The dramatic new high-tech theme evident on the exhibit floor at the ADA meeting in Hawaii was the Internet.
Larry Emmott, DDS
For the first time, the Internet and Internet products were everywhere. According to industry sources, almost 40 percent of the US population is now connected to the ?Net. But what makes that number more significant is that, only four years ago, less than 7 percent were connected. Every month, 4.5 million new people sign on. Consumer spending on the Internet increased by more than 433 percent in the last year alone. Like the classic runaway freight train, the Internet is unstoppable. It will influence virtually every aspect of both your personal and professional life in the future.
For example, there were at least five vendors offering to create web pages for dentists. Prices ranged from free to several thousand dollars. Two new companies offered online dental supply sales, and traditional supply companies are offering more online options. Finance companies were offering online loans.
Two new dental portal companies, Dentistry Online and rdental.com offer a wide range of services ? everything from online CE courses to consumer information. The goal of a web portal is to develop a web location where you can access experts, connect with other dentists, take a CE course, get the latest news, and link to other Web sites.
The Future: Two factors are converging which will drive these Internet-related developments. First, more people are connected to the Internet and they are becoming comfortable with using the Internet for communication and commerce. Second, the speed of Internet communication. For many OwwwO has stood for OWorld Wide Wait.O However the limitations of 56k modems are being eliminated with several faster and affordable connections.
As dental Internet use matures, we will see some of the following developments:
Y Online insurance. Very soon you will be able to log on to secure insurance sites and confirm coverage instantly. The next step will then be online claims processing and immediate electronic payment of claims.
Y Online continuing education. You will soon be able to log on to an education site, which will guide you through a self-paced Web-based class. You will be able to choose when and where you take a class, how fast it goes, and how much time you spend in each session. Your progress and assessment can be monitored and CE credits verified electronically for state boards and other interested parties. Classes could include simple reading of texts, as well as audio instruction, live action video, or interactive point and click. CE sites also will include forums to exchange ideas and experiences with other dentists as well as Q&A with instructors.
Y Online software. One of the most exciting ideas is software access via the Internet. For example, you will no longer need to buy a patient education CD. Instead, you will pay a monthly subscription fee which gives you access to the education program on the ?Net. The result will be a program you can customize easily to your office. The software developers will be able to provide instant updates as soon as they are available. In other words, there will be no need to stockpile a large number of program improvements and then release them as a new version. Instead each improvement can be added as soon as it is available.
Imagine what that would mean for practice management software. You would have no installation hassles; the program wouldn?t be installed on your machine. That means no hardware conflicts, no conversion problems, and no data integrity problems. In addition, it would be possible to store practice data in a database format different from the practice management software. You could, in theory, import data to another management system very easily, to a report writer, or to a consultant.
The only computer hooked to the ?Net would be the server. This connection would be a high-speed dedicated line such as a T-1. Each workstation would not need an individual connection, but would connect to the server as they do now with a LAN (local area network). Patients also could access the Web for entertainment, information, or business right from the treatment room.
Y High-speed connections. Several fast Internet connections are available to dental offices. Few offices may need these now but most will very shortly.
There are many variations on these basic setups and prices. Packages can include e-mail and Web site hosting. In some cases, you will be able to reduce phone-line expenses as well, making these high-speed connections more affordable.
The future is coming and it will be amazing!
Connection Speed Cost / Month
Dial Up 56 kbs $ 19.95 + line
ISDN 128 kbs $ 98.95
DSL 256 kbs $ 282.95
T1 1500 kbs $ 1,213.00
Dr. Larry Emmott is a practicing general dentist in Phoenix, Ariz. He also is an entertaining, award-winning professional speaker. He has addressed hundreds of professional groups. He is a featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute, is a member of AADPA. He will be a speaker at Cosmetic Dentistry 2000. He has written many articles for national magazines on dentistry, computer use, and management. He produces a monthly newsletter on management and computer use in the dental office. He has developed and maintains an Internet Web site at www.drlarryemmott.com; his e-mail address is [email protected].