Is your practice ready for the IT revolution?

An IT revolution is coming, and will bring not only great advances in care, but also many complications.

To date, in dentistry there is no standardization of diagnosis, treatment planning or selection of materials. A 1995 article by James Bader and Dan Shugars, Variation in Dentists' Clinical Decisions,1 demonstrated the incredibly wide range of diagnoses and treatment plans for the same patient visiting multiple dental offices. Their study revealed that the same patient could receive recommendations anywhere from a simple prophy to a full mouth reconstruction.

But today, with the emergence of AI (artificial intelligence), analytics, evidence based data, cloud computing, digital radiography, standardized intraoral photography and electronic patient records, pushed along by the strong commitment to control health care spending and improve outcomes, a new storm is approaching dentistry. And by the way, when it rains, it will rain on everyone in the industry, not only dentists but all the other stakeholders-insurance companies, suppliers, employers, financial institutions, state boards and dental schools.

Related article: The benefits of EHR in group practice

What is now appearing in the market-as demonstrated by John Kois’ Evidentiae2 and Stratus Dental’s newest multiple practice operational platform-indicates that we are on the brink of a new IT revolution in dentistry. This revolution will result in diagnosis and treatment planning connected to much more streamlined practice management processes.

Adoption of these kinds of IT platforms will soon be commonplace. Dental benefit managers will begin to insist that their network dentists use them to assure better outcomes at a valid price point. Employers and patients will want the same.

If you want to see what a game changer this will be, look at this video from the IBM Watson and Sloan Kettering Website-Watson provides clinicians with evidence-based treatment options based on expert training by MSK physicians.3 This is what dentistry will look like in the very near future.

“Whether a community oncology practice or an international hospital, oncologists like all clinicians are struggling to keep up with the large volume of research, medical records, and clinical trials. Watson scales vital knowledge and helps oncologists. Now, with the collaboration between IBM and MSK, Watson for Oncology utilizes world-renowned MSK expertise to evaluate specific details of each unique patient against clinical evidence.3

Who better to adapt to these changes than managed group practices given their resources of capital, IT, communication, training, development and executive talent. In addition, the ADSO (Association of Dental Service Organization), with its much “deeper pockets,” strong networking and financial muscle, will be able to incorporate these changes throughout their membership and with much greater velocity.

Related article: Why managed group practice will dominate the future

The appearance of the clinical and operational platforms will be like moving from horses to cars or typewriters to computers. Make sure that your practice is keeping up!


1.   Variations in Dentists Clinical Decisions-Bader and Shugars-