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Files #7 — Taking the plunge into technology

Aug. 1, 2009
Any new endeavor takes boldness and courage. While many find it easier to just tread water in the business-end of the practice, diving into new technology can cause a ripple effect on profitability.

by Terry L. Myers, DDS, FAGD

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: CAD/CAM, cone beam imaging, technology, return on investment, Dr. Terry L. Myers.

Any new endeavor takes boldness and courage. While many find it easier to just tread water in the business-end of the practice, diving into new technology can cause a ripple effect on profitability. High-tech products, such as CAD/CAM, lasers, practice-management software, and 3-D cone beam imaging, can be practice-changing if used to their maximum potential. This column gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own technology improvements and create a checklist for those who yearn to get their feet wet in the technology pool.

A four-point checklist

Explore extensively → Take advantage of all training to understand the many facets of your new equipment. I am always amazed at dentists who purchase a piece of expensive equipment but never take the time or effort to learn about how to get the maximum return on investment (ROI). Besides training, visit other offices to see the machine in action; talk to the dentists and staff who use it.

Click here to enlarge image

Educate your team → For an investment to pay off, your staff has to be on board. Demonstrate the machine's capability to reduce their workday burden and improve communication. Encourage discussion and questions to help your team members answer patients' questions.

Spread the word → Patients can be the best marketing tool for your practice. As doctors, we know that a 3-D scan leads to better diagnosis and better patient care, but you need to communicate to your patients that your office is ahead of the competition. Display the scan of their anatomy in 3-D on your computer monitor. Discuss specifically what you are looking for, rotate the image around, and talk about how this detailed scan helps you to achieve less invasive surgery and more predictable diagnosis, treatment, and outcome. Patients will be more accepting of treatment when they have less to fear, and they will tell their friends.

Figure your finances → My primary goal for the cone beam investment was to perform more implant surgery in-house, and refer out fewer cases. First, I figured my bottom-line costs and a fee scale that would be fair to the patient and allow for ROI. For example, our investment in our medium field of view GXCB-500™, which takes both 2-D pans and 3-D scans, is about $3,000 a month. We established a 3-D scan fee of $486, by figuring 90% of the UCR (usual customary reasonable) fee for our geographic area.

While we are not the most expensive practice in our area, we range in the top 10%. In the past year, our average of 24 billable pans per month equals about $2,600, and an average of about six billable 3-D scans a month equals approximately $2,900, for a total of $5,500 in production, just on the imaging alone.

That more than covers our monthly outlay and leads to more implants, periodontal surgery, root canals, and other procedures that we can now keep in-house. Since acquiring cone beam imaging, my implant cases have increased 16%, which translates to $20,000 in additional production that I would not have felt confident doing without this technology.

For all office improvements, you have to do the homework to discover the true worth of a technology investment. Then, take the plunge, believe in it, embrace it, and use it. With the right outlook and some careful calculating, new technology can result in a big splash for both your patients and your practice.

Dr. Terry L. Myers is a fellow in the Academy of General Dentistry and a member of the Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the Dental Sleep Disorder Society. He has a private practice in Belton, Mo. You may contact Dr. Myers by e-mail at [email protected].

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