Going mobile

Aug. 20, 2013
With the proliferation of iPads and Android tablets, it would seem a logical question whether these tablets could replace the computers in the dental office.

by Paul Feuerstein, DMD

With the proliferation of iPads and Android tablets, it would seem a logical question whether these tablets could replace the computers in the dental office. So far the answer is "not completely" although there are many places for them to be used.

Issues of fragility and cleanability (although Crosstex does make iBarriers) might limit tablets' usefulness in treatment areas. Most of the popular dental applications are centered on patient education, filling out forms, photos, radiographs, and remote access from computers in treatment rooms.

There are several new products available – many of them not originally intended for dental – that are appearing now for dentists' use. I have chosen just a few that are still under our radar, but not for long in my opinion.

One of the most compelling is called Splashtop 2. This is conceptually similar to GoToMyPC or LogMeIn, but with a big difference. The streaming is in real time and encryption is HIPAA-compliant. This short space does not allow room to explain details that are on the company's site at www.splashtop.com. It has been downloaded more than 13 million times and is running on 100 million devices.

Another global product, www.gocanvas.com, has hundreds of forms online such as medical histories for businesses to use on mobile devices. You can use the company's forms or create your own. The forms and data are stored in the company's cloud. There is a "check box" to make sure your account is HIPAA-compliant.

A system that is more focused in dentistry is being developed in Canada and will soon be available in the U.S. For more information, visit www.healthguppy.com.

An issue with many of the apps is that they are clever and good-looking but stand alone with what they deliver.

Developers of these apps have to talk with the major practice-management companies. But to make the "bridges" and connections requires time, resources, and money. Many of these developers are small companies of brilliant people with great ideas. But selling apps for a few dollars each does not give them the necessary capital.

An example is a simple and intuitive app for dental charting called Dentsio. The app stands alone although it has all of the information stored in the cloud. For more information, visit www.dentsio.com.

Having said this, there are companies that do integrate with practice-management systems. Two (of many) that have been evolving for several years are Paperless Technologies www.gopaperlessnow.com) and DentForms (www.medictalk.com), which have been proven over time. These products were pioneers in using mobile computing input well before iPads.

There are several patient education apps that we have previously discussed in this column, including CAESY Cloud, Guru, CurveED, and DDS GP. These apps can work independent of in-office computers, can depend on a web browser-based app, or can integrate directly.

One company, XLDent (www.xldent.com) from Minnesota, does have a portable dental practice-management solution although not exclusively with the iPad. The company has used mobile computing for quite a while with Motion Tablets, models C5t and F5t. These are industrial-strength, portable computers with full operating systems such as Windows 7 and now Windows 8.

They have touch screens (with Gorilla Glass) and can be "written" on with a stylus. The tablets are cleanable (they are water resistant) and are used in hospitals around the world. With solid-state hard drives and rugged construction, it is not the end of the world if one is dropped (from the officially tested height of 48 inches). Not only has XLDent written the software to run on these units, they also can integrate current, smaller portable devices.

The advantage in this setup is that not only can the patient complete forms and sign them electronically, they can also see all of the information from the treatment room. This includes periodontal charting, treatment plans, appointment scheduling, billing, and insurance information. Certainly other practice-management systems can use this technology, but XLDent has made it the company's focus.

As usual with technology, when you get a new iPad, Android tablet, or Windows 8 Surface, the new model will be outdated the following week. There is an active market for prior versions of this technology that will allow you to enter at a lower price point and get a taste now.

Anyone out there interested in an iPad2?

Paul Feuerstein, DMD, installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978, teaching and writing about technology since then while practicing general dentistry in North Billerica, Mass. He maintains a website (www.computersindentistry.com), Facebook page (Paul-Feuerstein-DMD-Dental-Technology), is on Twitter (@drpaulf), and can be reached via email at [email protected].

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