Dodging the Digital Age May be to Your Detriment
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Dental teams, listen up, your 21st Century patients would like you to stop dragging your 20th Century feet and step into the digital age. Although many of you have made huge strides in your use and integration of technology, there’s still a ways to go, particularly when it comes to a few key business systems.
Recent studies only confirm what most of us know to be true, we are a wired society. We not only use electronic communication, we have come to rely on it. Internet usage alone has exploded. According to Internet World Stats, which provides statistical Internet usage data, 70% of the population of North America uses the Internet. Recently, the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported that of the Americans using the Internet at home, 70% use a broadband connection.
Not only are people accessing the Internet from their homes and work, they’re taking electronic information and communication with them everywhere they go. Sales of the $400 Apple iPhone reportedly are at 27,000 per day and are projected to reach 2.5 million by year’s end.
What does all this mean for dental practices? When it comes to the digital age, in many cases, patients are already there and they’re waiting for dental offices to catch up. If you’re not on the drive toward more and greater use of digital/ electronic communication options, you might as well be standing still. Sure, you have the computers in the operatories, the intraoral camera, you’re well versed in digital radiography, and I hope you have a website, but chances are pretty good that you’ve barely scratched the surface of the digital options available to you. Options that will save both you and your patients time and your practice money.
Starting with patient forms. Every new patient has to complete plenty of paperwork. In most cases, they can’t even start that process until they dash into your office at 9:58 for their 10 a.m. appointment, sending your schedule another 10-15 minutes behind.
Like you, busy patients are looking for speed, efficiency, and convenience in every aspect of their lives including their dental appointments. And there’s little that is quick or easy about completing difficult to read dental forms, which are usually printed in 8-point type or smaller and have been photocopied multiple times making them virtually illegible. Even more frustrating, since 70% of the population uses the Internet, it’s very possible that new patients visit your website in hopes of taking care of expected paperwork requirements only to find they can’t complete them online. The patients are frustrated because their time is limited. They want to get in, get out, and get on their way. You and your team are frustrated as control of your perfectly scheduled day is slipping away. You’re wondering why these patients can’t seem to arrive a few minutes early to take care of necessary paperwork. And they’re wondering why you can’t seem to arrive in the current millennium.
Time to go digital – make your forms available online and completely paperless. “But Sally, we need signatures on a lot of these forms.” Yes, and one of the best systems I’ve found for doing just that is through DentForms. This program has numerous digital options and among those is an online component that allows patients to complete their medical and dental history forms before they arrive at the office. The online forms are then downloaded into the practice’s server, bringing all the necessary information to the practice automatically. The new patient arrives at 9:58 for her 10 a.m. appointment, she’s completed the necessary forms online, signs the digital signature pad in order to enter her signature into the record and is promptly seated in the dental chair. The patient is happy. The practice schedule remains in tact. And the dental team is focused on the patient rather than the paperwork.
Next week, going truly paperless with ease.
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