Dental Leadership Series: Setting up a Modern Practice (Digital Radiography)

I have had the privilege of owning my own dental practice for over twenty years.  Whether I am working through the operational issues at my own office, or talking to colleagues who are looking to build a new practice or renovate an existing one, there are several common themes I come across.

    • Increase patient processing and speed of patient care – The ability to efficiently treat and better manage the administrative processes involved with treatment makes your office more profitable (and is also appreciated by our patients who are often also on a busy schedule). Improving the pace of patient care and the flow of associated administrative services are critical when it comes to retaining existing patients, attracting new ones, controlling costs and competing effectively with other dental offices in your community.
    • Improve control over operational costs – Choosing the right new technologies can often enable an office to reduce the time required to execute an existing treatment or processing–often resulting in increased revenue and also reduced day-to-day operational costs. These savings of time and money can be easily reinvested back into the practice.
    • Attract new customers – Integrating the appropriate back office and front office technological tools helps our patients feel “better cared for.” Patients are appreciative of technology and take comfort in knowing that their dental office is sensitive to their needs and operates in line with their often fast-paced lifestyle. This becomes a strong point of differentiation (that can be used in your marketing materials and branding) and a great way to increase referrals from your local community.

There are, of course, several ways you can optimize your office to achieve the goals listed above, but one of the fastest ways to get there is by adopting digital radiography — here’s why:

Objective Recommendation Action
Increase patient processing and speed of patient care Time is money and digital radiography makes your practice more efficient and productive by improving your workflow. Consider:Of course you can save on film and film related costs but just as important is the time you don’t have to spend waiting for film processing. This time can be much better spent with staff educating patients of their treatment needs in a way they can understand. (Patients love being able to see their dental images instantly.)Ability to diagnostically enhance digital images for decision support through easy-to-use imaging software is one of the great advantages. (Everyone wants to get the most information. They can optimize contrast, zoom in…now I can show them exactly what is going on.) When looking into digital radiography products, be sure to inquire about the workflow and how the system you are considering integrates with your current practice management set up. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a fully networked and computerized back office — there are innovative intermediary mobile configurations that allow you to benefit from digital radiography immediately, minimizing the cost and implementation issues that can accompany a full blown network configuration.
Improve control over operational costs Unlike film radiography, which requires monthly purchases of film, chemicals, and other consumables, there’s just one upfront cost with digital radiography. This cost is actually comparable (and can often be less) than the total amount you will spend on film and film related costs over a particular period of time. When putting together a cost/benefit comparison, do consider other financial benefits such as the ability to expedite predetermination of payment and processing of insurance claims via electronic attachments. No more duplication of films. Perfect digital duplicates are free for sharing with colleagues and third party payors.
Attract new patients Today many patients have come to expect the newest technology from their dentists. By utilizing digital radiography to instantly show patients their images and improve understanding and communication, patients will appreciate that you are investing in the latest advances in dentistry and their oral health. Digital radiography also eliminates the need for film processing rooms and allows you to reallocate that space for more productive use. If you are nervous about switching to digital, don’t be. Consider that many providers offer in-depth training to help you quickly utilize this new technology, and your colleagues–who have already made the transition–say it is largely painless and urge you to do it. In addition, many of the best systems are designed especially for professionals like you. They are now mature products that evolved in to intuitive, easy-to-use systems.

I have seen my own dental practice grow after implementing several enhancements, including digital radiography. I get questions about it all the time and I hope this information has been helpful. If you have any comments/insights/feedback, I hope you will share them, in the spirit of information exchange, so that we can all benefit.

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