We cannot look at a dental journal or attend a meeting without someone stating you have to go “high tech”. What exactly does this mean? Do we have to run out and borrow a quarter million dollars to get there? Will there be a return on this investment by increasing the value of the practice by that amount? What if you are getting ready for retirement or transitioning your practice- is it worth it? The answer is yes with reservations. You don’t have to dive in and get every whiz-bang product out there, but should have some basics.
The most important area to go into is probably digital radiography (DR). Many mature practitioners feel that they can do just fine with film. Plus there is at least a $15-20,000 investment to get started (actually more as you will see). And will it be a hard transition for the staff?? First of all dental students as well as hygiene and dental assistants coming out of training now have never seen a developer or fixer. If you are hiring new staff you may lose some prospective people when they see film. And if you are about to transition your practice the new owner/partner knows he or she will have to put this technology in at an expense that will be figured in during negotiations. The office will be perceived as “old fashioned”. So when asked if there is a ROI for adding digital radiography this concept surely adds to that. Of course this is above and beyond the many advantages of using DR as a diagnostic and patient education tool.
The second puzzle piece is digital imaging. There should be a mechanism to take photos of the patients’ dentition. This has many aspects- a good intraoral camera will demonstrate up close the “issue” that a patient may be having with a tooth. The better cameras with better lighting show fractures very well and are quite dramatic. Larger issues (cosmetic, missing teeth, orthodontic issues, etc.) can be imaged with these or digital cameras. The latter requires a little more expertise, as the operator has to be adept at retraction, mirrors and downloading in an instant and maintaining disinfection.
Overshadowing this is the fact that in order to see these digital radiographs as well as photos the office has to have the ability to view these images in the treatment room. This could entail yet another expense- getting computer screens in all of the rooms. There has been a large change though in the past couple of years. If an office has not already installed a wired network with a server, some interesting alternatives are appearing. Cloud based Practice Management systems are appearing so all that is needed in a treatment room is unit capable of web browsing. iPads and the new array of tablets and small systems appearing with android and Windows 8 operating systems might be an alternative.
This is certainly a start on the road to getting an office started with “high tech”. Many other areas, some with high price tags can surely be explored, but these basics are a necessary beginning to this quest.