E-services: Get more, pay less

March 21, 2012

OK, what is an e-service? Remember when e was just a letter? Well now it stands for “electronic” and anything e like e-mail or e–commerce is electronic mail or electronic commerce. But in practice it usually means a service that is not just electronic but it is online. Often as it becomes an e and goes online the “whatever” migrates from being a product to a service. From physical to e

OK, what is an e-service?

Remember when e was just a letter? Well now it stands for “electronic” and anything e like e-mail or e–commerce is electronic mail or electronic commerce. But in practice it usually means a service that is not just electronic but it is online. Often as it becomes an e and goes online the “whatever” migrates from being a product to a service.

From physical to e

For example let’s look at a dental product that has become an online e-service to explain the differences and advantages of going e. The product is patient education. For many years the patient education market was dominated by Caesy. Caesy dominated for many reasons not the least of which it was a very well designed product. Caesy evolved over the years from a standalone player to DVDs to a network server based system. However, in all those configurations Caesy was sold to a dentist and installed in the dental office.

As a dentist you can purchase a full Caesy networked system with a local server for about $8,000. It is possible to get upgrades for an additional fee, but for the most part, once it is delivered and installed the dentist owns the system as is. It is the dentist’s responsibility to maintain it and make needed repairs. As the owner the dentist can, in theory, sell the system to someone else if he/she can find a willing buyer. However we all know in reality used technology has virtually no re-sale value which means the $8,000 is not really an investment but is spent money.

Migrate the idea of a patient education product to the Internet and it becomes an e-service like ToothIQ.

As a dentist you do not need to buy ToothIQ but you pay for it as a monthly service. It is software as a service (SaaS). The fee varies depending on what you get but can be as low as $39 a month. For the $8,000 purchase price of Caesy you can have 205 months of Tooth IQ. (That’s more than 17 years.)

Let’s review; if I want to start using a professional digital patient education system in the office next week I can invest $8,000 and wait until it is delivered and installed or I can sign up online for $39 and start using it immediately.

Low start up cost is just one of the benefits of online e-services.

Instant updates

“With a Web based e-service you can access it from anywhere using any computer that has Internet access.”

With the old installed system, upgrades are periodically sent to users (usually for an additional fee) and the user needs to install the upgrade and hope it works with his/her system. The unspoken issue, the elephant in the punch bowl, is that locally installed computers can vary to an almost infinite degree and new software upgrades may not work on the hardware in your office while the same upgrade works just fine running on the system in the office next door.

With a Web based e-service the upgrades are added constantly. Monthly subscribers get the improvements instantly at no additional fee. The service is Web based so it does not matter how the local computers are set up, or networked, how old they are, or which OS they are using. As long as the computer has Internet access and an up-to-date Web browser with the correct plug-ins, you can use the newest latest version.

This also protects you from one of the most frustrating aspects of modern technology; rapid, (like speed of light rapid) obsolescence. Everything high tech continues to evolve and improve at an incredible rate. That means that once you have made your $8,000 investment it will be out of date in just a few years and be selling on eBay for $1.98.

Worldwide access

With the old system installed in the office the only way to access or view the program is to go to the office and use a computer that is hooked up to the system. With a Web based e-service you can access it from anywhere using any computer that has Internet access.

Another advantage of a Web based system is it is very easy to integrate aspects of the program into another online medium. For example with ToothIQ you could make the educational animations part of your Web page, add them to e-mails or make them accessible to patients using smartphones or other mobile devices.

ToothIQ is a good example of the power of an e-service but it is just the beginning. We are seeing e-services such as 3D Diagnostix that provide online assistance with cone beam scans, e-services to analyze your practice performance such or help with blling, and even e-services that combine physical equipment in the practice with automated online tools such as Cubex which manages inventory and orders supplies to save a practice time and money. In the near future we will be using the Internet in very creative ways we have not yet even imagined.

The future is coming and it will be amazing!

Dr. Larry Emmott, an authority on dental technology, is a speaker, writer and consultant. To find out about his high-tech training programs, Technology Guides and other services, visit drlarryemmott.com or call 602-791-7071.