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  03.31.05 Issue #160


Technology: Plan for Profit

Sally Mckenzie, CEO
The McKenzie Company

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It is often said that failing to plan is planning to fail. When it comes to technology in the dental practice, that statement could not be truer. As exciting and promising as new dental technology is, before opening the checkbook or whipping out the credit card, practices need to develop a technology plan and a budget. Without a plan, it is easy to be seduced by the latest model of this and the greatest model of that only to end up with a mishmash of excellent equipment that is, together, an inefficient jumble of circuitry and microprocessors.

Often dentists are so enamored by the specific features of a particular piece of equipment they don’t consider how well or even if that new item will work with their current platform. Consequently, all of the great “stuff” that just didn’t work out as they had anticipated winds up as the plant stand in the corner, or stuffed into the closet, or silently deleted off the system, or quietly buried in a remote location by the team.

On the other hand, those practices that are pointing and clicking their way to higher profits and greater productivity have planned exactly how they will use the technology – from the flow of patient and practice information through their practice management software to the clinical software and equipment that enables the practice to enhance diagnostic capabilities and treatment acceptance. In addition, these practices have a budget and they live within it.

Without a budget, the cash outlay for technology can quickly become overwhelming for the doctor and the practice. But how much is enough? I recommend that practices set aside about 5% of their annual gross revenues for both business and clinical technology.

On the business side, the typical budget would be about 1.5%. At that level, practices should be able to purchase the following:

  1. New computer hardware every 36 to 48 months.

  2. Practice management software, regular updates, and unlimited telephone support.

  3. On-site professional technical hardware and network installation and maintenance.

  4. A minimum of 16 hours of on-site software training annually.

Dentists should be able to use their practice management software to easily access a few key system reports regularly. First, the Accounts Receivables report. This shows the total amount of money owed the practice from patients, insurance companies, or other third parties. The report should include every account with an outstanding balance, the date of last payment, and a note indicating if payment was from the patient or the insurance company. Practices also should be able to closely monitor patient retention with the production report. Depending on your software system, it may be called Production by Provider, Practice Analysis, or Production by ADA Code. The management system also should enable the practice to track unscheduled treatment using the Unscheduled Treatment Plan Report. In addition, the system should make it easy for patients to pursue treatment. For example, the Kodak practice management software program allows you to determine in just 10 seconds if a patient is eligible for treatment financing through CareCredit. This software feature alone can significantly improve treatment acceptance.

On the clinical side, the typical annual budget would be about 3.5%. This would include both operations and clinical information management. At that level, the practice should be able to purchase the following:

  1. New computer hardware every 36 to 48 months.

  2. Practice management software, regular updates, and unlimited telephone support.

  3. All clinical software upgrades to the practice management software.

  4. Digital X-rays, digital imaging (camera), periodontal probing, etc.

  5. On-site professional technical hardware and network installation and maintenance.

  6. A minimum of 32 hours of on-site training each year.

Next to dental school, practice technology is probably the biggest investment you will make in your career. And like virtually any other product on the market, you get what you pay for, so prepare and invest your dollars wisely. Develop a plan, establish a budget, and arrange to professionally train your team. And while you’re at it, you’ll have to find something else to set the plants on.

If you have any questions or comments, please email Sally McKenzie at

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

The McKenzie Company Upcoming Events
Date Location Sponsor Speaker
Mar. 31-Apr. 2 Las Vegas, NV Dental Town Gathering Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Apr. 1 Walnut Creek, CA Contra Costa Dental Society Sally McKenzie
Apr. 9 Portland, OR Oregon Dental Association Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Apr. 15 Destin, FL Excellence in Dentistry Sally McKenzie & Exhibit
Apr. 21 Nashville, TN American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Sally McKenzie & Exhibit

For more information, email
or call 1-877-777-6151

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