Are Patients Judging You by Your Technology?

In oral healthcare, clinical expertise and experience should count for more than technology—but the truth is that patients do judge their doctors by the technology they use. It can take as many as 25 years to become a great dentist or specialist, but these days it only take 25 minutes to look the part, especially when leveraging technology at a higher level.  Patients often judge practices by their technological expertise and their perception may even start when looking at your Internet presence (website, reviews, etc.) From there, it continues with their interaction with the front desk staff all the way throughout their clinical exam. For this reason, it’s imperative that the impression you make with your technology is a good one from the start.

Keeping your patients happy has a direct impact on your bottom line, which includes:

  • Attracting new quality patients
  • Increasing treatment acceptance
  • Retaining patients and decreasing patient turnover

The following chart also demonstrates how technological competency plays a role in improving the patient experience.

Expectation How It Helps Patients How It Helps You
Instant Access to Images Patients these days are busy. Whether a parent has taken his or her child out of school for an ortho records appointment or your patient is missing work for dental restorative appointment, reducing the length of patient visits is important. With fast image acquisitions and efficient access to historical image data, you can get patients in and out in a timely manner without them feeling rushed.
  • Digital technology produces images instantly—without the delays caused by processing film.
  • By capturing images with digital technology—such as direct digital sensors or phosphor plates—you no longer have to purchase expensive consumables, such as film or chemistry.
Co-diagnosis Patients want to feel in charge of their health. By “co-discovering” problem areas with you via a monitor, you give them the opportunity to play an active role in their oral health.
  • Allowing patients to co-discover problems with you improves understanding and increases case acceptance.
  • Patients who are satisfied with their care are more likely to return and also recommend your practice to their friends and family.
Education Some dental symptoms are asymptomatic, so patients aren’t often aware that a problem exists. By putting an image on the monitor, patients receive visual cues about the treatment needs that must be addressed.
  • When patients are able to visualize the problem, they are more likely to accept your treatment recommendation.
  • Digital images are usually displayed larger than those captured with film, which allows patients to participate more than before.

 

Patients are more likely to refer others to you if they feel safe and if they believe that you’re investing in your practice. You show them how much you care when investing in technology that aids in efficiency and raises your diagnostic accuracy.

Updating your technology will not only have an impact on your existing patients but it can also impress prospective patients as well. Featuring technology as an important part of your treatment philosophy enables you to stand apart from other practices in the community and allows your philosophy of technological competency to ring out loud.

Have you found that your patients judge your practice based on your technology? How has it affected your practice?

The Importance of Team Training When Implementing a New Practice Management System

Today, there are very few dental practices that do not have a practice management system installed. The days of front office staff flicking through a paper diary and shuffling notes from dentist to hygienist are long gone for most. Owners and practice managers spend hours researching the best system to suit their practice’s needs; perhaps they are a multi-site practice and so need a system that can cope with different locations, or maybe they require a piece of their existing equipment to integrate seamlessly with the software. The decision is an important one, as a lot of time and money is being invested. Sometimes, the area that can get overlooked due to resource constraints is the dental team’s involvement. Their inclusion and motivation for the practice management system is essential in its long-term success and full utilization.

Training the Team

If you are about to install a new system—or you are changing to alternative software—the initial training and ongoing support of the whole dental team is pivotal in its success. Even if there are members of the team who will use it to a lesser degree than others, their understanding of how the program works and where they can find certain information might prove beneficial in the future. Suppliers of practice management systems should offer comprehensive guidance and support for all members of staff; this should also be part of the decision maker’s criteria when assessing which system to purchase. Often, the training provided is an assortment of face-to-face teaching, self paced online training and written instructions, and then—when needed post-launch—webinars, telephone interactions and online forum support as appropriate. Continue reading

Interpreting Advanced Imaging: It’s Best to Know Nothing

by John Khademi, D.D.S, M.S.

Interpreting advanced imaging, such as CBCT imaging, is tricky. Evidence of just how tricky becomes apparent during lectures I give on the subject. I will show a study to the audience and discuss it for several minutes. When I take it down, I ask them which side was buccal? Which side was palatal? Was it tooth number 14 or number 3?

The audience will start guessing, because they really don’t know—even after looking at the tooth for 5-10 minutes. They would never mistake buccal for palatal, or the tooth numbers, with 2D radiography. But with 3D radiography, it happens all too often. I’ve been evaluating 3D imaging everyday in my endodontic practice for eight years now, and I can still make this kind of mistake. The issue is this: we don’t have that same set of skills with 3D radiography that we do with 2D radiography, but we think we do.

In medical radiology, however, they’re well aware of the complexities that go along with interpreting imaging. That’s why medical radiology is a four-year specialty after medical school—with sub-specialties after that. You don’t want a mammographer evaluating the CT of your head or a thoracic radiologist reading your mammogram.

The need for specialization is clear: interpreting 3D imaging calls for a well-trained eye. That’s why we have to be very careful when we interpret with CBCT. For this reason, I’ve developed a strategy for interpreting 3D imaging based on what has been learning in medical radiology.

It’s important to note that I don’t automatically order an imaging on every patient. Whenever possible, my staff provides me with the minimum information necessary to determine if an advanced imaging study should be prescribed.  This very counter-intuitive finding is captured in the title of a 2002 paper in Radiology from noted radiologist Dr. Thorn Griscom: A Suggestion: Look at the Images First, Before you Read the History.”

Whenever possible, the preferred method involves doing two reads—first, without looking at the projection radiograph, doing a clinical exam or talking to the patient first about their symptoms or getting the history. My goal is to not have any preconceived notions about what the findings may be, let alone the diagnosis. Of course, with CBCT—especially with the focused field—if it’s an upper left side, I have a pretty good idea of where the problem is. But that’s all I really want to know.

I evaluate the study through that lens. I then get the history, look at the projection radiograph, review all the clinical information and perform the clinical exam. After that, I go back and look at the CBCT study again. This approach is very counterintuitive and not widely appreciated.  Current recommendations for approaching are as follows: conduct a thorough clinical exam and radiographic exam before prescribing imaging. In my opinion, that’s backwards, and not based on what has been learned about the interpretive process through careful research in medical radiology. Continue reading