Navigating Your New Dental Technology Investment

Making a significant new investment in your practice is exciting, but it also can be intimidating. And right now – with everyone still adapting to new routines and updated ways of delivering services – might not seem like the ideal moment. However, it’s never the wrong time to think about where you want to take your business next, and the value of careful planning for goals, contingencies and growth is greater now than ever. With the right approach, advice and assistance, expanding your practice with intelligent technology choices might be less painful than you think.

Have a guiding star to steer your decisions

If there is one lesson 2020 has to offer, it is that no one can see the future. Nevertheless, having a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your practice – not just about revenue, but for your patients, staff and even yourself – is the first step toward successfully implementing new solutions. Do you need new software to help streamline communication with patients and make scheduling more efficient? Do you aspire to the surgical standard of care afforded by a dental laser? Do you want to add CAD/CAM services to improve patient satisfaction and practice efficiency by enabling comprehensive, single-visit care? And how will you recognize success when you see it?

Exploring these ideas in a vacuum can be challenging, particularly when the technology is one with which the practice has no prior experience. Consulting with expert service providers who can help you analyze your practice’s current services and future goals can be invaluable as you create a blueprint for successful decisions and integration. “It starts with a conversation,” said Amy Atkinson, a CAD/CAM specialist with Patterson Dental. “I ask my customers questions about the services their office currently offers and what their goals are initially as well as long term, and actively listen to their answers. Once I have a feel for the vision of the practice, I guide them to the technology that fits their needs.”

Get the team on board

Planning for change and supporting staff members through that change is another vital point in alleviating potential practice pain. Resistance to change – whether it’s workflow, integration or training for new roles and responsibilities – is a natural reaction to moving out of a comfort zone and seeing the potential for loss or failure, and everyone responds differently. Some staff members may welcome a new piece of equipment as a learning opportunity, while others may focus on the discomfort of doing something different. Open and clear two-way communication about rationales and priorities can help everyone on the team understand what the ultimate goal is and what it means for them personally.

Having a professional partner can be of immense value in these sometimes-difficult situations. “Patterson knows that it is important to reassure our customers that we put people first,” Atkinson said. “We shine as a technology partner and will be there to educate and support every step of the way. Working with CAD/CAM technology, in particular, requires a paradigm shift. By embracing and learning new technology, team members grow their skill sets and become even greater assets to the practice.”

Enjoy the journey

Not everything involving change has to be a challenge. In fact, according to Atkinson, the assumed difficulty associated with adopting new technology is often mistakenly exaggerated, whereas the reality of learning can be fun. And starting the process with enthusiasm and energy can help power the whole team to success. Being secure in the desired outcome – the “why” – can give you the confidence to explain it clearly, passionately and convincingly. When all team members understand why a change is important – indeed, necessary – their commitment to using it to its fullest potential will strengthen.

“Team members come to feel that they have increased value and transferrable knowledge,” Atkinson explained, “and they feel pride in the clinical outcome because of the important role they’ve played. And sometimes you have a situation where the doctor is having so much fun with the new technology that the assistant ends up competing for time to use it!”

With the right approach, advice and assistance, expanding your practice with intelligent technology choices might be less painful than you think.

Bring your patients along

When the new equipment is visible to the patient – as in a CAD/CAM system, for example – keep in mind that staff acceptance affects patient acceptance. External marketing aside, team members who are enthusiastic about the learning curve of new technology make great advocates during patient interactions. Distilling the benefits of any new procedure into an “elevator speech” that team members can deliver with real conviction is a true asset, especially when the practice is trying to build clientele for new service offerings, such as orthodontic appliances or implants.

“CAD/CAM is all about alleviating the pain points for the patient and providing the most clinically accurate, positive experience in one visit,” Atkinson said. “So many of my customers tell me that once they take the leap to CAD/CAM, they can’t imagine practicing without it!”

Chart the hazards

In every new situation, it’s inevitable that you don’t know what you don’t know. No matter how many times you’ve taken steps to grow your practice, every new acquisition comes with new potential pitfalls and difficulties unique to your situation. So, planning for success also means planning for failure and what to do if things go wrong. It also is key to handle the short-term impact of things going right, such as schedule changes to allow time for new procedures (e.g., manufacturing crowns).

Doing the necessary homework helps you know where possible pain points are and learn from others’ mistakes as much as possible before repeating them yourself. Talking to fellow clinicians who have already adopted the technology you are considering can help in this regard, but even so, they can only speak to one experience and one system. Engaging a professional service partner whose business it is to oversee, advise and ensure the successful installation and maintenance of a variety of systems tailored to individual practice needs and goals can help you steer around obstacles whether you know they’re there or not.

“It’s important to discuss the technology already in the practice,” Atkinson said. “For example, if you have a Planmeca CBCT and are running Romexis software, then it makes sense to have a CAD/CAM system that integrates with this existing technology. That’s why having a partner like Patterson is so important; we guide you through all of it with our world-class support and implementation.”

Set sail

With a well-chosen partner in the process, the “how” of installation should, in fact, be one of the least painful steps in getting your new system up and running. Make this one easy on yourself and your staff and let the experts do it! Patterson Dental’s professional resources encompass everyone from highly skilled service technicians to technical advisors for one-on-one integration training to doctor-mentors who can provide peer-to-peer support. And with the Patterson Technology Center’s 500 employees a mere phone call away, questions can be answered, the learning curve minimized and the practice fully supported every step of the way.

A successful voyage

So, at the end of the process, what does success look like? The details, of course, will depend on your goals, but increased efficiency is a perennial marker of accomplishment. From reduced chair time that improves the patient experience and frees up schedule commitments to better workflow, enhanced efficiency contributes to the bottom line. Partnering with a proven service provider can help you get there as smoothly as possible. As Atkinson explained, “It’s important to have a trusted partner. The Patterson Dental team has the knowledge to analyze your business and uncover the return on investment. We are the best at implementing technology, and we are committed to long-term partnerships based on the success of our customers.”

Selected references

5 tips for managing change in the workplace. Robert Half. March 31, 2020. online. 

8 ways to manage change in the workplace effectively. Lindenberger Group. January 17, 2018. 

Anderson T. Staying ahead of the curve: Advice for owning a thriving, ever-evolving dental practice. Dental Economics. May 1, 2020. 

Johnson E. How to communicate clearly during organizational change. Harvard Business Review. June 13, 2017. 

Montoya D. Committing to CAD/CAM dentistry: It’s more than just crunching numbers. Dentistry IQ. July 9, 2018. 

Reh FJ. Managing changes in the workplace. The Balance Careers. January 12, 2020. 

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This blog post originally appeared in Best Practice.