Thursday, May 1, 2008

Newsletter Archive- Digitizing Dentistry

Digitizing Dentistry

Brian Kroeger, Director of Technology Services

EnviroMed Design Group

The American Dental Association estimates that 91% of the dentists in the United States have at least one computer in their practice while fewer than 10% use them to record, enlarge, store, and transmit x-ray images of a patient's teeth. There was a time in the recent past when there was a valid reason for this. The imaging equipment was bulky and expensive while providing marginally diagnostic images. A now expansive market of equipment manufacturers and the maturation of the specialized dental technical support industry have vastly improved the size, effectiveness, and total cost of ownership of these systems.

What all this means to you is that there are now convenient and relatively inexpensive ways to greatly improve the profitability of your practice. With digital x-ray equipment, you can clean up your office by getting rid of the chemicals and making space for a more efficient system. The space formerly occupied can house a digital panoramic x-ray or a phosphor plate scanner, speeding up the amount of time it takes to get a good diagnostic image. In addition, a digital x-ray system proves its efficiency when it is needed to retake images, because you can note any errors immediately and correct the shot with the patient still in the chair. Using digital imaging facilitates quick processing of insurance claims and allows you to easily share diagnostic images with specialists and transfer patient images to another provider.

In addition to digital imaging, chartless offices are becoming more and more common. This system has the benefit of speeding up file retrieval and improving organization. Your patients can fill out forms from their homes on your website, speeding up the check-in process. However, the strongest benefit in a chartless system is the safety of your records. If in the event of a tragedy, a well-backed up network makes it possible for you to have up to date records so you can continue to practice and access your patient's records the very next day. Since all of these systems are HIPAA compliant, they also offer far superior protection for your patient's personal information; something a few shelves full of file folders cannot provide.

Modern offices integrate entertainment, providing patients maximum comfort and relaxation during procedures. Treatment rooms feature high definition televisions where your clients can watch television and movies. Chair mount headphones offer music on demand. A digital dental office also allows you to provide Invisalign to your patients, perform voice-activated periodontal charting and provide superior patient education.

These things are all available to you now at a much lower cost than you think. You will find that most software and equipment is easy to use and requires a minimal learning curve. The most timid of assistants will find themselves pleasantly surprised and definitely relieved at how easy it is to work in a digital dental practice. You will too.
Once you have made the decision to go digital, what do you do next? It is necessary when beginning this process to formulate a good plan. Consult a technology expert proficient in the dental industry and indicate what your wants and needs are for your office.

Speak to fellow colleagues who have made the move and find what they recommend. Ask them what they would do differently if they were making the move again and what things they would do the same. Contact the company that provides you with practice management software and see which products and systems their product supports.

Most importantly, find a technology expert who specializes in the dental industry to perform the upgrade and integration. Ask any technology provider for a list of references and other offices they have digitized.

Making this move can be scary, but following the above suggestions will ease you into a modern dental practice. Before long, you will reap the benefits a digital dental office provides.