Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 09 Technology 1

Are tech ‘solutions’ overwhelming your dental office?

Sept. 12, 2018
Is your dental office using the latest technology? While it's good to stay up to date with new developments, sometimes it can also be too much of a good thing. Don't let your office become overwhelmed with technology, or on the other hand, don't let them ignore what's available to them.
Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM, Founder of Front Office Rocks
Years ago, when I started in dentistry, we did not have the internet, smartphones, or the cloud, let alone the many other services we now have to help us run our practices.

Today, there are different services to help us reach patients, monitor office statistics, make our offices paperless, record phone calls, assist with social media—and that’s just the beginning. In some ways, it’s the best possible time to be in dentistry, considering all the help that’s available to start, grow, and run a practice. But it’s also possible there is too much of a good thing, and sometimes all of these “tech solutions” can become overwhelming.

When it comes to using technology to better serve our patients and staff, there are three types of offices. First, there are the tech holdouts who don’t use any services at all to help with efficiency. (Frankly, I think this is a mistake. Why not get the help you need?) Second, there are a few offices that do have the right balance—just enough support to help them, but not so much they become overwhelmed.

Finally, there are the offices that have too many services and too much technology. These offices are (1) paying for the technology and not using it all, (2) using technology on a regular basis but without knowing how to manage it efficiently, or (3) feeling so overwhelmed with services that their practices aren’t being well served. In fact, these office might be worse off than the first ones who don’t use anything at all. Juggling too many services can lead to negative results due to confusion, high cost, and feeling overwhelmed.

How do you know when you have a good balance and are employing just the right amount of help for your needs?

There are three questions to answer to determine whether a service is useful for your office.

1. Is it fixing a problem and helping your practice grow?

Basic practice management software is great, but it does not have all the bells and whistles that we need to get our jobs done more effectively and efficiently. Additional services or software should be enhancements to your practice management software and should help your office grow and solve problems.

Some examples include reaching patients who can’t be contacted by phone; helping team members reduce tasks such as scanning papers all day long; reaching out to patients who need to be reactivated; and asking patients to review your practice so you can grow your online reputation. If you’re using a software or service add-on that is not fixing a problem or helping you grow, then you may not be using it correctly, or you may not really need it.

2. Does your team use the technology regularly and correctly in its entirety?

Many offices purchase software but do not take the time to fully implement it and understand all the things it can do to help. Successful implementation is key, not only for getting the team to embrace the new technology or service, but also for training them so they know how to use it appropriately. Integrating something new is not easy. If the training period is not handled well, there might be resistance from the staff and the new process may not be used to its full capacity.

It’s important to tell the team why the new service or software has been brought in, and it’s also important to focus on getting it up and running so it’s used daily. Staff members are often quick to return to their old ways when things don’t go smoothly. Learning a new process takes time, and there’s always something new to learn. That’s where continuous training is a good idea. Ongoing training updates help team members learn how to handle any changes they encounter while implementing the new software or services.

3. Are you using it to improve the practice (and if not, why not)?

When you’re paying monthly or annually for a service or software to help your office grow, but you’re not following through with using it, then why pay for it at all? There are great resources available to help dental offices measure how well they’re doing in different areas. But what’s the point of buying these if you don’t follow up? It would be like hiring a consultant to develop the perfect paperless system, then continuing to operate with papers piled high on your desk.

Be sure to use the data that you buy to grow your practice and improve systems in your office. Otherwise, you’ll find that you’re only paying for short-term results instead of adding to the long-term sustainability of your practice.

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Laura Hatch has committed years of study to learning how to manage and empower team members, and partnered with her husband to build and manage two fee-for-service dental practices. Twelve years later, she founded Front Office Rocks, which offers web-based, on-demand front office training for dental practices. As the leading authority on virtual dental front office training, Laura helps dental professionals who want to be better at what they do gain the training they need through online video courses, live seminars, and coaching.