In-office communications

Feb. 1, 2006
Finally, dentists must no longer rely on 40- or 50-year-old mechanical devices to communicate within their offices.

Finally, dentists must no longer rely on 40- or 50-year-old mechanical devices to communicate within their offices. Until recently, they had limited options for in-office communication. One was a hard-wired panel that used lights to determine where someone was needed. While this was a tremendous tool that allowed practices to run more efficiently, it was expensive. Larger practices could easily spend $15,000 or even more. There were other drawbacks as well, such as needing to constantly check the panel to see if you were being paged.

The most common form of communication within dental practices was to roam the office and chase down the people needed. This could be annoying for personnel and appear unprofessional to patients. Worst of all, it wasted time. While both light panels and direct communication get messages across, modern technology has provided a more practical solution that will change how dental offices operate.

With the move toward the paperless office that uses practice-management software and digital imaging, more dentists are now relying on computers for efficiency and practicality. With this computerization, it was only a matter of time before a software-based application became available for communicating within the dental practice.

One popular product is the BlueNote Communicator (www.bluenotecommunicator.com), designed to move messages through the dental practice via computer. By using pop-up screens and distinct tones for each staff member, communicating is as easy as the click of a mouse. BlueNote uses the existing computer network to greatly enhance productivity.

Because software isn’t limited by fixed buttons, a broad range of customization is available. Each person has a different tone so he or she does not have to look at a panel every time the message system is activated. Only when someone’s custom tone rings does that individual have to respond, which saves valuable time. The software allows users to customize the locations that receive pages, as well as whether or not pop-up screens appear on certain computers. Best of all, it does not require staff to have more than basic computer knowledge because it’s very easy to implement.

Some dental practices use wireless radios to talk to one another within the practice. Unfortunately, staff members often don’t want to wear microphones, and the novelty of the earpiece soon wears off. Because computer tones can be heard throughout the office, messages are transmitted on the same plane of communication as the wireless radios. Patients have little awareness that the ring tones in the background are actually messages being passed back and forth within the office.

Software messaging systems also provide text messaging, which allows users to send typed text within the practice, much like an Instant Messaging service. While some practices have tried Instant Messaging across the Internet, text messaging within a program assures it is being used for work purposes only. This also resolves any security concerns of exposure on the Web.

Another advantage to software-based messaging is cost. While some programs charge on a per user basis, programs like BlueNote run less than $800 and don’t charge for additional licenses. Offices that meet the basic requirements - computers throughout the office and monitors with speakers - should strongly consider software-based messaging systems.

What is most important is that there is finally a legitimate solution to the problem of efficiently delivering communications throughout the dental office. By utilizing sight and sounds to deliver messages instantly, technology has made it possible for practices to have a low-cost solution to their intraoffice communications.

Lorne Lavine, DMD, practiced periodontics and implant dentistry for more than 10 years. He is an A+ certified computer repair technician, as well as Network+ certified. He is the president of Dental Technology Consultants, a company that assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], or by phone at (866) 204-3398. Visit his Web site at www.thedigitalden tist.com.

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