From digital X-rays and photography, to electronic charting, to practice management software and clinical hardware, dental practice technology has exploded and the aftershocks continue to reverberate with each generation of the newer, better, faster models. Companies line dental meeting exhibit halls with expertly designed technology displays and skillfully choreographed presentations so enticing even the casual browser wishes they could purchase it all. The wares promise to fill essential practice needs, simplify procedures and operations, reduce stress, and increase productivity. And in most cases, the products can deliver that and more, there’s just one small catch. Read on.
Too often when dentists make major technology purchases for their practices they convince themselves they only need half the product. Consequently, that wonderful new hardware, software, or state-of-the-art tool delivers a miniscule 10% - 30% of what it’s capable of delivering.
After a while, it is relegated to the corner of the room along with the other “dust bunnies” tucked here and there around the office. Or perhaps it will be stuffed in the back of the closet with a growing collection of gadget skeletons. In other cases, it’s software that the staff simply abandons or finds ways of working around because it won’t function as they need it to. No business, dental or otherwise, can afford to invest thousands of dollars in some cases it is upwards of $50,000 - in its technological infrastructure only to discard it out of frustration.
But how do you ensure that every piece of equipment and software is delivering a 100% return on your investment. Rather than purchasing half the product, make sure you walk away with the entire package. Let me explain. As dentists, you are expert clinicians and superior problem solvers. Unfortunately, because you are so effective in these areas, you often convince yourselves that you can figure out how to use just about any product or device. You further persuade yourselves that you will create time in your nonstop schedules to teach the staff and make them experts as well.
The technical term for this type of thinking is what we in practice management refer to as “delusional.” As the primary producer in the practice, the chief executive officer, and in some cases the human resources director, you don’t have time to serve as vice president of information/practice technologies and corporate trainer too. Consequently, dentist after dentist will invest tens of thousands of dollars in new technology and software only to render their systems virtually useless because they habitually fail to spend money on training.
For those dentists that are willing to pay to educate staff, many will insist that it be crammed into a few days for fear of sacrificing valuable production time. However, training dollars are much better spent if the instruction is conducted every six to eight weeks over the first year so that staff can master one element of a system before moving on to the next.
Rather than overextending the budget on technology to the point that you don’t feel you can afford training, develop a plan that will allow the office to truly maximize this major investment. With your team, take a step-by-step approach to determine how the technology can be integrated most effectively into the practice.
- Start with a technology vision for the practice. How do you want the practice to use technology? How do you want the patient to benefit from technology?
- Conduct your technology inventory. Examine what you have in hardware, software, and networking capabilities.
- Set your priorities. The cost of technology has come down considerably, but it remains a significant investment for virtually any practice.
- Don’t try to do it all at once. Plan to integrate technology in stages.
- Train staff.
- Budget for technology on an ongoing basis.
Next week, Technology: How much is enough?
If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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