Paul Feuerstein, DMD
Over the years, I have presented cases to patients by drawing wonderful pictures of teeth on scraps of paper, Rx pads, or whatever was accessible at the time. I am very proud of my artwork - sometimes done in three colors! The patients politely nod and - after being bored to tears - relent to the treatment.
Computer-based patient education and imaging products have changed that. In my office, we initially put computers armed with CAESY and Communident in the hygiene rooms. Both products have an animated "slide show" that the patients see while they are having radiographs taken or sitting idly waiting for a doctor check. Some offices run these programs in waiting rooms or other areas based on practice philosophies. The shows can be customized and, although the monitor is obscured during the bulk of the visit, the patients sometimes see and ask about a procedure that flashed in front of them. The procedures in question can then be detailed by showing a more elaborate module and pointing out professionally taken images, many with a voice-over.
If there is a specific area of need, the intraoral and/or hand-held camera can have even more impact. The Polaroid Macro 5 or a digital camera can give patients an instant look at their own version of the problems they noted on the education programs. You can draw on the Polaroids or point out details on the computer monitor (noting the Polaroid can be scanned instantly), and you also can use an "imaging" product on the spot.
Once you have the images, you must present them to the patient. This can be done with simple prints of the before-and-after pictures on plain or glossy paper, sometimes placed in simple frames. However, some dentists have used such presentation products as PowerPoint, a CD, or even an Internet version of the entire presentation. Softdent has just introduced PowerCase, which automates this process. A lot will depend on the style and "gift of gab" of the individual dentist or, in some offices, the treatment coordinator.
Making it all work is a little more complex than installing the software. The computers must be capable of handling the products and, with imaging, you may need more memory (RAM) and a very good video card. If your intraoral camera will be connected to the computer, you may need a "video capture card" (check with the manufacturer first).
When using CAESY through the computer, you might have to install a DVD player in the system. Digital photos must be downloaded to the computer, which means you will need a transfer device in any location you take the photos, unless your camera uses floppy disks or CD-Rs.
The popular dental-imaging products come with a capture module that allows you to put the images into a file. Of course, the imaging software should be able to integrate with the practice-management software, and you will have to check with both companies to see who will be responsible for the installation and integration. It is important that the images or photos you take are placed in the patient's file for future retrieval or you could end up with multiple patient databases. As a word of caution, I have seen many situations where the office begins using a product, but does not get proper installation or training and ultimately abandons it. In some situations, a third-party coordinator should be called in to help with the smooth integration of the products and flow for the practice.
One final note: I recently saw a demo of a new Sony "monitor" called Glasstron. Although I have seen similar devices, this is a large $500 pair of goggles which, when worn, reproduces a 52-inch TV screen as seen from 61/2 feet away. Of course, the dentist in me thought of patient education and intraoral images. The obvious alternate use is entertainment and distraction. Just connect it to the video or DVD player, put on a movie, and the patient has something to do while you prepare those 16 veneers.
With this column, I am trying to give you a taste of what is possible, and I hope to detail these concepts and ideas in future issues. If you have any useful ideas in this realm, please forward them to me at the e-mail address below.
Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers when he placed a system in his office in 1978, and he has been fascinated by the technology ever since. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions in New England, including annual appearances at the Yankee Dental Congress, and has been a part of the ADA's Technology Day since its inception. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site (www. computersindentistry.com) and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.