How to transform a dental practice from low-tech to high-tech

September 23, 2015

So it’s been a while (maybe a long while) since you’ve updated anything and suddenly you’re feeling left out and behind the curve. What to do?

So it’s been a while (maybe a long while) since you’ve updated anything and suddenly you’re feeling left out and behind the curve. What to do?  

The only thing in technology you can be assured of is that change springs eternal. Here are a few recommendations for those of you who may still be trudging along the analog path … 

Start simple
Many times, people will come to me wanting to know how to get on the digital road. Oftentimes it’s offices that really haven’t done much embracing of digital and all it can do.

If you aren’t really computerized, definitely don’t bite off more than you can chew. Like an elephant, you eat the technology one bite at a time. So start with something easier than uprooting all of your systems.

More from Dr. Flucke: The top advances in caries detection

Start at the front desk. The first thing to do is to get your accounting and scheduling computerized. This will involve a server and a workstation or two. It will also involve having some network cables run so while you are having that done, run cables to everywhere you think you might need a computer in the future. That will save you time and money down the road.

Bring in a consultant to help your administrative team with this or prepare to spend some time helping them yourself.  It’s not really that difficult to do but does require time to get things going …

Clinically start with charting
While digital X-rays are great, I feel it’s more important to get your patient restorative, perio and chart notes into your dental software first.

This will get the clinical staff involved and used to doing this on an every-patient basis.  In a very short time, everyone in the office, even at the front desk, will see the tremendous value of this digital information.

Related reading: How digital dentistry works

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It’s not really difficult or time-consuming to do once you get used to it. Remember also that nothing really builds success quite like having success. That means that in a very short time, everyone is going to be loving this, and that just makes the rest of the process easier.

Once charting is accepted, move to imaging
By this, I mean either/or/both digital radiography and intraoral cameras. The power of seeing things on a screen cannot be disregarded.  Patients look at screens all day everyday, and they expect to see it in health care, as well. This is an area that cannot be emphasized enough.

Also, when the clinical team starts to see things on a computer screen, you and it will begin to see and explain things much better. That means referrals and production go up, and staff/doctor satisfaction will follow. Trust me; this is a win/win/win.

More from Dr. Flucke: How to ensure the entire dental team is on board with technology

Research your choices
By this, I mean that each dental software usually has some hardware, such as sensors, they work better with than others.

Contact your dental software providers and ask them what your best choices are. The software companies want you to be successful and will be more than thrilled to help you with this decision. The last thing you want to do is to increase efficiency and then reduce it again by not bringing in the right hardware.

If you are going to be spending this kind of money, please be sure to spend it wisely.

Make sure you get up to speed
Remember about eating the elephant one bite at a time. Make sure you and your staff members are very comfortable with existing technologies before adding more. If you don’t follow this rule, staff and doctor frustration can follow.

Related reading: 5 technologies your practice needs to invest in now

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The easiest way for technology to fail is to overwhelm people with it.  Humans are creatures of habit, and if we cannot use new technology comfortably, the easiest solution people have is to go back doing things the way they used to. That means your technology will now gather dust.

Include the team
Always try to keep in mind the “who” in who will use this the most. If it is something the staff will use much more than the doctor, remember to include these members in the decision-making process.

Now, I understand the doctor is paying for it, but the staff has to “use” it.  If you get its buy-in of the idea before the purchase, you’ve just overcome one more hurdle.

Also, listen to your team members. They want you successful, and they don’t want to slow things down.

More from Dr. Flucke: How DEXIS CariVu changed his practice for the better

Wrapping up
So there you are: A quick guide to getting your office digitally “up to speed.”
The main reasons against technology that I hear are costs and that it doesn’t really help that much. For those of you thinking along those lines, I’d remind you of dial telephones, no remotes and fax machines. Anyone want those as state-of-the-art today? 

About the author
John Flucke, DDS, is the chief dental editor and technology editor for Dental Products Report and dentistry’s “technology evangelist.” He practices in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and has followed his passions for both dentistry and technology to become a respected speaker and clinical tester of the latest in dental technology with a focus on things that provide better care and better experiences for patients. He blogs about technology and life at blog.denticle.com.

Related reading: A change whose time has clearly come: Implementing new technology