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Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and keeps an active blog filled with thoughts and tidbits on the world of technology at blog.denticle.com.
Planning for new technology implementation can streamline the process and make the transition much easier.
I’ve heard it said that an interesting curse is the phrase, “May you live in interesting times.” In my opinion, that can be both a curse and a blessing. Because, let’s face it, we definitely live in interesting times.
However, I think that technology can make those interesting times even more interesting as we look at ways to improve our practices. Nowadays we are faced with a plethora of technology categories and there are frequently several different products within those categories that can make purchasing decisions difficult. In that regard, we might even say “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” So for this article, let’s consider the right way to do things.
One of the things that I love about us as dentists is that we are planners. There is no way you can practice dentistry without the ability to skillfully plan. Our profession demands that we evaluate our patients critically and carefully. We then take all of our diagnostic data and create treatment plans. These treatment plans are phased according to several factors and we are trained early in our careers to follow the concept of planning. I was told more than once during my dental education that “failing to plan is planning to fail,” and those folks were right.
Because of this emphasis on planning in our training, I feel it is critically important to carry this skill into all aspects of our practices-which includes the incorporation of new technologies. Whether it is something for the business office or something for the clinical aspect of the practice, purchasing and implementation without a plan is simply throwing spaghetti against a wall and hoping that some of it sticks.
If you truly want something to be successful in your practice, you have to plan for that success. Usually I will sit down and digitally create either an implementation outline or mind map to ensure that I have all the important steps figured out before beginning the implementation process.
This includes such things as budgeting, training, pre-clinical trial/experimentation, installation and more. Knowing as much as I can before I make the purchase means that after-purchase steps have been thought out, problems solved and integration steps anticipated. There’s nothing better than a good plan.
Also, with the end of 2016 rapidly approaching, I think it is also a good idea now to put together a list of things you would like to purchase when the account calls (inevitably with only a few days left in the year) and tells you that you must spend $xxxxx before the end of the year. Often times this call puts a doctor into a panic as they try desperately to figure out what they need to buy on an incredibly short timeline. If you already know what you want, that process becomes much easier.
Continue to page two to learn why including the team in the process is crucial...
Rallying the team
While some purchases will affect only the doctor, I think it is safe to say that most will affect the doctor and the team. Because of this, I think it is tremendously important to include the team in the decision-making process on items that will affect them as well.
In my opinion, there are few greater mistakes than not keeping the team involved in the process. In fact, if you are thinking of making a large purchase and are unsure which one is the right one, asking the team for their opinions can be invaluable. They know the office workflow, they know where the snags are and where improvements need to be made. The vast majority of team members want the practice to succeed and will gladly offer opinions to help get you to the next level.
It may make sense for your practice to have an “all-hands” staff meeting to discuss “needs” and “wants” for the upcoming technology purchases. The doctor may very well be surprised at what the staff comes up with in a creative and positive environment of practice-improvement brainstorming.
The other aspect of this is to achieve what I like to call “Technology Buy-In.” Human beings by nature are creatures of habit and tend to resist change. The best way to create havoc and to make an environment of implementation failure is to force a technology on resistant staff. However, if the change is something everyone agrees on and is looking forward to, everyone will pitch in to help make it a success. By including the team and allowing them to help shape the decision-making process, you are enabling them to make the practice and the technology purchase successful.
Understanding the platform
The planning never ends. It is important to remember that if you are dealing with technologies that involve moving data (such as 3D cone beam), your plan is only as good as your infrastructure. Any data-intensive tech will require a good network that is designed to handle the traffic. Gone are the days of a local high-school student as your IT resource. The serious business of technology in dentistry requires serious IT professionals. This isn’t a “nice to have” for today’s high-tech practice, it is a need.
If you don’t know where to turn for IT help, ask your best supplier. Many dental supply companies have their own IT departments to assist doctors. If they don’t, they will know the right people for you to contact.
Remember that technology is now a foundation for your practice. By that I mean that computerization has become so simple and dependable that now the actual computer in your practice is not something you really need to think about. It is a valuable tool to accomplish tasks or to link other high tech equipment to, but the days of blue screens, frequent reboots or endless problems are over.
Technology in the practice is now like purchasing a new vehicle. No one is concerned with how reliable a vehicle may be; more or less, they are as reliable as the competitors. No, the real difference is now with the options such as GPS, Bluetooth, etc. The car originally started out as transportation, but in the last 15 years or so has morphed into a technology platform that just happens to get us where we want to go. It’s the same with the computer in the operatory or admin area.
The wrap up
Plan, include the team and understand that technology IS the practice. If you follow a few simple rules, your purchases and integration will be smooth