How to Successfully Transition into Digital Dental Technology
As a dental professional, you pride yourself on your ability to deliver the highest caliber of dentistry. Nowadays in order to do so, you must be proactive as advances in dental technology are made, especially when it comes to digital dentistry. There are many new tools and pieces of technology that allow dentistry to continue becoming more efficient. When considering your transition to digital dentistry, it is important to consider the needs of the practice and to meet specific goals. What can digital dentistry do for your practice? How can you meet your goals as a professional and continue introducing new patients to your practice?
Although the transition may be difficult (and expensive) for you and your practice, the investment and downtime required to successfully transition into new digital dental technology is well worth it in the long run. Here are the steps you should follow when transitioning your practice into new digital dental technology and how you can do so with as little downtime and stress as possible:
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1. Let Your Patients Know Early, and Market the Change to Them
Preparing your patients as soon as possible is not only setting the expectation that you are in a transition period, but can also create a sort of “buzz” within your practice about the new advanced technology. You can start this process by explaining the benefits of digital dentistry to your patients through mailers or other marketing materials. By preparing your patients for the transition, you will spark their interest in new technologies that are being incorporated while showing the quality of your practice.
The transition to digital dentistry will allow you to:
- Save Time and Be More Efficient
All files, scans, and x-rays can be immediately sent to external labs, specialists, insurance providers, and pharmacies. Visits will be faster, since images will be available instantly and you will be able to look at x-rays without waiting for them to be developed. New digital software can be used to make impressions, avoiding messy molds. Your dental practice will become more efficient.
- Predict Treatment Results
Smile design software can show patients what their cosmetic, orthodontic, or restorative procedure can do for them. Digital treatment planning can also reduce communication issues when discussing treatment plans.
- Early Intervention & Better Prevention
Digital detection systems allow you to find oral health concerns as soon as possible, which will allow you to provide treatment to your patients sooner, avoiding additional damage and more extensive treatment.
- Maintain Patient Records Safely
“Going paperless” with digital records will let you quickly reference patient files and past treatments so you can make the most accurate recommendations. Digital records will also ensure that paperwork and files will not be lost, and all information will be secure and private.
Digital dentistry can provide more control for doctors, convenience for patients, and ultimately, profitability for the practice. Outlining all of these benefits for your patients will get them on board with the decision to go digital, which will allow you provide them with the most advanced dental care possible.
2. Prepare Your Staff for the Switch
You will need to discuss with your staff the positive effects your new digital dentistry will have on the success of the practice. Staff should understand the new technologies coming into the practice and have a sense of what they will bring to the future of the practice.There will be a significant change as to how your staff operates. Processes may change so it's important your staff knows they can ask questions and get support during the transition. It is also important for your staff to be trained across the new systems to ensure a smooth transition from traditional to digital dental systems, and continued efficiency throughout the transition process.
3. Prepare For A Large Learning Curve
A transition to digital dentistry means many changes beyond just having a computer and monitor in each room. Some of the additional equipment could include things like digital impression systems, digital x-rays, and digital smile design software. No matter how technologically savvy you or your staff might be, you are dental professionals and not IT experts. Make sure you have the right expertise to help you through the transition. Consider hiring an IT Managed Service Provider to help you not only get setup, but to also be there for continued support. By hiring an IT MSP, you will have a much smoother transition to digital dentistry, as well as the opportunity to ask any questions you may have during the transition or in the future.
4. Watch Out For Added Costs and Budgeting Concerns
Going digital is expensive, bottom line. Be sure to consider the ROI of the new technology and equipment. Remember that your patients will value going to a dentist with state of the art equipment and the ability to keep up with the latest trends in the dental industry. The increased productivity and efficiency will allow you to see more patients, and give them the best care possible, affordably. It shouldn't be a question of CAN you afford to go digital, but WHEN can you make the switch.
Staffing is another source of budgeting concerns. If you are able to keep the same number of employees while increasing your productivity and efficiency, plan on cross-training employees to create value for them in other positions. With a digital practice, you may find that you do not need as many staff members.
There are ways to break up the cost of incorporating digital technology in your dental practice. Work with your IT partner to see if you can digitize your practice in phases. Many vendors also have financing options, which can ease the initial financial burden.
5. Be Proactive
Expect that there will be bumps in the road and do your best to plan for them and how you'll respond. Even with additional help from an IT specialist and advanced preparation, there is no guarantee that everything will go smoothly when transitioning to digital dentistry. By creating a plan for possible problems that may arise, you will have some peace of mind, and continued efficiency within the practice.
Set up a plan allowing you to track the quality and progress of the integration of new dental technology. As you transition to digital, determine the training and support you need to stay on track, improve productivity, and enhance patient care. Have a backup plan. Even if your patients are well aware of your transition period and are expecting some hiccups, be sure you have a backup of all your old files and data just in case something falls through.
Digital dentistry can allow your practice to thrive and stay competitive. It will introduce technologies that can increase convenience for your practice and, more importantly, your patients. Through the transition to digital dentistry, you will be able to access files more quickly, and increase overall efficiency in your workplace. With the assistance of an IT specialist, the transition to digital dentistry does not need to be an added source of stress to you and your practice.