It was right around this time in 2018, I presented before a group of dentists and office managers in Ottawa. Most of them were 45 years of age and older. The topic: technology that many experts predicted would become commonplace in dental offices by 2020.
I was not presenting on cutting edge, futuristic technology that day! This was not technology that was still just part of the imagination or the dental version of Steve Jobs. Everything that I presented on already existed and was being used, either in dentistry or other industries.
For example, most of us were using smartphones to check in for flights and get our boarding passes. Why not fill out any medical forms a dental office needs using similar technology? At most, why not register your arrival on a touch screen similar to what you see at most major airports already?
As for scheduling appointments, software such as Calendly was already widely used to schedule meetings outside of dentistry. Businesses such as LocalMed already existed to bring that technology into the dental world. Why wouldn’t it become more popular as time passed?
Their reaction to my presentation was interesting. These dentists and office managers hoped that I somehow had the power to at least delay the spread of this technology!
Approximately 6 weeks later, I gave the same presentation to a company that was working on developing technology solutions in dentistry. For the most part, this was a younger group and, obviously, much more tech savvy.
What was their reaction? Why can’t they use this technology in dentistry already!
What an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, the old, dental guard, clinging to a business model that was more familiar to them and with which they were more comfortable. On the other hand, the newer patient demanding new technologies they felt gave them greater control over their relationship with their dental office.
Since that presentation, the little matter of the pandemic has certainly changed everything. Obviously, the immediate impact had dental offices focusing on short term survival. Getting PPE was more vital than implementing new, touch-less technology!
One year later and the pandemic is still not over. However, people are thinking more and more about their lives in a post-pandemic world. And a quicker adoption of technology looks like it will be an important part of that world.
Patients want to see technology in your office they feel will keep them safe. Filling out paper forms on clipboards and with pens that have been touched by others does not fit the bill. They want that available on their computers and/or smartphones. Being busy working from home (another new trend?), they don’t want to wait until the next day to schedule an appointment with you. They want to do it online at a time that works for them.
Patients are going to expect new technology and, with it, new ways of doing things. That means offices will not only need to invest in the equipment itself, they will need to take time to learn how to best integrate that equipment into their systems to ensure the best return on their investments. Policies and practices of the past may have to be updated. Team members may require new training. You will have to invest time as well as money to maximize the impact.
Remember…you will need to create policies that integrate the human touch into your practice at the same time as you embrace technology. One other thing we have certainly learned from all the pandemic isolation is how much we crave that human touch. Making these adjustments is not merely about removing the human element and replacing it with a digital alternative. It is about harmonizing human compassion with technological safety standards.
When you consider the additional work involved, the apprehension of those managers and dentists is understandable. New technology will bring about change and we all know that is not always a popular development.
But the pandemic has accelerated change! Perhaps more importantly, it has accelerated the demand for change! Patients expect it! Now it is up to you to plan for it, adapt to it and put it to work for you.
About the Author
Shawn Peers is the President of DentalPeers. DentalPeers is one of Canada’s oldest, continuous operating buying groups exclusively for dentists.