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Inside Dentistry

October 2005, Volume 1, Issue 1
Published by AEGIS Communications


Leading Edge Management

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

During the last 20 years, technology has helped dental practices improve patient care, increase efficiencies, provide new services, and generate greater profitability. Just think how emerging technologies such as intraoral cameras, whitening products, superior dental implants, and practice management software, to name a few, have transformed dentistry in the last two decades. I predict emerging technologies will have an even greater impact on dental practices in the next 5 to 10 years. But for technology to be effective, it must be incorporated smoothly into practice systems.

Practices with excellent step-by-step systems have an inherent advantage when it comes to adapting new technologies. Unfortunately, many practices do not have written step-by-step systems that are updated on a regular basis. Consequently, technology for these practices often represents a burden instead of an opportunity. Implementing data-driven systems can help underperforming practices achieve significant growth in a relatively short period of time.

Better Management through Systems

The first step in all dental management is to establish step-by-step systems. The question is what goes into those systems. Systems should be designed based on ideal models customized to fit the unique needs of each practice. For example, Levin Group Practices™ use dozens of scripts that support data-driven systems, allowing the staff to function at an even higher level. Combined with leadership training for doctors and teams, practices using the right systems and scripts can progress even further.

To be successful during the next decade, practices will need to better integrate technology into their practice systems. Doing so will enable them to provide the highest quality of care and operate as successful businesses that appeal to a broad spectrum of patients. For example, consider KaVo’s DIAGNOdent® (KaVo Dental Corporation, Lake Zurich, IL), an advanced technology that allows for early detection of caries. Research indicates that it works extremely well,1 allowing a clinician to detect caries earlier and provide minimally invasive dental restorations. This is a benefit to the patient (i.e., smaller cavities can be detected earlier and more frequently through microdentistry) and the practice (i.e., increased production). When properly integrated, such a technology can enable practices to simultaneously achieve the goals of better patient care and increased production.

Redesigning Systems

But there is more to this story. When any new or emerging technology is introduced into a practice, systems need to be redesigned. I have seen several practices purchase a new technology with very little understanding of how to incorporate it into the daily operations of the office. This is where management systems have to be revised on a step-by-step basis in order to help the team understand when and how to use the technology. Training the team requires scripting, role-playing, use of collateral materials, and other techniques. Additionally, sales representatives can be an excellent resource for educating the dental team on the proper use of new products, services and technologies.

When systems are redesigned to meet the demands of new technology, practices (and patients) benefit immensely. For example, the intraoral camera is an excellent patient education tool that can increase case acceptance if—and only if—communication skills are also enhanced throughout the practice. Unfortunately, many intraoral cameras have been used in a minor capacity following purchase and have not been instrumental in helping practices or patients because they were not properly incorporated into the practice systems to be effective in boosting case acceptance.

I have seen practices purchase cameras with absolutely no increase in production, but that does not have to be the case. In particular, I worked with one client who purchased an intraoral camera that was barely used. But, after significant training, systems redesign, and scripting, the camera was included in a series of routine patient interactions that lead to a 10% increase in overall practice production during the first 3 months. This was followed by complete management systems revision for the entire office, allowing the practice to achieve an additional 27% increase in production over the next 12 months.

The same principles apply to other technologies as well. Whether discussing CAD/CAM, patient education software, air abrasion, or lasers, we have seen practices achieve excellent results by redesigning their management systems. These doctors gained the maximum potential benefit from the new technology by fully integrating it into their practices.

Other Applications

This concept can be easily applied to existing innovations, also. Specifically, they can be incorporated to enhance case acceptance, develop meaningful patient relations and achieve the best results and level of satisfaction. Consider a Sonicare® toothbrush (Philips/Sonicare, Snoqaulmie, WA) or Crest Whitestrips® whitening kit (Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, OH). Many practices have achieved tremendous success in increasing case acceptance by using Sonicare brushes or Crest Whitestrips as patient care enhancements. Offering a Sonicare brush to patients considering the benefits of complex dentistry, explaining that the brush will be provided to help maintain their investment, and having them “test-drive” the brush places the patient’s thoughts on maintenance of their new smile, rather than whether or not they are going to accept the case.

Offering Crest Whitestrips as a routine service in the practice for a fee with the proper scripting will garner an extremely high percentage of case acceptance. Whitestrips can also be used for patients having dentistry performed who want a whiter smile at the end of treatment. The kit can be given away as a “value add,” where the cost is built into the overall fee.

Conclusion

Emerging and current technologies can affect almost every aspect of practice operations in a positive way if practice systems are enhanced to properly integrate them into the day-to-day operations of the office. Without a comprehensive strategy for incorporating new technology into systems, practices will not derive the maximum benefit from emerging technologies. As innovation continues to accelerate in the 21st century, practices with step-by-step systems in place are positioned to reap the benefits of new technologies.

 

References

1. Attrill DC, Ashley PF. Occlusal caries detection in primary teeth: a comparison of DIAGNOdent with conventional methods. Br Dent J. 2001;190(8): 440-3.

 

About the Author

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
CEO, Levin Group, Inc.
Owings Mills, MD
www.levingroup.com


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