The digital revolution is gathering pace and smart technology could help dental practices run more efficiently and engage patients more effectively in their dental care and treatment.
The days of paper filing systems and drawing confusing diagrams to demonstrate dental care are long gone, as computers are becoming common place throughout dental practices. Tablets are on hand in many practices to help patients check in, screens in the waiting room share dental care tips, and computers in a treatment room enable dentists to cross reference information and schuedule appointments seamlessly.
Technology to Benefit Your Practice
New technology can help dental teams spend less time on administration and more time with their patients. The ease with which data can be entered and retrieved these days frees dentists and front of house staff alike from time consuming administration so they can deal more promptly with patients. Time is certainly of the essence in an age where customers are less inclined to wait for answers.
Keep patient records up to date
Allow patients to check in themselves
Cross reference between files
Customer expectations seem to be influenced more and more by their experiences in other sectors, according to research conducted by Accenture in 14 nations, including Germany, France and the UK (1). When they become used to digital communications and a swift response from one industry, consumers expect to see it in others as well. Rather than turn a blind eye to the trend, technology has the potential to help dental surgeries give patients access to the information they are seeking.
With the wealth of treatment options now available, integrated computer systems mean dentists can now access detailed information about drugs and detailed medical information at the touch of a button. In essence, they could help to upskill your team, so they offer much more detailed advice and support to your patients. You can read more about some of the options available in our blog post on the Top 5 Tools to Digitise Your Practice.
Access to more detailed information
Respond faster to patient queries
Build the knowledge of your team
Use Data Wisely
The data you capture has the potential to provide very useful insights for your practice as a whole. The opportunities reach far and wide and with the help of data-crunching software packages that can help you build up a much clearer picture of who your patients are, what services they require, and who might be more susceptible to particular conditions.
One major consideration of this increased ability to gather and store information is data protection (2). Confidentiality is key within any industry, but even more so when it comes to private health records (3).
Keep patient records secure
Stay up to date with regulation
Reassure your patients
Smart Business Management
On a more practical level, the laborious process of stock management can be greatly eased with the use of technology. There are multiple software options available that allow stock to be reordered with the tap of a button on smartphones and tablets.
Many software packages also have much more advanced invoicing and financial modelling integrated. So, while it will take time to set up and train staff, digital inventory keeping could lead to greater savings and peace of mind in the long run. There are plenty of options to choose from, and a selection are reviewed on the Capterra website.
Reduce stock wastage
Save time managing stock
Improve financial forecasts
Technology to Benefit Your Patients
More patients than ever are turning to the Internet for help with everything from finding a dentist to diagnosing a symptom. In fact, 75% of Europeans think the Internet is a good way of finding out more about their health (4), so there is an opportunity here for dentists to provide them with what they are seeking.
In the UK and Germany, many dental practices have a website these days and online appointment booking is certainly a popular option. It’s relatively easy to mobilise an online appointment calendar and add interesting content but, since 68% of health-related web searches were initiated on a mobile device (5), sites need to be optimised for smartphone use too.
Through apps, reminder text messages, regular emails, tweets and even blog posts, dentists now have a range of options to engage patients on a much more personal level about a wider range of topics. When integrated with a central database, these messages can be tailored with information that is as unique as each individual patient.
Personalise patient information
Communicate in the way patients want
Improve patients’ dental health
People absorb information in different ways and for many being able to visualise an idea, concept or instruction will help it to stick. The use of tablets and even virtual reality headsets within a practice can certainly help with this by giving patients greater understanding of treatments and prevention.
A recent CR Foundation report revealed that 80% of dentists surveyed would consider purchasing an iPad or tablet for patient education (6). They could be used in a waiting area to register patients or educate them on everything from good dental hygiene and gum disease to very specific treatment plans and their respective outcomes.
A number of technology companies are already making brushing more fun for children by developing games on smartphones and tablets that are linked to their toothbrush by Bluetooth. Playbrush is a device that can be fitted to the end of a child’s toothbrush, whilst Grush has the technology already built in. Using sensors, children can then play a range of two minute games that encourage them to brush their teeth correctly
Virtual reality (VR) is perhaps a little way off, but there are companies in the US merging the world of gaming and dentistry to give patients a completely immersive experience that they hope will allay anxieties and encourage greater treatment participation and understanding.
Encourage treatment participation
Make dental health fun
Actively engage patients in their dental health
Making Smart Choices When Engaging Your Patients
It’s well known that when patients are more engaged in the decision-making process then the outcomes are much better (7). In addition to the use of tablets and VR, digital imaging and the use of intra-oral cameras are also helping dentists to demonstrate to patients how they can actively improve their dental care regime. Within the healthcare arena, mobile phone apps are now being used by some GPs to hold ‘virtual surgeries’ (8).
As the digital revolution increasingly shapes our everyday lives, the potential is definitely there for dentists to use smart technology and offer an ever more personal patient support service.