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HOW TO PROFIT —Era of digital clinical communication is upon us

Aug. 1, 2001
The inevitability of the Internet and its power to transform cannot be denied.

by Jean A. Sagara

The inevitability of the Internet and its power to transform cannot be denied. Web tools have become easier to use, and dental practices are more connected. Online communications for clinical and business transactions are accelerating beyond their current level. Recurring frustrations with software are disappearing as the Web and secure servers replace the more traditional software that users have struggled with in the past.

The Web is teaching that technology can empower with new sophistication and with unexpected ease. So much is groundbreaking, really, that only imagination and a capacity to tolerate change will limit our reach. A new medium is emerging for how information will be shared, archived, and accessed. Dentists are embracing this truth in greater numbers as they explore the full richness of the Web to improve both patient care and practice success. The era of digital clinical communication is upon us.

Transcend, Inc., is a company that makes information more useful using the platform of the Internet with its own suite of proprietary Web tools. It markets these tools to dentists, dental labs, dental schools, and dental suppliers and manufacturers. Transcend is a vertical application service provider offering products designed by a dentist for dentists. Using secure architecture, it develops, hosts, and markets these Web-enabled software tools to support clinical and business communications on the Internet.

It is really simple. First, the Internet provides the universally accessible platform. There are no difficult hardware configuration issues or maintenance headaches. Second, Transcend supplies the Web-enabled services, allowing subscribers to perform clinical transactions on smart forms designed with simple work flows. The result allows authorized users to begin and complete tasks in minutes for important patient-care matters such as:

  • Online dental laboratory prescriptions
  • Online patient referrals
  • Online cosmetic imaging
  • Online consultation and management
  • Online clinical research studies
  • Online clinical or business document distribution

The tools that have been developed accommodate information in text, data, or image format. These e-process communications are accessible immediately and are constructed with specific fields required. The information produced is timely and complete, encouraging decisions that serve patients well and improve practice effectiveness.

Here are some products currently marketed by Transcend, Inc.:

  • TransLab™ and Dentist Rx Online™ — a family of online laboratory prescription products that links the dental school and the dentist respectively to the dental laboratory, creating greater institutional controls and practice-management efficiencies
  • TransNet™ — a multimedia networking product that enables peer-to-peer or work-group communications for patient-care referrals, collaboration, and research
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Let's take a closer look at the online laboratory services: TransLab™ for dental schools and specialty institutions, as well as Dentist Rx Online™ for dentists and their labs. TransLab™ is introduced into school curriculum and clinical networks. A new standard is emerging for how students execute clinical tasks, how laboratory transactions can occur nearly error-free, and how clinical management can be facilitated for geographically dispersed patients. With 25 percent of the domestic dental schools committed to this new program to date, and additional institutions adopting the same technology, TransLab™ is dramatically shaping the future of online clinical communications in dentistry.

It is important to point out that TransLab™ is mandated as the single method for laboratory prescription execution at participating dental schools. This means that consistent standards of excellence, not to mention administrative efficiencies, will be realized even further. Because of its intuitive work-flow design, the application produces accurate and complete online and printed prescriptions with attached images in less than one minute. Since certain authorization and reporting features are built into the tool, TransLab™ gives institutions improved control over financial management.

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In an important sense, adoption of TransLab™ by dental schools marks a dramatic departure in the way dental medicine has been taught. It also represents a telling commitment on the part of the schools to embrace and lead change. The schools recognize their responsibility to advance the quality of dental care through more innovative approaches. They also face mounting challenges as students arrive on campus as facile users of technology. Last, the schools face the same challenges as other organizations to keep infrastructure current. Transforming portions of a clinical curriculum into an interactive, online clinical service frees the schools to continue their core competencies. To their credit, dental schools are bringing the future into their present and making connectivity an integral part of their cultures. With this daring move, they are changing the dynamic of teaching forever.

Outside of the dental school environment, Dentist Rx Online™ is the dentist-centric laboratory management system. This is essentially the same online transaction tool, just adapted for the dentist and the dental practice. Dental laboratories can become online participants with their dentists and benefit from direct connectivity. Dentists also can work with their labs to establish uniformity for their scripting and consistency with their communication. Because Dentist Rx Online™ uses smart-form technology, the work flow is virtually second nature.

