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How Digital Dental Ecosystems Will Change Our World

Dental Digital WorkflowThere is so much noise surrounding the dental practice today! Digital this and milling that, going paperless, HIPPA compliance, 3D imaging and virtual models are just a few of the buzz words of our dental publications today. Do you find yourself frustrated trying to keep up? Do you sometimes feel the world is passing you by? Everything these days costs so much! What equipment should I invest in to keep my practice up to date?

How the Business World is Seeing Opportunity

In an August 2015 article in Digital Magazine by Susan Walker, Susan helps us see what today’s businesses are facing and why dentistry should be excited as well. “A new level of connectivity, between machines, sensors, people, and businesses is providing enhanced customer experiences and levels of service. Businesses are driving to digitize their products and services. Companies are starting to realize that by integrating with this huge network of connections they can shape experiences and outcomes in a way that would have been impossible operating as a single entity.”

2015 Digital Vision Trends

  • The “Internet Of Me” highlights how the end user is increasingly becoming the center of every digital experience.
  • “The Outcome Economy” explains how digital devices on the edge are enabling a new business model that shifts the focus from selling things to selling results.
  • “The Platform Revolution” looks at how digital platforms are becoming essential building blocks for digital ecosystems.
  • “The Intelligent Enterprise” examines how software intelligence is being embedded into every aspect of businesses to drive efficiency and innovation.
  • “Workforce Reimagined” looks at how Intelligent technology is contributing to a new collaborative workforce composed of both people and machines.”

Hopefully you are starting to get the picture that indeed the world is changing rapidly and you are not alone in your feelings. However, once we begin to ponder the opportunities to become more accurate, more efficient and more profitable, we should all be asking the question of how to become more engaged in this new way of doing business. Questions like, if I invest, what is the learning curve and what kind of return on investment can I expect? Where do I start?

Let’s look at building a digital workflow in your own office.

  1. You must begin with a computerized office and a practice management system.
  2. You need a digital imaging system, one that best suites the scope your practice.
  3. Digital impressions come next with a pathway directly to the laboratory.
This completes the flow of information to result in a digital workflow.

Using available digital technologies, the workflow in a dental office today might look like this:

  1. New Patient Information… health history, examination, x-rays, diagnostic models, photos
  2. Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
  3. Dental Treatment
  4. Laboratory Design and Fabrication
  5. Delivery of Final Treatment

As we walk back through the steps above, let’s take a look at where we can utilize digital technology to make the process more efficient and profitable.

We can utilize HIPPA compliant software to gather the patient’s health information saving valuable time and focus on developing the new patient relationship. The exam is completed on dental software that becomes a permanent digital record of the patients existing conditions. X-rays, diagnostic models and photos can be linked to digital software that becomes a new patient’s permanent HIPPA compliant record.

Diagnosis and Treatment Planning are completed on software, like the Dawson Diagnostic Wizard, that permits the dentist or staff to go to one location for all the information to develop the patient's treatment plan. When collaboration is needed it is easy to get the support from specialists by utilizing secure emails. The answers come more quickly because the questions can be answered 24/7 by the desired provider. Images and files can be also shared securely with those helping to develop the final treatment plan.

Treatment plans can be presented to the patients using the digital displays to point out problems and offer solutions. The clarity and understanding that comes for this kind of display is not only impressive, but allows the patient to say yes more easily to their necessary treatment.

Once treatment begins whether it is restorative, orthodontics or implant dentistry, digital scanners can allow for efficiency, high quality impressions and better outcomes. Once the digital scans reach the laboratory, the process now become more interactive with the dental teams. Labs have the ability to get various steps of design and final treatment approved along the way.

The digital process now opens the world to dentists and laboratories making it easier to connect virtually anywhere. This speeds the process to a more acceptable end point of treatment. Once the restorations are fabricated it is now time to complete the treatment. If the digital enabled workflow has achieved it’s promises, it will require less time chair time to deliver, produce higher quality restorations, and exceed the demands of busy patients.

The bottom line: digital workflows allow us to create virtual patients to enhance the planning, treatment and execution leading to a better patient experience. Communication and tracking between specialist, laboratories and digital services are becoming more simplified. 

Photo Credit: MarcelaPalma via Compfight cc

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Picture of Dr. Thomas Dawson

Dr Dawson practiced restorative dentistry in Arlington, Texas for 33 years. After selling his Arlington practice in 2007, he opened a new practice in Mansfield, Texas, limited to treating complex restorative and esthetic cases exclusively.