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In a busy dental office, any equipment that speeds along procedures is a welcome addition. Going digital with imaging as well as patient records is a tremendous time-saver. Take radiographs, for example. Your assistants don’t waste time developing film or with retakes — a quality image appears on the screen instantly. For midprocedure X-rays, particularly with implants and endo, compare the “click-and-it-appears-on-the-screen” of digital to 1) stop the procedure, 2) take an X-ray, 3) put it in the developer, 4) hope it’s good, and if it’s not, 5) take it again.
For speeding up production, my DEXIS Hub is amazing. In one place (the Hub), we store each patient’s radiographs in chronological order — periapicals and bitewings as well as digital pano, and all of our photos from the patient’s complete oral examination, as well as shade matching, shade progress, and bleaching. Cosmetic treatments include a photo of the patient’s mockup, and for cosmetic imaging, I put my own Lorin Library for Cosmetic Imaging up on the screen. We can quickly import the mockup pictures into DEXIS and even e-mail them to patients directly from the image screen.
Patients accept treatment more quickly when they are fully informed and involved. Although we can offer hard copies, we typically e-mail patients a full series of intraoral and full-face photographs and a short personal note of thanks. The easily accessible pictures will certainly reinforce any treatment recommendations. With e-mail, we don’t have to 1) write a letter, 2) print up the pictures, 3) mail the photos, and 4) wonder if they got it. This costs a fortune in ink, paper, and postage, and even worse, it eats up a lot of time.
Digital technology speeds up the case acceptance process. For potential cosmetic patients, we e-mail the “before” images and mockups to keep the treatment plan on their minds. After treatment, we send the “before” and “after” images so they can click and send them to all their friends. When patients return after treatment, the first thing they see on the monitor is their “before” picture, so they don’t forget what we did for them. It’s like people can’t remember pain, or no one would have babies again. I once had a patient tell me that she burned all of her previous pictures, but she didn’t get to my digital ones!
Digital documentation saves time for the front office. In today’s litigious society, digital documentation can help keep you out of trouble. If a question arises, you don’t want to be scrambling around in a filing cabinet looking for lost X-rays and photos. Digital images are safe and sound on the hard drive.
Now for the insurance companies ... It’s difficult for them to allege that we didn’t send the X-rays and claims when we e-mail them. If they can’t find them, we can send them again, instantly. Even better, now we can keep the patient informed. After patients get frustrated complaining to an anonymous person at an insurance company, they sometimes take it out on my office team. But when we can show what we filed and when, they realize who the real culprit is for any delays. Having easy access to these digital records certainly increases patient satisfaction, and in the long run helps keep my patients loyal.
For increasing productivity, digital technology is a given. In the operatory, at the front desk, for referring to specialists, and for better communication with insurance companies and especially our patients, digital imaging and recordkeeping saves time. When you’re running all these bases, digital is a home run.
Dr. Lorin Berland is an internationally acclaimed cosmetic dentist and one of the most published authorities in the professional dental and general media. Dr. Berland, a Fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, is the co-creator of the Lorin Library Smile Style Guide, www.denturewearers.com, and is the founder of Arts District Dentistry, a multidoctor specialty practice in Dallas that pioneered the concept of spa dentistry.