Transitioning from a standard dental office to a fully digital practice causes many dentists to balk.

The initial cost is high, the learning curve can feel extreme, and the constantly-mutating nature of technological progress can make some clinicians wonder if what’s here today is going to be gone tomorrow.

So, is the transition necessary? And if it is, how can dental practices of any size find a way forward through a potentially expensive and frustrating experience?

Do I Need It?

It’s the question every reluctant adopter has: “Do I really need all of this stuff?”

We’re going to have to put it simply: yes. Yes, you do. When it comes to EHR systems and HIPAA, it’s literally the law, with mandatory compliance measures popping up all over the place in 2019. The biometric, RFID, and smart card integration of modern medical computers provide a simple platform for patient records and HIPAA compliance.

Secondly, most modern dental techniques already require a digital platform — any future techniques are only going to require more technology. In essence, it becomes a game of “now or later.” Digitizing the dental office is inevitable, and the sooner the practice embraces it, the faster they can enjoy the many benefits.

CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) techniques are everywhere in modern dentistry and are far more accurate, generally less costly in the long run, and can create implants that might have otherwise been impossible or very difficult to manufacture.

Intra-oral scanners are also providing unprecedented intel for dentists, gleaning information that a stick and a mirror simply can’t replicate.

Going digital isn’t just about future-proofing your business and streamlining your workflow — it’s also about caring for patients with the best tools at hand.

Climbing the Learning Curve

Keeping up with dental knowledge and techniques is already a job of work for most clinicians — the idea of also having to learn new computer systems can feel daunting.

Many dentists report that the fear of the learning curve prevents many from taking the full leap into digital dentistry. However, there are a number of easy training resources, support options, and even purchase choices that end up creating a far more shallow learning curve.

Ask for Help

The first option, of course, is to connect with a more tech-savvy member of the staff. Dental assistants often tend to be younger than the dentist they work with, and while no guarantee, are more likely to have high tech confidence. Any dental technicians in the practice are well-versed in technology by definition, and can also be of huge help fielding questions and basic troubleshooting. Lean on them for aid.

Another option is to contact friendly associates in the dental business who have already made the leap to a fully digital office. Tell them your concerns and ask them what their strategies were for tackling them.

Choose Touchscreen Computers

When it comes to the computers you’ll need to purchase to make the transition, consider making your job simpler by employing touchscreen devices. Touchscreens are naturally more intuitive, skipping control schemes and allowing the user to simply touch exactly what they need to control or alter.

Medical touch screen computers are an even better option, with a sealed front bezel that allows full sterilization from spray cleaners and wipes without concern of damaging the delicate interior. 

What About Computer Crashes?

Paper records don’t crash or lag, and plaster molds don’t suffer from hard drive failures. We come now to the most famous worry of would-be digitizers everywhere: that a slow or unstable computer is going to slow down workflow or outright lose vital records.

Yes, technology is imperfect — but so is everything else. Sometimes computers crash. They’re made of silicon, which is basically just pressed, hot sand. However, the benefits of a faster, more efficient workflow almost always makes up for the occasional glitch — that is, if you choose the right equipment.

Choose Better Equipment

The kinds of computers needed to run and render 3D scans of patient’s mouths are already pretty beefy, but long-term durability may be just as important as their processor specs.

Fanless medical PCs with a 3-5 year life cycle provide a higher ROI. Not only do they last longer, and require less training (because they don’t change out as often), but their sealed bezels and fanless design greatly reduce the number of crashes, downtime incidents, and failures normally associated with off-the-shelf consumer computers.

Antimicrobial* properties protect the computer casing from deterioration and degradation.

One high-quality medical computer is going to outlast a consumer model three times over and provide a better, faster experience during that same lifespan.

Back It Up

Data loss can be frightening — it can also be avoided. In the modern world of cloud storage and on-site backups, there’s simply no reason why a crash should jeopardize patient files and CAD/CAM work.

Cloud services like Dropbox and Carbonite — just to name a few — offer encrypted, HIPAA-approved data storage that can be scaled anywhere from a few terminals and user profiles to an entire healthcare group. The files in question, be they patient records or CAD work files, are stored both locally on the computer and in the cloud, providing double the protection.

The practice could (Heaven-forbid) burn to the ground with every computer reduced to a smoking ruin, and all files would be completely safe. Ditto for if a computer or medical tablet is stolen — you’ll still have access to the files, but the encryption will prevent outside actors from making use of it.

If you’re a “belt and suspenders” type of person, consider also getting an external hard drive or backup server on the premises, and use software to schedule regular backups as well.

Most cloud services also make file-sharing easier for authorized users, meaning dental employees will have a much easier time of sending CAD files, patient records, or any other information to other members of the practice without a hitch.

The Price of Admission

At the end of the day, let’s be realistic: cost is always going to be one of the strongest factors in digital adoption. And there are no two ways about it: computers, software, milling machines, 3D printers, and micro-imaging cameras don’t come cheap.

But, it’s not like dental drills and X-ray machines — both ubiquitous in dental offices — came from the dollar store. Medical equipment is expensive, but there are ways to mitigate some of the damage.

The primary method of saving cash in the long run is to take a good, long look down the road. As we said, and as you know, computers eventually break down. Cars break down, buildings break down, it’s just a fact of life. But, to maintain the car analogy, a $1500 car bought from the neighbor is going to break down a lot faster than a brand new Honda.

Consider digitizing your dental office with high-quality medical all-in-one computers and medical tablets, heavy duty mills for implants, time-tested and well-reviewed 3D printers, and any other recommended gear from fellow dental associates and dental communities.

Consider the price as an investment, not only in your self and in your practice, but in your patients as well.

A Quick Transition is Better

Like removing the proverbial Band-Aid, some hard transitions should be done all at once.

Trying to finagle compatibility issues between new and legacy devices can be frustrating and fruitless. Consider this when purchasing new IT hardware and look for medical computers that have legacy ports that are compatible with your older devices. This will help save money on your initial investment and will provide better ROI down the road.

Whatever your digital dental transition needs, reach out to Cybernet for quotes on medical computers that can be customized to the specifications of your dental practice.