by Mark Stasiulis, DDS
I came down the stairs full of excitement for the future of my practice. I stopped to inform my office manager (my wife) that I had just purchased the new Waterlase hard- and soft-tissue laser for $56,000, which I put on our Visa card. The look on her face tempered my excitement for a moment. With a deep breath, and in my most scholarly voice, I informed her that I had done the math and this was going to work. We needed this technology to move into minimally invasive dentistry. The monthly payment was $894. She gave me that look (those of you who work with your wife know what I’m talking about).
Then I went into my closing statement: “Donna, I have it worked out. I only need to do one $45 procedure a day that I could not have performed if I did not have the laser to cover the payment.”
She had been there before with other technology investments, and it always seemed to work out. She thought about it, threw a pad of paper at me, and said, “Keep track.”
After two days of presenting her with the list of additional procedures, she said, “Forget it ... have fun.”
That was six years and three lasers ago.
The decision to implement new technology into a practice is one that every dentist will face. There are three questions we must answer on all technology investments:
1) Does the product fulfill a need in your practice? The need could be an increase in production, decrease in costs, improvement on an existing system, marketing, etc. Once you have identified the current or future need, you can assess the impact that the new technology would have on your practice by performing a needs analysis survey. For example, run a report that shows production by procedure. This will identify the areas of least or nonexistent production in your practice by ADA code. With increased demand for cosmetic services, an area of low production is gingival recontouring or one-to-three-tooth gingivectomy/gingivoplasty. If you are not performing these procedures, you must determine why. It may be that you are not able to accomplish these procedures quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively in your practice. Laser-assisted dentistry has made this type of treatment easy, predictable, and economically beneficial for the practice.
2) Does the technology perform as promoted by the company? You will find that the developers of new technologies deliver products that have been engineered and tested to support their claims. They will be able to provide you with technical data as backup. Existing users can support the claims of the manufacturer regarding features, benefits, learning curve, training, and overall satisfaction.
3) Will investment in the technology pay for itself? There are many ways to look at return on investment (ROI). I try to break it down to a simple test. Can this technology cover its daily cost by an increase in production that I would not have been able to perform if I did not have access to it? It’s that simple! I take my anticipated monthly payment for the proposed technology and then divide it by the average number of days it will be used each month. This gives me my per diem cost and my daily target. Can I identify and treat a procedure every day to cover that cost? Once I have accomplished this goal, the rest of the day is spent delivering increased profitability for the practice. Here’s an example:
Monthly payment divided by average days per month worked = cost per day
$1,700 / 20 days = $85 per day to use the laser
Basically one additional procedure per day will pay for the laser.
Eighteen percent of dentists will buy lasers this year. The majority of the profession will continue to kick tires and put off decisions for another year. For those of you who realize the impact that lasers can have in your practice, the decision is simple. About $85 a day!
Dr. Mark Stasiulis graduated from Loyola University School of Dentistry. He lectures, writes, and teaches courses on basic and advanced laser assisted dentistry. He is currently on the faculty of the World Clinical Laser Institute, and works in the areas of practice management, technology development, and testing. You may contact Dr. Stasiulis at email@example.com.