ROI GUIDE: How to break down the product variables that lead to true return on investment

June 3, 2013

When it comes to major technology purchases, whether a dentist is an early adopter or a more cautious customer, everyone wants a good return on an investment.

When it comes to major technology purchases, whether a dentist is an early adopter or a more cautious customer, everyone wants a good return on an investment.

While considering the numerous factors involved in gauging ROI, it is critical to not lose sight of what matters most: providing the best possible care to your patients.

“If technology makes sense from the standpoint of enhancing the care, then it’s going to make sense financially too,” Dr. Mark Tholen said. “First, I’m a clinician and I have to treat the patient. If they don’t get better I pretty much don’t have a practice. Second, how does this thing make sense financially?”

Dr. Tholen is a featured speaker in Pelton & Crane’s Driven To Excellence seminar . With more than three decades of experience in working with dental practices, he shares some tips here that can help you decide what technology you should consider for your practice and how to make sure the ROI adds up for you.

Ask the expert

“I would talk with the equipment specialist up front,” Dr. Tholen recommended. “You might think, ‘I don’t want to talk to the person that’s going to sell me the piece of equipment because they want me to buy it.’ But if you’re working with a good equipment specialist they don’t want you to buy anything you’re not going to be happy with.

“Ask the equipment specialist about the business side of it as well. How does this thing work out financially and what do I have to have in order to make this work?”

Cone beam as case study

“A cone beam radiographic system is, in my estimation, indispensable in terms of being able to deliver the type of pre-surgical diagnostic and treatment-planning information required to place an implant,” he said. “Consider this: Maybe you learned how to do all of these anatomical extrapolations from a 2-dimensional panoramic x-ray unit. You can take that film and look at a dental cast, and you can kind of make a decision about what you’re going to do in terms of where you place the implant and that type of thing. But that’s using your brain and your judgment in order to plan the surgical approach for the placement of the implant.”

With 3D imaging, you eliminate that guesswork.

“The use of cone beam technology eliminates all of that educated guesswork and it allows you to have a greater degree of confidence in the clinical outcome,” Dr. Tholen said. “So that would be an example of a piece of technology that meets the key criteria. Does it make sense clinically? Absolutely. How is it going to pay for itself? You have to charge the patient for it. If a patient goes to the hospital, they get charged for x-rays, so they’re going to get charged for x-rays here at the dental office. Not only that, when a patient actually sees you manipulate a cone beam image, it is so high-tech - it impresses me every time I see one. It’s just incredible technology. It impresses the patient and it builds trust with the patient.”

On the flip side, if your practice does not place implants and does not intend to start doing so, this may not be a technology you’d want to invest in at this time.

Assess labor savings

If a new technology will save you in terms of staff labor, then it will have an even greater chance of improving the practice bottom line.

“A great example of this would be the use of technology in sterilization,” Dr. Tholen said. “Most people don’t think of technology inside of the sterilization area, but consider this: An instrument washer dramatically reduces the amount of counter space required in sterilization and it really drives down labor costs.

“When you think about labor as an expense that goes on year after year after year ... With an instrument washer you have the function of the instruments actually being washed and debrided. You also have the function of washing and drying them. You now have clean instruments. They’re not sterile, but at least they’re clean.”

Without technology, this process would have taken three steps because the assistant would have had to put the instrumentation in an ultrasonic cleaner, rinse and then dry the instrumentation.

“All three of those steps are now accomplished by a piece of equipment. That is huge when you think about it compounded over multiple years,” Dr. Tholen explained. “Very specifically I can tell you that if an office is using stainless steel cassettes and an instrument washer, they are going to be able to save a significant amount of time every month. The average five-op office use of a cassette and an instrument washer will save 40 hours of assistant time every month.”

By his calculation, within 2.5 years, the average office will have paid for the instrument washer and the full set of cassettes in savings from the labor that would have been expended. If you consider that average office is used for 20 years before the doctor moves or retires - and the sterilization system holds up - if it takes 2.5 years to break even, that means the clinician gets (at most) 17.5 years of enhanced profitability.

“There’s an example of technology-and people don’t even think of that as technology the way they think of lasers and optical impression devices-but there’s technology really working for you every day and increasing your bottom line.”

Keep reading to hear real doctors discuss the technologies that have helped them experience real ROI in their practices…

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