Dreaming of Practice Ownership: You may maximize your technology spending with these 5 investment categories

Editor’s note: This is the fourth article in a series of New Dentist Now blog posts on practice ownership from Wells Fargo Practice Finance, the practice lender endorsed by ADA Member Advantage.

Technology may be the biggest and most important investment aside from the initial practice acquisition or start-up. Investing wisely can keep a dentist competitive and relevant. Over-investing and chasing tech “fads” may backfire. To help you maximize your tech investment, strategically consider your practice’s needs in these areas.

Aside from your initial acquisition or start-up costs, the technology at your practice may be your most important investment. Consider doing some research to understand and leverage the latest trends in your industry to stay ahead of the competition — while not letting yourself get carried away with the latest fads.

Careful consideration of technology options may help you keep your practice competitive and relevant. As you review trends and weigh which new technologies your office could benefit from, keep these general investment categories in mind.

Systems operations and security

Outdated computers and software may leave your practice vulnerable to cyberattacks that could wipe out your office data and put your patients’ information at risk. Purchasing new equipment and updating your systems can help you take care of patients efficiently and securely.

Signs that it may be time to buy: Your front-office staff is often waiting for a computer to reboot, you lack processes for backing up data, or your software no longer receives security updates from the manufacturer.

Practice management software

Scheduling and billing software can help you and your office manager save time fulfilling the daily operations of your practice. Some practice management software also allows you to integrate charts, imaging, and tracking of insurance claims.

Signs that it may be time to buy: Routine tasks are taking too much time away from patient care and long-term business strategy, or you find yourself frequently dealing with scheduling problems or billing mix-ups.

Patient clinical records

An electronic health record system can include information, such as patient histories, clinical notes, lists of medications and allergies, and laboratory and imaging results. Some dental practices may not be required to have electronic health records, but Medicare- and Medicaid-eligible dentists who implement these systems may benefit from incentive programs.

Signs that it may be time to buy: You have a significant number of Medicare or Medicaid patients, your state requires electronic health records, or you want to have more information available for quality assessment and decision-making.

Patient diagnosis

Digital radiography or X-rays allow you to capture far more detail than traditional film X-rays, improving diagnosis while producing less radiation. Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) technology provides a 3D view that enables you to diagnose patients who may need more specialized treatment.

Signs that it may be time to buy: You have modern computers and servers that can handle larger image files or want to be able to diagnose diseases that don’t appear on traditional X-rays.

Dental impressions

Intraoral cameras capture dental impressions digitally. Since they enable you to show patients their imaging directly, it can be much easier to explain why they need a certain procedure. Computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technologies can allow you to make a crown or other restoration right in your office, possibly saving patients time and money.

Sign that it may be time to buy: You want to make your practice more efficient by reducing the time it takes to complete a restoration. You are able to make a significant upfront investment and have a plan to recoup the initial costs.

Because technology changes quickly, consider incorporating a key investment into your business plan every three to five years, rather than making multiple purchases at once. Your equipment supplier can help you develop a plan dedicated to improving your ability to care for patients and remain competitive, and your lender can provide information about leasing and financing options so you can make an informed decision. To learn more about how investing in new technology can help your business, visit the ADA Center for Professional Success.

A tool that can help prepare you:

Other helpful resources:

Wells Fargo Practice Finance is the only practice and commercial real estate lender recommended for members of the American Dental Association.

All financing is subject to credit approval.

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