Improving office workflow

Sept. 1, 2005
You’ll discover when you install digital radiography that the workflow in your office changes significantly for the better.

You’ll discover when you install digital radiography that the workflow in your office changes significantly for the better. You’ll have fewer interruptions, work more efficiently, and you and your patients will waste less time.

Before we installed our digital X-ray system, a typical new-patient exam took about an hour. One of the big bottlenecks in our new-patient exam was taking film X-rays. Typically, it took 15 to 20 minutes to develop and mount a full-mouth series for new patients - that is, if we didn’t need to retake an X-ray that wasn’t satisfactory.

Now, because digital radiography enables us to instantly display each X-ray as it is taken, we don’t waste darkroom time. A typical one-hour, new-patient exam now takes about 40 to 45 minutes, thanks to the more efficient workflow brought about by our digital radiography system.

This improved efficiency gives dentists new options. Many dentists schedule shorter new-patient exams and use the time saved to schedule additional patients.

The possibility I chose, however, is to spend that time with patients and focus on more thorough patient care and education. The improved efficiency has enabled me to better realize the primary goal of my dental practice philosophy: to best and most completely serve my patients’ needs.

I’ve mentioned that with digital radiography, dentists don’t need to wait for X-rays to develop before they can find problems. This results in another workflow benefit I wouldn’t have realized was possible before I went digital. When reviewing X-ray film, I sometimes found that we missed an apex or overlapped a bitewing. This meant I had to interrupt reviewing the X-rays while we took and developed a new image.

That doesn’t happen with digital radiography. ­Every time I review X-rays, I see a perfect set because my ­assistants and hygienists know immediately if the sensor isn’t placed correctly. If there is a problem, they can retake the image immediately and discard the one that isn’t correct. That saves much time and minor inconveniences. I no longer have to interrupt a task more than once if the images aren’t up to spec.

The improved workflow and efficiency is especially important in an emergency exam. First, time is important. No patient wants to sit in pain for seven or eight minutes while we develop a film X-ray. With digital, the image is available immediately.

Second, with digital, there’s no problem if someone complains about pain on the lower right and you aren’t sure if it’s a pre-molar or molar. Because digital radiography exposes the patient to up to 90 percent less radiation, we don’t hesitate taking two radiographs if necessary.

Third, along with better care comes increased trust from patients. Time is their currency, and they appreciate that you respect their time and make their visits more efficient.

With our DEXIS® digital radiography system, hygienists and assistants never have to leave patients alone in operatories while they develop film. They don’t waste patients’ or other team members’ time. Digital radiography improves the workflow of our practice. Now we can give better and more attentive care to our patients.

Dr. Cynthia Brattesani maintains a private practice in San Francisco. She was awarded 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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