Why not adopting technology today could seriously hurt your practice tomorrow

January 6, 2017

Henry Schein’s John Cox explains why you shouldn’t buy technology for the job today-instead buy it for the job tomorrow.

There is no shortage of products and solutions available in digital dentistry. With so many options, it can be overwhelming. Where should you start? What crucial decisions should be made up front? And how will it work with what you already have in place? 

DPR spoke with Henry Schein’s Vice President of Technology Sales John Cox to hear what he had to say about the future of digital dentistry solutions for the practice.

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When it comes to digital dentistry solutions in the practice, what do you think is an important consideration for today’s clinician?

Our vision at Henry Schein looks at digital dentistry to deliver three things:

• Digital dentistry should deliver an enhanced patient experience. 

• It should deliver a more consistent and predictable quality of dental care as part of the deliverable. 

• It should enhance the efficiency and productivity of the workflow for that clinical application. So, it should save time, save materials and make it more convenient for the patient. 

We call it our “Three Pillars of Digital Dentistry.” If I’m a clinician, I should be asking, ‘What is digital dentistry changing within my practice and is it delivering on those three components?’ 

What influence will digital dentistry solutions have on day-to-day practice management?

Anything digital should be considered, “What am I going to do with that digital information?” Let’s use a traditional polyvinyl impression as an example. Moving to digital allows you to store a record within the patient file. The questions are:

• How can I use this information differently?

• How can I use it to do things more efficiently? 

• How can I use it to communicate at a higher level, whether it be my laboratory partner or my specialist partner? 

However, it goes beyond that for practice management. With digital devices, whether it be 3D imaging, a digital impression device or an intraoral camera, staff can become a more integral part of the provider of the care. It’s more than just an enhanced patient experience. It’s an enhanced staff experience as well.

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How does someone just getting started know where to start or where to go next?

One of the first questions they should ask is, “What job is this digital technology or solution going to change within my practice or my clinical workflow?” The second question should be “Where is this digital information going to reside?” The most logical place is the patient record. 

If you can’t integrate the technology with the software that holds the patient’s record, then it becomes a little more cumbersome. The technology becomes a stand-alone piece of equipment in the corner. You lose the efficiencies and the clinical workflow.

At Henry Schein, we feel the open platform is necessary because we can take digital files from any piece of digital equipment and then bring them into our practice management software where the information is going to be stored, with more than one digital file. An example could be the implant workflow where you have 3D DICOM image from a CBCT with an intraoral impression STL file and you combine the two to do your implant case planning. 

That’s an example of leveraging technologies by bringing them together in one source. That’s our philosophy around the open platform, an integrated solution within the practice management software, or what we refer to as Henry Schein ConnectDental.

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What were some of the things you were addressing when you built your ConnectDental approach?  

First, having a good understanding of what the clinician is trying to achieve by moving a workflow to a digital environment and, then, educating on the advantages he or she may not have considered. For example, a lot of dentists want digital impressions to replace polyvinyl impressions. They know they will benefit by more predictable results, better-fitting crowns, less remakes, and less adjustment time. But we want them to see how the impression now becomes part of the digital patient record. It’s not just used once and gone. 

How many dentists say to a patient, “I’m going to keep an eye on that posterior tooth.”? But it’s tough with the thousands of patients that come through the door to notice whether it’s changed at all. With the digital file, they can compare one file over the next. They’ll be able to monitor the patient and see one millimeter of tooth loss on a posterior lingual cusp from the six-month to 12-month period and show the patient. It will increase case acceptance, inform the patient at a higher level, and it will allow the dentist to use this digital information in a way that they probably never even considered. 

So, the power of the data and where we’re going with this is probably the most exciting part about moving a practice to digital today.

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Can you address how ConnectDental works and how it addresses some of these different points?

Sure. The whole ConnectDental strategy is:

• Understanding the direction practices want to go.

• Deciding which products in our portfolio meet their needs the best.

“Meeting their needs the best” means the products we suggest are going to be easy to integrate within the clinical workflow they’re operating. They’ll also have the opportunity to scale, whether it be added volume in the future or added solutions in the future. Take the example I referred to earlier with the implant workflow, maybe they’re adding CBCT today and they’ll add digital impressioning tomorrow. Well, the ability to use those files together no matter which solution they’re purchasing is going to be important. 

That’s what the Henry Schein ConnectDental platform is all about. It’s understanding the needs of the customer, identifying the products and solutions that best meet their needs within our portfolio and then, making sure they’re scalable and fit the future needs of that practice. After that, of course, making it work, implementing it, and training the team how to use it. Ongoing support and education is a big component of the Henry Schein ConnectDental strategy, as well.

Is that support coming from Schein or from the suppliers that work with Schein?

It comes from both. At Henry Schein, we have an army of support technicians in the field from a technical standpoint and installation. Then we have certified trainers in different technology. Some are in support of our manufacturing partners, some are internal, and some are through our lab partners. And a Schein team member is the quarterback to ensure the implementation goes smoothly. 

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If you had to choose one big key takeaway for clinicians to understand about ConnectDental or digital solutions in general, what would it be?

The power of digital dentistry will continue to change. It will become more efficient. It will do more things for you tomorrow than it does today. There will be new opportunities to plug in new technologies two, three or four years from now that haven’t even been developed today. It’s very important that you have the base platform, which is the practice management software. In our case, Dentrix is our flagship product. It’s important that you have a platform that will allow you to add these wonderful technology solutions that will deliver on all three of those pillars we talked about earlier.

Don’t just buy the technology for the job today; buy it to enhance and do more with the digital record.