The Next 'Magic 50 Feet'

About 20 years ago, I was demonstrating the remarkable ability of this new practice management system called Dentrix to a prospective customer. At that time, few practices even used computers chairside. I posted completed procedures to a digital chart that was immediately and accurately accessible to the front desk for patient checkout and future appointment scheduling. When the demo was over, the doctor proclaimed, "You just fixed the Magic 50 Feet in my practice!"

To my blank stare he explained, "You know, the Magic 50 Feet where patients get charged incorrectly because some procedures changed chairside. Or, when somehow, the follow-up appointment doesn’t get scheduled at the front desk."

He realized this new technology could help him keep patients and improve their office experience in the 50 feet between the chair and the front door—that crucial time in a visit that, in the past, led to patient frustration or lost business.

In the years since, a lot of "magic" technology has been introduced to improve patient care, attract quality team members, make practices more productive and improve the professional image of the office. Advancements in dental practice technology in just the past five years have made life easier for patients, providers, staff and the supporting dental community as well.

Imagine the advancements the next five years will bring! As we move to pervasive technology in the dental practice ecosystem, we can look forward to:

  • No more cables
  • Easier-to-use interfaces to software, hardware and business workflow
  • Smaller sizes and footprint of computer devices
  • More accessible and easier-to-consume data and communications

While these changes are exciting to imagine, which new technologies will really make a difference to your practice? Where should you put your technology investments? In other words, what’s the next “Magic 50 Feet” you should focus on?

As Internet, wireless and cloud technologies continue to evolve, physical location will matter less and less. The distance from the chair to the front desk will shrink from 50 feet to the size of a smartphone. The magic won’t be in feet, it will be in hands—on the devices your patients are holding.

The popularity of laptops, tablets and ultrabooks will continue to grow as mobile devices get faster, smaller and more reliable. Smartphones will get smarter and data will be untethered from the office.

What’s the best way to take advantage of this rapid technology change? To keep you successful five years from now, I recommend three technology strategies for your dental practice:

  1. Invest in a solid network.
    Expect a lot more interconnectedness in your dental practice. Computers and mobile devices will be much more ubiquitous. Any device that can gather patient data will be networked and able to communicate with other devices that have input to the patient’s file. Your practice will be the network; this will revolutionize the way you select your equipment.
  2. Lease any technology equipment that may quickly become obsolete.
    Computer hardware, monitors, phones and other equipment will change faster than you can research them, so lease this technology. You don’t want your practice productivity hampered by antiquated technology. The cost of leasing is significantly lower than the cost of owning this equipment, and you’ll gain both business and technical agility by leasing it. Invest your technology dollars in owning your practice management system, digital X–ray and sensor equipment and cameras—technology with long life cycles—and lease the rest.
  3. Evolve your practice management, website and messaging to facilitate patient communication.
    Instantaneous communication, 24/7 data availability and mobile devices will revolutionize the way every business, dentistry included, communicates with customers. Your patients will expect quick responses and timely information. They will want to instantly schedule appointments by clicking a button, not picking up a phone and being put on hold. The practice that can deliver faster and more patient-friendly answers will be more successful.

In the near future, it will become easier for practices to manage their technology infrastructure from an investment, deployment, support and training perspective. With the right technology partner, changes and upgrades to software systems will be seamless and hardware problems will be replaced by "plug and play" technology.

TechCentral’s integrated technology solutions are designed, tested and certified for reliability, so you can take full advantage of the latest technology, such as Windows 8, wireless computing, cloud storage and new devices, while staying within your budget. Because we are part of the Henry Schein Dental team, you can trust TechCentral to provide the highest levels of quality, security, performance and customer service.

Your choice of technology partner can shrink the Magic 50 Feet down to a very manageable size, indeed.

Author: Robert Staub
Published: 08/31/2012
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