Dental Tech Tag Archive

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The Social Life of Dentists

By now it’s not news to anyone that the internet has transformed everything from the nature of interpersonal relationships to the way goods and services are sold, delivered, experienced, and used. This post is the first in a series that looks at how these phenomena are specifically affecting practicing dentists today. In particular, we highlight the fact that dentists, dental practices, dental service providers, and industry suppliers are all taking note of the social phenomenon coined the “Groundswell” in Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff’s great 2008 book by the same name. We’ll look at  how and why dentists have been learning to use web-based social technologies as tools to improve both their personal and business relationships.

Feeling the Groundswell

Li and Bernhoff characterize the groundswell as a social movement “in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other” rather than directly from corporations”. These “things” include goods, services, information, references, relationships, and more. Manufacturers and service providers are no longer the only “authoritative” and complete source of information about the products and services available on the market. Grassroots networks enabled by the low cost infrastructure of the web now provide consumers of all stripes with an ever growing library of user experience, reaction, and opinion that can help others find needed information and make good decisions.

What do the numbers show?

In September of 2010, Net 32 Inc., developer of leading B2B online comparison shopping marketplaces, completed a social technographic survey of 229 dentists.  This study, one of the first of its kind in the dental industry, revealed much about how dentists are currently utilizing some of the social tools that have now become a ubiquitous part of the web 2.0 experience. Of these dentists 70% visit online forums on a monthly basis, 58% are regular users of social networking sites, and 71% use online ratings and reviews to give product feedback and make purchasing decisions. These numbers clearly indicate that the professionals surveyed are becoming comfortable with web based networking tools. However, what we are really looking for is some evidence that social networking activity is becoming viewed as an important business development activity.

It’s Social Continuing Ed

One of the first insights to come out of this study is that dentists, along with many other professionals, now see the web as an important source of continuing education. However, they are not always looking for this education in the form of a nicely packaged class provided by a university, business development consultant, or other service provider. They are harkening back to their medical school days when they often learned as much from their fellow students as they did from their instructors. Now, they seek out the same trusted network of co-learners on forums and blogs that allow them to both absorb the opinion and insights of other, fellow professionals and offer their own input to this same community. All of this interaction takes place in a format that conveniently transcends the restrictions of time, location, and cost frequently associated with traditional learning environments like classrooms and conferences. These digital venues are equally attractive because they are responsive environments that usually adapt to the demands of their participants. Those involved in the exchange determine the direction and content of exploration and discussion.  Therefore, busy, established dentists can and do derive a lot of value from forums and blogs. Interestingly, this is born out in the numbers seen in Net32’s survey where roughly 61% of dentists who are regular users of these tools stated that they use them to seek clinical coaching. Roughly 42% of this same group is also seeking business advice from the same sources.

 

Next Time

Beyond professional use of forums and blogs, Net32’s survey yielded more valuable information about how dentist extract business value from the web. In our next post we will take a similar look at how these professionals are learning to use social networking tools for more than staying connected with friends and family.  Until then, hope to see you out there on the web.

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Dental Tech Predictions for 2012

I humbly report that my 2011 predictions regarding dentistry and high tech, which can be found here, all proved to be 100% accurate. Knowing it is not possible to improve on that record I am submitting predictions for 2012 that I expect to be 100% wrong.

Knowing these predictions will never come to pass makes them not really predictions but more like hopes or ideals. Like ending the scourge of periodontal disease or peace on earth, we’d all like to see these things happen in 2012 but know they never will.

  1. All the major creators and sellers of dental software agree to industry standards that allow a dentist in Cleveland using dental software Softrix to send a complete chart including all the notes, x-rays and medical history digitally to a dentist in Spokane using dental software Eagleworks. The Spokane dentist can simply import the complete chart and use it all with a single click. Heck it would be a big improvement if the Softrix user could just send a dental chart across town to another Softrix user.
  2. Using film x-rays becomes the social equivalent of smoking in public. Sure people still do it but they are made to feel that they are low status and unclean. After all the film developing chemicals are stinky and who knows they might even cause cancer. Of course for a dental office to stop using film they first have to really want to change.
  3. Digital impressions become main stream as dental labs start charging half price for digital impression cases. Simple business accounting demonstrates that when the lab eliminates the cost of pick up, pouring models, trimming dies and remakes for distorted, dried out bubbly impressions the lab can make a lot more profit and charge less if they can get rid of those pesky impressions. .
  4. E-Services will become so fast, so good and so cheap that dentists will finally get it. They will look back on the primitive days of 2011 and wonder how any intelligent professional could ever have sent bills by mail, sorted charts by hand to find non responsive patients, made phone calls to confirm patients or waited on hold to establish insurance eligibility.
  5. Suddenly realizing that “Google it” is now a well-established part of the American lexicon dentists will scramble to get an office web page. A few idealistic hold outs will mutter I don’t need a web page my practice is 100% referral. Of course in 2012 even the best personal referral will still Google the dental office just to find the address and phone number.
  6. Finally dental insurance companies will start to use online systems to accept dental claims, review them and transfer payments to the dental office account instantly. Seriously, it could happen.

The future is coming and it will be Amazing!

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Tablets in the Dental Office

tablet

Tablets were big news at CES last year. They are still big news. Tablets are becoming thinner, lighter, more powerful, and more affordable than ever. However the fact we are still talking about them as a future technology indicates we still haven’t really incorporated them into everyday work.

In dentistry I see tablets as a valuable extra but not as a replacement for desktops in the treatment rooms. A tablet will be the computer each team member caries with them from room to room to read and write notes view images and communicate with the rest of the office. However we will still need a treatment room computer to capture and process diagnostics such as x-ray images.

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