Steve Lynch, DMD
The modern office often is equipped with high-tech systems that make dental practice more efficient. From computerized office management systems to CAD/CAM restorations to laser-fluorescence caries detection, the new equipment gives us greater flexibility and greater control over treatment. However, the benefits these systems provide can come at the expense of the personal touch.
One high-tech system in our office not only improves the ability to diagnose and manage problems, it also actually improves our personal patient contact. I'm speaking of the DEXIS™ digital radiography system that's been a fixture in my practice for some five years.
Patient confidence is one of the cornerstones of the personal touch in dentistry. In our practice it all begins with a tour of the office for every new patient. Our digital radiography system is one of the high points of the tour. Patients tell us without exception that getting a first glimpse of what this wonderful technology can do is an enormous confidence booster. Typical comments include, "I was so impressed by your X-ray system. It just made me feel like you had my interests at heart and were going to be able to get the job done.
That confidence — and the personal touch — are only enhanced when patients get their first look at their own X-rays. Here, of course, you get the Wow! factor. That's what patients usually say when that large, clear digital image pops up on the computer screen. But the personal touch goes far beyond that. It extends to involving patients personally in their treatment options. With our DEXIS digital radiography system, patients don't have to take my word for what's on the X-ray. They can see precisely the problems I identify, and I can use magnification and color to enhance the image and bring out problem areas more clearly. Patient involvement in the diagnosis and treatment processes is another key to the personal touch.
The added efficiency that digital radiography brings improves our ability to provide a personal touch for our patients. Prior to our going digital, the assistant or hygienist who was took a full-mouth series had to leave the patient to go to the developer room and process the film. For a full-mouth series, this is often a lengthy job, taking as much as 45 minutes. During this time, the patient usually sat in a chair, catching up on a magazine or newspaper. Many film-based offices still schedule two separate appointments, the first for taking the X-rays, the second for discussing treatment. Neither of these is the friendliest or most attentive way to treat patients.
We've actually had to learn how to manage our office's increased efficiency since we installed our DEXIS digital radiography system. For the first few months, we forgot to modify our scheduling to take it into account the additional free time we had. Even though we could now complete a full-mouth series in about 20 minutes (as opposed to more than an hour with film), we hadn't taken into account the productivity gains, and patients still sat around unattended. We finally revamped our scheduling so that once a full-mouth series was complete, we were ready to go ahead immediately with my diagnosis.
Now, with digital radiography, our patients are rarely without the direct attention of either a team member or myself. Patients feel as though we truly care for them. Digital radiography reinforces the personal touch that is so important in maintaining your patient base, and gives patients confidence that their best interests are the reasons you're in practice.
In our case, DEXIS digital radiography translates into our spending more "quality time" with our patients, and that translates directly into our being able to provide the personal touch in a way we simply couldn't before.
Steve P. Lynch, DMD, is in private practice in Oxford, Ala. Since 1995, he has been teaching dentists, team members, dental students, and faculty the applications of lasers and digital radiography. You may reach Dr. Lynch by email at [email protected], or visit his Web site at www.lynchdmd.com for more information.