Using Technology to Enhance, Not Eliminate, Patient Interaction

by Shawn Peers, DentalPeers

My last blog on the legalization of cannabis did alter my recent focus on how technologies, not yet widely used in dentistry, are making their way into our industry. For some, “new” technology is a source of stress. It “de-personalizes” service at a time when offices are trying to emphasize their unique and personal, patient experience.

While this can be a valid concern, technology, itself, may provide part of the solution!

Imagine this… rather than simply developing technology that bypasses human contact and enables machines to communicate with patients, what if the focus was on giving clinicians more time to communicate with them instead.

A dynamic company in Ottawa, Canada, is on the cusp of doing just that. Firstly, they are developing a voice charting system that will reduce the time and human power needed to effectively record vital information about your patient’s oral health.

Secondly, they are also working on a “smart” probe that will digitally measure pocket depth (making measurements more accurate than the average human eye). It will also provide gingival health information, such as the temperature in the pockets, sometimes an early indicator of infection.

Picture the combination of these technologies…charting is made faster and more efficient courtesy of the voice charting system. With the time saved, you have more to spend with the patient, educating them about the state of their oral health… including previously unavailable data collected by the probe.

All the better if that same probe allowed you to save a patient from major periodontal surgery because by detecting elevated gum tissue, you could treat it well before it becomes a major problem. THAT would be a satisfied patient!

And what about checking in with that patient a day later to see how they are feeling? Dentists know they should make these calls, as well as similar calls to new patients the day before their first appointment. But at the end of a physically demanding day, we know those calls are rarely made.

Imagine using text or even a pre-recorded phone call to check in with the patient you treated for that early-stage infection! Some may feel this lacks the personal touch. However, many people prefer to receive a text than a phone call today. This use of technology could be just the type of magic a patient would appreciate. An American developer I know is working on just this very idea.

Once again, the focus is on using technology to enhance your level of patient care and overall patient experience. As with any new ideas, some caution is advised to make sure it is being used effectively. Merely using technology to enable you to treat more patients in a day just commoditizes oral health care. That is something we want to avoid.

But using technology to enhance the patient experience? That is something we should be excited about. The trick in managing your practice is to remain aware of what is coming and start planning how you might use it in your office.