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Dentist Rx Online™ allows the dentist to track all lab cases, associate lab costs per case, document cases with images, inventory study models, generate reports, and complete legible scripts. By addressing administrative, quality assurance, and financial issues, the dentist now has an easy management tool for the practice that can also be a stand-alone management tool. At a minimum, by using the tool in this fashion, the dentist produces legible and complete hard-copy scripts easily understood by the lab.

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On the other hand, when the full potential of the product is realized, and the dentist has persuaded a laboratory to be online, the benefits to both are enhanced even further. When the participating lab is online, it is automatically notified of each new case. This gives the lab an opportunity to anticipate pickups, organize production schedules, and manage supply inventories even better. Labs can immediately view clients' prescriptions online or respond interactively using the tool's two-way communications in the form of online comments or shared images.

Because Dentist Rx Online™ is a multimedia product, dentists can engage in online image sharing with the laboratory. This improves dentist-to-technician communication, particularly in areas relating to shape, color, translucency, texture, and luster. The image-sharing feature also permits both dentist and lab to view and discuss work in progress.

Legible case instructions are an inherent feature to Dentist Rx Online™ and greatly reduce the need for telephone tag with the lab. They also cut down on reworks or complete and costly remakes. In addition to the Image Upload feature, Transcend has developed the technology to attach audio files, documents, PowerPoint presentations, and video clips.

A secure, feature-rich, subscription-based service that sits on the Web, Dentist Rx Online™ works independent of a dentist's practice-management software.

Here are some of the key features Dentist Rx Online™ brings to a dental practice:

  • Eliminates paper and manual lab-tracking systems
  • Creates complete, legible lab instructions and specifications
  • Enhances lab scripts with documented images
  • Generates reports specific to the dentist's needs
  • Tracks lab costs and associates them to case and type of service
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Transcend is also marketing a work group networking tool called TransNet™. TransNet™ is a secure, multimedia product used in clinical practice or for other communication and collaborative purposes. Its primary use is for consultation and referral. A user subscribes to the service, is registered, and then sets up an address book which governs other individuals with whom communications and interactions are expected to occur. Then it permits information sharing by permission to one or several people in that authorized work group. They might be participating in a research project to field-test a product. They might have to document their findings on standardized forms. Rather than use hard copies and transmit them to a central office by fax or snail mail, these same research participants become registered users of TransNet™ and begin to use this tool to capture, organize, archive, and access all types of information. TransNet™ permits data, text, and images to be shared and hosted on servers using secure database architecture.

Consultation and referral may be the most frequent use of TransNet™. General dentists refer to specialists as often as five times a week. In the more traditional manner (phone, fax, and snail mail), records get lost, fail to arrive at the office before the patient, and can generally be a cumbersome office-management issue. Care is certainly compromised when appointments must be rescheduled or information is incomplete and the treatment plan delayed. TransNet™ permits real-time, interactive, secure communication between doctors. Simply stated, it facilitates online referrals including images, X-rays, data, and text. The result is improved customer satisfaction without lost records, telephone tag, and discontinuous service to the patient. Both dentists — the referring general dentist and the specialist — have the opportunity to improve outcomes and build new businesses. As a practice-builder, it allows specialists to increase their referral base through improved customer service. They are likely to stimulate more business from existing customers than from new ones by providing their current base with value-added services.

Here are some key features of TransNet™:

  • Simple forms with multimedia documents captured, organized, and shared
  • A new medium for connectivity, community, and care enhancements
  • A communications tool that overcomes geography, organizations, and infrastructure
  • A virtual referral network to broaden a practice's reach

Last, a word about an area of growing interest to all dentists — cosmetic dentistry. All of Transcend's proprietary applications offer an Online Cosmetic Imaging Service to subscribers. Before-and-after images help increase case acceptance. Cosmetic Imaging creates the right expectations for patients. The service increases both a dentist's and a laboratory's total units per month, thereby generating increased top-line revenues for both. For the dentist who struggles to deliver this cosmetic imaging service in the office, switching to the online service can be a turning point. The typical problems associated with office-installed equipment and software maintenance, together with staff training, just disappear.

To learn more about these products and to understand how you can make your information more useful by using emerging Web technology, visit Transcend, Inc., at www.transcendo, or call (877) 411-0400 and ask for Jean Sagara or Dr. Steven Rinaldi. Emails can be sent to srinaldi@transcendon There is a free introductory period for Dentist Rx Online™ and TransNet™.

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