Technology in the practice: How many pot fetchers do you have?

Jan. 5, 2011

By Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen

A favorite tradition as we welcome in a new year is to make resolutions, set new goals, or rethink the direction of our business. Too many times these resolutions last only a couple of weeks or possibly months, if we’re lucky. Where do you begin to make resolutions within your practice that will really matter – ones that you can look back in December and smile because you’ve kept them all year long?

On an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, the Clampetts were having a formal dinner with guests. Granny was bragging about the “purdy” green tablecloth that you never have to take off, just wipe it down. Oh, “and the ledge keeps the dishes from sliding off the table.” The table they were eating on happened to be a pool table. And Jed was using the cue stick as a “pot fetcher.”

How many things in your practice are you not utilizing properly, if at all? Take a good look at the home page of your practice management software. Are there icons that you are not using? Possibly you have a “landmark” icon; that’s the one right next to the one you always go to. You have a charting system in your software but prefer to put it in the paper chart because that’s the way that you have always done it. It’s too difficult to change it now.

The typical office fails to use their equipment properly. As the decision is made to implement a new protocol, such as going chartless, many times the office manager runs to the local store to purchase items that are already sitting idle in the office. In this case, what is the first step in going chartless? Throwing away the charts? That’s actually the last step. The first step is to acquire or understand the correct tools. Most practice management software already contains the tools you need to get started. You need to learn or get properly trained on how your computer can assist you in your quest.

Are you drowning in technology? Do you buy the latest, greatest hardware, software, and thousands of devices to make life easier? It sure looked awesome as the salesperson demonstrated its abilities. So is it? Quite possibly what you want is a way of understanding all the technology that you already have access to. What does it do? What can you do with it? How does it benefit you? It’s time to organize your techie self and become savvy about your equipment. Start by making a list of all your technological tools. This includes:
• Computers
• Practice management software
• Scanner/printer/fax
• On-hold message (Does it still have your old address, last year’s special, or a previous hygienist?)
• Insurance verification and/or benefit program
• Electronic reminder systems
• Intraoral camera
• Web site
• Card scanner
• Facebook page
• Voicemail (What message is recorded?)
• Credit card machine
• DIAGNOdent
• Florida probe
• Shredder
• Sterilizer
• And the list goes on…

Now let’s put each item into one of these categories:
Use it daily – understand at least 75% of its uses
Use it daily or weekly – understand 50% of its abilities
Use it daily or weekly – kind of familiar with its purposes and how it benefits me
Use it weekly to monthly – still have to break out the user guide
Have no idea/Forgot we had it

It’s time to become the bespectacled, nerdy computer geek. After all, you are the one who plopped down the money, or plastic, when it seemed like a great idea to buy it. Gather the user guides together and find out what all your technology can do for you. It promised to simplify your tasks, so learn how to make it work for you. Otherwise, it is just taking up space and perhaps still taking your money. Of course, if you don’t mind that the sterilizer is a glorified purse holder for your assistants, it’s your money.

Denise Ciardello and Janice Janssen are respected professionals in the dental consulting industry and the cofounders of Global Team Solutions, a practice management consulting firm specializing in team building and team training. They can be reached at [email protected] or (314) 644-8424 or [email protected] or (210) 862-9445.