Implementing new technology into an older practice as a new associate

It was October of 2017, I was graduating in May of the next year, and I happened to score a job from the first and only interview I had with a private practice. “This is it,” I thought, as I muscled through the last several months of school. I was going to be a real, practicing dentist in a private practice, with a great compensation split and a working patient base.

Photo of Dr. Champion

Dr. Champion

Though I had made several subsequent trips to the office after that first meeting, it wasn’t until I started practicing that I realized this office was behind the times — big time.

They were still paper charting, sending postcards for appointment recalls, and had no intraoral photography methods besides sensor radiographs. It was like stepping back in time after having the most up-to-date technology at my fingertips in school, and I knew I needed to help make a change, or I would start to regress, and potentially regret.

As a new associate, making changes in an established office is not the easiest, but a fresh pair of eyes in an already profitable practice can be very beneficial for both the new dentist and the owners. I started to see ways in which the practice could really capitalize on patient care that was being missed, and some small changes were all that needed to be made to not only make our schedules fuller, but also the practice more efficient.

I started by having a meeting with my owner dentists and discussing with them the pitfalls I was seeing in the office. This wasn’t the easiest conversation to have, especially when you feel like you have no pull, but I was surprised at how receptive they were to my ideas. We started to lay out a plan on how we could integrate some technology into the office without breaking the bank and help with co-discovery for patients and case acceptance.

Our first hurdle was intraoral photography, or lack thereof. I was used to taking a full series of photos on every new patient along with models, and while I was still doing that with the new patients I was seeing, we had to get all of our team on board with the new model.

Many of the hygienists had been very set in their ways and thought that it would take too much time out of their schedule to take photographs, but with any new skill, it just takes a little practice and motivation to learn.

The office purchased Digital Doc Iris intraoral cameras that autofocus and are very user-friendly that we now keep in every hygiene operatory. It takes only two minutes to get the necessary series of pictures, and they are uploaded straight into the patient’s charts. Having before and after shots of heavy buildup or showing a patient a cracked amalgam filling can go a long way in treatment acceptance because the patients are seeing what we see without simply taking our word for it. The camera images can be transferred to a patient monitor in front of the chair so that it can make real-time impact.

Another change we discussed was digitalizing our new patient forms by placing small scanners in the front desk to directly scan forms into patient charts. This way we wouldn’t have to pull paper charts to look up pertinent patient information. I set up templates in our dental software for note taking on different procedures to streamline the process and encouraged the other doctors to start gradually making the change.

While we still have some hurdles in front of us for getting the practice optimally tech savvy, I found that just opening the lines of communication and asking for some of the things I needed to practice at my technological best were ultimately well-received and sparked the fire of interest in my colleagues to start implementing even more technology for the future.

Dr. Katie Champion is a New Dentist Now guest bloggers. She grew up in Ohio where her mother owned a dental practice, and graduated from Nova Southeastern University College of Dental Medicine in 2018. Katie is a general dentist in an established group practice in Deerfield Beach, Florida. She is passionate about dentistry and staying up-to-date with current dental practices, and attends multiple courses a year at the Pankey Institute for higher dental education in Key Biscayne, Florida. Outside of dentistry, she enjoys PureBarre workouts, hanging out with her husband and 3 dogs, and reading on the beach.

2 comments

  • IOCs may be nice for new docs, but nothing replaces trust. An established doc has built up that trust through the years with his patient base, and thus does not feel the need to use photos that many patients do not want to see anyway. I’ve had cameras since the old Sony Mavica over the years, and do not use any of them anymore. I just don’t need to deal with them when patients trust what I suggest. So, when a new doc comes to an office, don’t always judge the practice by lack of technology. Look at the appointment book and see how busy the practice is. You might be surprised by how easy dentistry can be when you don’t have to sell the patient on treatment with digital technology.

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