Larry Emmott, DDS
Universal Serial Bus (USB) is a newer and better way to transfer digital information to and from a computer. In dentistry, USB can be used as a connection for digital X-rays, digital camera images, scanners, or even as a printer, mouse, or monitor port. New USB devices are being developed all the time and we will see some remarkable new USB devices in the near future.
The advantages of USB are fast data transport, wider bandwidth (more data at one time), universal connections to many different devices, and the ability to attach multiple devices to a single port using a hub or daisy chain. This feature will be very useful in the treatment room, as it will allow us to have a central port to plug in the various clinical peripherals. In other words, you could plug in a digital X-ray sensor, a digital camera, a computerized probe, voice input device, a blood pressure monitor, and more to a single panel placed on a wall or cabinet close to the chair.
Most new PCs come equipped with a USB connection. USB can be added to older machines for well under $100, if they have a free PCI slot. Win98 already supports USB. WinNT and Win95 do not. Win95 can be updated, but it is a convoluted process that does not always work well. If you plan to use USB, your best bet is to upgrade to Win98 or the new Win2000 when it comes out later this year.
Digital Video Disk
Digital Video Disk (DVD) is an expanded disk format that allows users to cram up to six CDs onto a single disk. It hit the stores last year as a new, interactive entertainment device for watching and even interacting with movies. The expanded storage capacity allows for multiple movies with subtitles, alternate endings, and other stuff on a single disk.
It is a promising technology, but so far the public has been luke-warm. DVD entertainment systems have not sold as expected. Some computer manufacturers are offering DVD drives as an option. However, if you want to make your own DVD, it is ridiculously expensive ($17,000) for a DVD drive that writes to the disk. So, for now, it is not a practical storage medium.
Incompatibility is an even bigger problem. Hewlett Packard, Phillips, and Sony are all sponsoring different and incompatible DVD formats. Standards are bound to shake out in the future, but, in the meantime, if you buy into DVD and the format you choose loses out, you could be beta-maxed. In the dental office, don`t be too quick to jump to DVD. Wait a year and it could be a great buy.
Thumbprint readers, retinal scanners, and other biometric high-tech security gadgets are moving from the James Bond top-secret field to more common everyday business uses. These devices have been in use for some time in government and corporate offices requiring a high level of security. In the future, we may see them used as log-on devices or even as chart identifiers.
For example, a fingerprint reader could be used in place of a log-on password to prevent unauthorized use of a computer. Or it could even be used in the future as a way for staff people to clock into a computer-based time-clock system. We may see biometric scanners used at banks, ATMs, or other places where positive identification is important.
Another future use of these devices will be to take the place of signatures. True paperless charts won`t be possible as long as we need signed health histories and consent forms. Biometrics will be a way of electronically signing any critical information that should be impossible to forge. This kind of biometric electronic signature will be useful in any business transaction requiring a signature.
The future is coming and it will be amazing.
Dr. Larry Emmott is a practicing general dentist in Phoenix, Ariz. He is also an entertaining, award-winning professional speaker. He has addressed hundreds of professional groups. He is a featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute, is a member of AADPA. He will be a speaker at Cosmetic Dentistry 2000. He has written many articles for national magazines on dentistry, computer use, and management. He produces a monthly newsletter on management and computer use in the dental office. He has developed and maintains an Internet Web site at www.drlarryemmott.com; his e-mail address is [email protected].