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The top 5 steps for successful technology integration

April 1, 2017
By taking five steps prior to purchasing and integrating technology, dentists can save themselves the struggle and frustration that can easily come with embracing something new in their practices.

By taking five steps prior to purchasing and integrating technology, dentists can save themselves the struggle and frustration that can easily come with embracing something new in their practices.

Technology can make or break a practice. The best technologies for each practice should improve both the patient experience and the bottom line. For some dentists, staying up-to-date with the latest technology and systems is a hobby. For others, it proves to be a headache. Thankfully, there are ways to streamline the decision-making process and adoption of new technology to improve the chances for success. By taking five intentional steps prior to purchasing and integrating technology, we can save ourselves the struggle and frustration that can easily come with embracing something new in our practices.

Step 1: Define the technology

What is the new technology or system, and which elements and team members of the practice will it impact? How will it improve the patient experience and clinical outcome for the patient?

Step 2: Describe the vision

Identify why this new technology should be added to the practice, and be very clear of the vision for this new tool. It may be tempting to focus on the bottom line; however, greater success will follow when you take the time to be intentional about how it will be integrated in your practice and the timeframe for implementation.

Step 3: Build a plan

Create a plan of action that addresses the following questions.

How many patients will benefit from this technology?

Number of active patients: Count all patients seen at least one time during the past 24 months to determine the number of active patients. Knowing this count in the practice can help identify and determine many key things as it relates to introducing new procedures and technology. Note that various dental organizations and consultants have different definitions and suggested ranges to determine active patients (e.g., 12 months, 18 months, or 24 months); however, 24 months is recommended to be conservative.

Chart audit: While this may prove tedious, a dental team may learn a lot from executing a chart audit. Once the active patient count is determined, this chart audit can then provide key information needed when making a technology decision. When conducting a chart audit, it is encouraged to review the following for each patient: age, sex, date of the last panoramic or full-mouth radiographs during the past three years, type of insurance plan, whether there are missing teeth, and consistency with dental hygiene or periodontal appointments. This detailed audit will help determine the number of active patients that may benefit from the technology.

What will need to be charged, if anything?

Return on investment (ROI): If introducing a technology or system that is very expensive, it is only natural to wonder about ROI. Vendors will often give a baseline of what they typically see other dental providers charging. It is a good idea to review fees to charge at this time to ensure they are in alignment with the fees that the majority of dentists in the area are charging. Once appropriate fees are determined, start building the anticipated timeline for reaching ROI based on the total costs of implementing the technology and anticipated revenues.

Is this procedure or technology covered by insurance? If so, which code should be used?

Insurance: Determine if the procedure can be covered by insurance. If so, what is the estimated percentage? Are there any exclusions or limitations? Can you use dental-medical cross coding for higher reimbursement?

Will this new procedure or technology impact my current scheduling template?

Review and determine whether any modifications (positive or negative) will need to be made to how the business team is currently scheduling certain procedures. For example, when considering the purchase of a new CAD/CAM unit, the schedule will be impacted during the initial integration. As everyone in the practice is learning, procedures may take longer; however, speed and efficiency will increase over time. Making the appropriate adjustments in the scheduling templates up front will reduce stress for the team and for patients.

Will I need to invest in marketing? If so, what type?

Internal: Again, the chart audit will help determine how many active patients can be targeted within the practice. Internal campaigns can be done when a large portion of existing patients can benefit. Consider how the new technology will help patients. Will it make the procedures less expensive, faster, or better?

External: Can this technology be marketed as a competitive advantage? If this technology is something that can be used to attract new patients, create a separate marketing plan. Think about the people in the surrounding community. What type of patients may be attracted? Which channels will best reach them? From there, set a budget and determine how to best use these channels while staying within the budget identified.

Step 4: Seek support

Suppliers: Create a partnership with a supplier who has the best interest of the practice in mind. All suppliers want to sell their products, so make sure they are also selling the patients’ experience with the technology.

Team: Expose the team to the new technology or system so that they see the value too. Purchasing or implementing without their knowledge or buy-in may be a disaster. Communicate with the team frequently to help them feel like a part of the process and provide them with tools to support patient education.

Step 5: Implementation and review

Daily huddles: Use daily huddles as opportunities to discuss which patients will be touched by the new technology or system so that the team is prepared. Revisit experiences from the prior day and reset processes, if necessary.

Team meetings: Coordinating consistent team meetings can be of great value so that everyone can review successes and opportunities for improvement. Providing reports or data that reflect these elements is also encouraged.

By taking the time to address and document these five steps, every dentist can make a good decision about whether it is the right investment and timing for new technology in the practice. The intentionality of these efforts can also pay dividends in ensuring success and profitability when it comes time to implement new technology.

With over 21 years of dental industry experience, Kimberly Brozovich has served in both management and executive positions and has overseen large teams of dental coaches. Kim speaks at major dental meetings, has coached dentists in every state of the United States, and currently heads up dental school relationships for Pacific Dental Services.

Brad Guyton, DDS, MBA, MPH, serves as dean of dentist development for Pacific Dental Services and as an associate professor at University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine. He practices dentistry in Denver, Colorado.

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