in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but he was able to stay in contact with his patients thanks to DDS Rescue.
9. No track lights
I built my dream office about six years ago. It was completely designed, from the ground up (literally) with technology in mind.
It was an incredible rush watching it all come together like the proverbial well-oiled machine and I still remember a discussion I had with the folks from Goetze Dental as we were planning the final few stages of the operatory design.
The question was, “What kind of track lights are you wanting to use?” Now I know for many offices that is a legitimate question, but for me, we hadn’t used track lights for years. I used auxiliary lighting attached to my surgical telescopes.
This type of illumination is brighter, easier to use, and costs less than track light options.
When I was first asked about installing track lights, I asked what the cost would be. A middle of the road option was about $3,500 per operatory. For the seven-operatory office I was building, the cost for all new lighting would have been $24,500.
LED systems cost between $500 and $1,500, depending on brightness and other features. When you realize this cost is only on the glasses you are wearing, the savings are staggering.
I could have spent $3,500 for each treatment area (total $24,500 for a less desirable option) or $1,500 (a one-time cost) to equip my glasses with the better option. Needless to say, I decided not to go with track lights.
10. 3D printing
While we may not see 3D printing go mainstream in 2014, trust me when I say it will go mainstream-sooner rather than later. In 2013, we saw several non-dental companies create 3D scanners and printers.
The idea is conceptually a pretty simple one. We’ve had scanners for years now, but they’ve only been able to scan and re-create images in the X and Y axes. A 3D scanner is a special device that scans for all sides and adds the Z axis as part of the scan. That means you get height, width and depth.
Once you’ve got a scan of an object or you can design the object on a computer and forgo the scan you are ready to print. The process of 3D printing isn’t as complicated as it seems (which is why we’re seeing a big surge in its development).
Just like ink jet printers lay down layers of ink and those layers can overlap to form any color you can imagine, 3D printers use different materials (depending on what you are creating) that are laid down in layers, one on top of the other.
As the layers are added, the object literally grows one layer at a time.
While we are currently seeing dental CAD/CAM systems that take solid blocks and grind them down to create a restoration (subtractive), in the not-too-distant future I can see us designing restorations and then printing them (additive) with very little waste.
The technology to create these objects exists today. Now it’s just a matter of being able to print with the precision our profession demands and being able to print a material that will survive in the oral environment.
Wrapping it up
So there are my predictions in all of their glory. In a few years, we can look back at this and probably giggle at a few of my comments. However, I’m hoping that I’ve got a few solid base hits here, and maybe, just maybe, I’ve hit a couple over the wall as well.