High-tech Has Arrived In Dentistry

April 1, 1996
It is incredible how much computers have changed our lives in such a short time. It seems like just yesterday that you had a computer only if you were rich, and if you did have one, you didn`t know what to do with it.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA

It is incredible how much computers have changed our lives in such a short time. It seems like just yesterday that you had a computer only if you were rich, and if you did have one, you didn`t know what to do with it.

Today, you should use a computer to streamline your life. As computers continue to permeate virtually every aspect of our lives, their development has only accelerated. The computer industry continues to steadily introduce smaller, better and faster machines at a mind-boggling pace. As computer technology continues to evolve, the dental practice must change along with it.

Computer Maturity

The computer industry has matured in two general areas-speed and convenience. A few years ago, computers were not very fast and were difficult to use. Today, computers are both quick and extremely user-friendly.

Despite improvements in both of these areas, many people still are intimidated by computers and are convinced that they cannot use one. Because many dentists and dental-office managers share this feeling of frustration, they are currently operating their practice without the benefit of a computer or are not using their computer to its fullest capacity.

While you do not need a computer to achieve a profitable dental practice, it is very difficult for a modern practice to reach its full potential without one. In other words, if you want your practice to be the best it can be, you need a computer and you need to use it wisely.

Computers Are for Everyone

Of course, simply having a computer will not increase your profit margin. Knowing how to use it will. This is not a talent. The world is not divided into people who have a computer gene and people who do not. Using a computer today is simply a matter of spending a couple of hours learning how. Once you know how your computer works, you can learn to use it to help your practice grow.

As the dentist, you should not be involved in day-to-day practice-management operations. You should be spending your time where you are most effective-in the operatory. That`s why each member of your front-office staff must know how to use a computer. Anyone can learn to use one, so make sure that each staff member is trained properly.

Computers provide your dental team with the opportunity to increase productivity. Do not let intimidation prevent your staff from reaching their potential.

Tracking Your Services

Although computers can benefit your practice in numerous ways, such as scheduling and office management, perhaps the greatest use of a computer is tracking.

Many dental practices aspire only to fill the schedule everyday. However, to maximize production, you should focus on filling your schedule with the most productive procedures. To do this, you will need to track what services you are performing and how much revenue each produces every month as a percentage of overall income.

You also will need to keep track of the percentage of patients accepting each service you offer and how many resources each service requires; for example: doctor and staff time.

This information should be tracked on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. After you track the information for a while, you will be able to see patterns that can help you to identify those procedures that are most profitable in your practice. A computer is essential to track this detailed information. Not only will you be able to store a great deal of information quickly and easily, you will be able to compare your data and retrieve it rapidly. However, you still need to understand all of the key statistics and how to analyze them.

This is one of the core concepts used to develop our dental practice-management-consulting program. Your time in the office is limited. Therefore, after you completely fill your schedule, there is no way to increase production without tracking the individual procedures you perform. You simply cannot add any more time to your day.

You must determine, then, which services are more productive for your practice and focus on these services to increase your production per hour. Increasing your production per hour is the only way to increase your overall yearly production.

This is what transforms a busy, nonprofitable practice into a profitable, growing practice that reaches its full potential.

Dr. Roger Levin is founder and president of The Levin Group, a national, dental-management and marketing-consulting firm. He can be reached at 410-486-1089.

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