A communications tool

April 1, 2006
“Communications device” is not the first thing that pops into most people’s minds when they think of digital radiography.

“Communications device” is not the first thing that pops into most people’s minds when they think of digital radiography. But since I installed digital X-ray equipment in my office, I’ve found that it’s one of the best and most important tools I have at my command to share information and diagnoses with my team members. It’s also the single most important educational communications tool I have when I’m dealing with patients.

One of the things I like to do when preparing to see patients is to review and organize X-rays and show them to patients to communicate any problems I’ve found. The DEXIS digital radiography system we installed includes a feature called the Presentation Panel. In the privacy of my office, I use the Presentation Panel to gather together any X-rays that I will use to communicate problems to patients.

With this feature, I don’t have to ask the patient to sit in the chair and wait while I click through a dozen or more X-rays to find the one I want. I don’t waste the patient’s time or my own time. I have exactly the X-ray images I need to show the patient. I also often use the Free Draw feature to electronically draw, for instance, a circle around the area of the image I want to concentrate on. This makes patient education friendlier and more effective.

A few weeks ago, I made a presentation to a patient, who then decided to go ahead with my proposed treatment to install a crown. When she accepted my recommendation, I simply forwarded the Presentation Panel to my administrative team electronically. They took advantage of our digital radiography system’s capability to communicate with many dental insurance providers to send the images directly to the patient’s insurance company in support of her claim.

My hygienists and I often communicate using digital X-rays, even when we’re in different parts of the office. Several times a week, I receive text messages via our interoffice messaging system that a hygienist has finished a cleaning and has taken X-rays for a patient. I simply access the X-rays right in my office, review them, and text message back to the hygienist. If there are no problems, I don’t have to interrupt what I’m doing to go to the hygienist and read the X-rays, as I used to have to do with film.

Another aspect of communicating with digital X-rays is the body language that is presented to the patient. When we were a film-based office, I used to huddle over a lightbox with my back to patients as I squinted at tiny film X-rays. The patient was literally shut out of the process. With digital radiography, I am right there beside my patients, involving them directly in my diagnosis as I review their X-rays. Patients are now an important part of the process.

Where film X-rays used to exclude the patient, digital radiography includes the patient. Digital radiography makes it much easier to include everyone in the office in that most important aspect of a dental practice: communications.

Dr. Cynthia Brattesani maintains a private practice in San Francisco. She won the prestigious ADA Golden Apple New Dentist Leadership Award in 1996. She is an enthusiastic member of organized dentistry, having held positions at the local, state, and national levels. You may reach her at [email protected].

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