BY KAY HENRY, DDS
WHEN IT COMES TO SHOPPING for equipment to optimize and enhance a practice, price should not be the sole differentiating factor. Other considerations should include the product’s quality and durability, customer support options, and the learning curve involved in incorporating it into the practice.
It also is important to note the new equipment’s compatibility with the practice’s current equipment and technology. Above all, the features of the new equipment and the benefits they provide to the practice and its patients should be the ultimate deciding factors in purchasing decisions. First, I consider purchases in terms of value for my patients and whether those purchases will improve the quality of care.
How does one select equipment to ensure it meets the necessary requirements and will enhance the performance of the practice and patient care? When investing in equipment, how can one be sure it will be an effective addition to the practice? While building my practice, I found several invaluable resources, including the advice of my peers and industry representatives, seminars, organizations, staff at my practice, and personal experience. Each resource has provided great knowledge and insight to assist me in making educated, researched decisions on equipment I selected for my practice.
The human resource
Listen to the staff at your practice. Their suggestions can keep you informed about cutting-edge technological offerings and top-of-the-line equipment. Staff are as interested in saving time and energy as you are. If they are not forthcoming, ask for their input or opinions. Most staff members will research equipment if there is a possibility it will make their work easier or more efficient.
Other people who contributed to the building of my practice are reputable sales representatives from whom I have made purchases. Most notably, my Patterson Technology representatives, Jim and Greg, have been instrumental in equipping my practice since day one. They have helped in almost every facet of my purchasing decisions. When I started my practice, they constantly offered suggestions, resources, and information, and they answered all kinds of questions. During the years, we have developed a great friendship, and they continue to influence my practice.
Relying on the advice of your peers and asking other dental professionals for referrals and opinions are reliable ways to weed out poor-quality purchases and obtain equipment recommendations.
For six years, I have been a member of a study group of some 25 dental professionals who meet monthly to share information about dentistry. We are indispensable to each other because of the experiences and insight we share. Each person brings a unique viewpoint — a valuable, firsthand account of his or her experience with a product and a testimonial for or against it.
In addition to a reliable network of respected colleagues, other useful research tools have been seminars and informational sessions. Attending seminars on practice design and equipping a high-tech practice has helped me research equipment and technology options. Trade shows and conventions offer opportunities and resources, including lectures by industry experts, literature, demonstrations, and presentations.
Additionally, Clinical Research Associates has been helpful. This organization provides testimonials and comparisons similar to Consumer Reports. I have been 100 percent satisfied with all of the equipment I researched and bought through CRA. The CRA Newsletter is a great way for anyone interested in purchasing dental equipment to keep up to date and informed.
Cost vs. value
So what if you are undecided between two or even three pieces of similar equipment? When two providers both receive positive feedback from dental professionals and retain nearly identical features, look to other factors for help, such as efficient technology support and friendly customer service. When a problem arises, it is important that a company’s support personnel be available to get the equipment running again.
The biggest influencer of purchasing decisions is a product’s usefulness. If the product will make the practice more efficient, it is worth more to the staff and the practice. An equipment purchase begins to pay off almost immediately in the positive reactions of patients.
Patients are impressed and recognize that we do not cut corners when it comes to equipment in the practice. For example, when purchasing equipment we use on patients every day, such as a handpiece, it is often worthwhile to invest more for a less noisy one. Many doctors hesitate to buy quality equipment because it is expensive, but they do this at the expense of improved patient care. This purchasing protocol does not pay off.
Instead, we purchase equipment that will help us consistently deliver the best care to our patients.
Finally, doctors should look to their personal experiences and trust their instincts on the equipment with which they are most comfortable. My associateship and dental schooling provided me with a personal point of reference; firsthand, I was able to see the effects of high-quality equipment and get a feel for my likes and dislikes. When it came time to purchase equipment for my practice, I already had an idea of exactly what I wanted.
Weigh each equipment purchase carefully. Research as much as possible and remember to consider the cost in relation to value. Above all, judge each purchase in terms of value for patients and whether it will improve the quality of care.
An intelligent, researched investment goes a long way toward the betterment of the entire practice.