During my 24 years in dentistry I have experienced being the trainee and the trainer when it comes to implementing new technology in the dental practice. People that know me see me as kind of a computer geek. The satisfaction of getting a new computer, network or piece of technology to work was the thrill of the hunt. It’s amazing sometimes that it all works together.
The miracle that all the technology works together is not a miracle at all, it takes planning and professional help. It doesn’t just happen. There are 5 critical things to consider when purchasing a new piece of technology, whether it is for the clinical area or business side of your practice. These 5 things will not only help bring this miracle to life but will also make sure your team is as efficient as they can be.
- Research the product before you buy – I have been into multiple dental practices where the doctor has picked up a new Printer/Scanner/Copier/Fax, brought it to the office drops the box on the desk and asks his office manager to install it and have it working by the end of the day. This happens with many products such as; computers, monitors, Wi-Fi routers, signature devices and printers just to name a few. There are many details to consider when purchasing a new piece of technology.
- Is it compatible with my practice management software?
- Does this product contain the proper drivers or can I install them?
- Does it work over Wi-Fi so my entire team has access to it from all workstations?
- Do I need a converter so I can plug it into my existing computer?
- If you don’t know how to answer these questions, consult an expert hardware technician who can help guide you to the right product.
- Unless your office manager is tech savvy (like I was), have it installed professionally – I understand that your college nephew is a wiz at computers, however does he understand the complexity of a large office network? The dental practice I worked in only had 4 treatment rooms, but we had 14 computer workstations which needs the power of a hard working network. When you are implementing a new piece of technology there will be hardware specifications that need to be met so that it works properly and will continue to work over the life of the product. Here are some specifications to consider if you are considering a self-guided installation:
- Can the network support this new product (drive space, memory, etc)?
- If you are installing a product that has some kind of output (images, x-rays, etc) do you know where to point the data so it gets backed up every day?
- How to share it out over the network so all workstations that need it have access to it.
- If you do not know then have it installed professionally.
- Bring in an expert trainer – Training is an investment into your team, the productivity of your practice and the implementation of this new piece of technology. Of course, not every piece of technology requires a professional trainer. If you are installing a new all-in-one printer you probably don’t need to bring in a trainer because your team already knows how to use the product, it just might have a couple new features. How do you know if you need to bring in a trainer?
- Is the new technology something that is new and never been used before?
- Does it require new skills?
- Are there reservations within the team to implement the new technology?
- If you answered yes to any of the above questions and you do not have an expert on staff then you need to set aside a budget and time to have your team trained professionally.
Team training does not have to be expensive and inconvenient. In today’s world there are multiple ways that training can be performed. There are online courses, webinars, live online training and lunch & learns. Of course, nothing beats having the trainer come into your practice and be able to teach you one your own equipment. Having the trainer in your office allows for creating customization, troubleshooting with specific issues and being able to have live Q & A with the team.
- All team gets hands on experience – I am a huge fan of cross training and making sure the team is familiar with all equipment and technology in the office. This not only makes for a much more productive and efficient team but it also lets your patients know that you keep your employees educated and up to date on all your equipment. After you have installed and trained on your new product setup a learning session for each team member to use the new product.
- For example, if you just installed a new electronic form system make sure each team member follows the steps through from start to finish so they have a clear understanding of how it works.
- Another example is in the clinical area, if you just purchased a new voice activated perio chart system let each team member try it so they understand how the patient will feel when using it. This really helps with creating awareness and understanding for your patients.
- If it is a more complex piece of equipment like a digital pano machine, all clinical team members should know how it works and the admin team should know all the benefits and how to discuss it with the patients.
- Stay up to date – Technology is constantly changing and you must stay up to date with any software and hardware updates. Some practice management software companies come out with large feature updates that need a team training but some updates are just driver updates that don’t require training at all. My recommendation would be to have a quarterly technology “refresher” course for the team. Someone on the team can be designated as the trainer for the next meeting and decide what equipment or piece of technology is on the agenda and set the agenda. Then decide if you need to bring in a professional trainer or if you are just going to do a webinar.
Technology is leading our dental practices and is constantly changing. Every dental practice needs to have a technology map of the practice and learning days setup for the team. Work with your hardware technician and trainers to help you customize a plan for your office.