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Mindful Modernisation: A Framework for Dental Businesses to Strategically Implement New Technologies in 2024
As we usher in December, it’s a time for reflection, particularly for dental businesses. This period typically involves analysing operational metrics, clinical outcomes, and staff progress to gauge the year’s performance and to strategise for the forthcoming year. However, this self-assessment must extend to evaluating the practice’s digital infrastructure in today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape. It’s crucial to consider whether the practice has harnessed the latest advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), cloud platforms, and practice management solutions to enhance efficiency, patient care, and financial performance. Neglecting these aspects can lead to stagnation.
Instead of relegating technology upgrades to a lower priority, what if dental business owners adopted a tech-centric approach in their year-end reviews? By reviewing significant hardware/software enhancements from the past year and identifying strategic opportunities for 2024, they can thoughtfully modernise their practices by integrating transformative tools.
This article highlights significant digital dentistry breakthroughs in 2023, ranging from AI to enhanced cybersecurity. It provides a framework for dental businesses to holistically assess their current systems, identify gaps, research options, and plan for impactful upgrades.
Like every other year, technology advanced at an unprecedented rate across all industries this year. Similarly, the Australian dental software market saw several new innovations this year to improve dental practice efficiency, patient engagement, and oral healthcare outcomes. From artificial intelligence to augmented reality, 2023 marked a digital shift across the industry.
One key area that has improved by leaps and bounds is the use of AI in dental practices. Whether in a clinical context for diagnosis and predictions or a non-clinical setting for stock management, voice-based assistants, or even generative AI for writing website content, the Australian dental market was more open and accepting of seeking AI assistance.
Although not very common in the Australian market, virtual and augmented reality also made headway in the global dental market. A few leading dental software platforms incorporated AR for guided dental implant placement and VR for patient education. By visualising procedures and anatomy in 3D, these technologies are creating more predictable treatments and informed patients.
Another technology that saw a significant shift is cloud-based technology. This technology offers enhanced data security, scalability, and remote access to patient records and practice management tools. It has enabled dental practices to operate more flexibly. However, it should be noted that the inconsistent Internet speeds across the country somewhat dampened the market’s enthusiasm in 2023.
The once-upon-a-time revolutionary online appointment scheduling was no longer a differentiator in the market in 2023. Even online reputation management systems saw a plateau in growth as the focus shifted to patient well-being and care. The Australian dental market saw a massive gap in post-treatment communications. As a result, post-appointment follow-up platforms saw rapid growth, prompting other digital tool providers to introduce patient follow-up segments to their offerings.
Although not directly classified as innovation, 2023 saw a substantial increase in cybersecurity-conscious dental business owners, resulting in the implementation the latest cybersecurity technologies at dental practices. Widely known cyberattacks on the telecommunications giant Optus, health insurance provider Medibank and the financial services provider Latitude put the proverbial “fear of god” in business owners. Suddenly, dental practices were equipped with next-generation cybersecurity technologies beyond the firewall and the antivirus software.
The above list is by no means exhaustive and serves as examples of the technological advancements in the dental industry in 2023.
If you are a dental business owner who has been putting a technology uplift on the backburner only to realise another year has gone by, you should make 2024 the year that you make that change. If you are ready for a technology uplift in 2024, the following 9-step framework may help.
1. Identify Current Technology Stack
Compile a comprehensive list of all software tools currently utilised in your practice. This inventory should include systems for practice management, digital imaging, accounting, stock management, rostering, and cybersecurity. Ensure this list is exhaustive, capturing every tool in use, no matter how minor its role may seem.
2. Evaluate Effectiveness
Assess the effectiveness of your existing technologies in meeting the needs of your practice, staff, and patients. Consider aspects like cost, functionality, and outcomes. Investigate their integration capabilities with other systems and compliance with Australian Privacy Principles and guidelines set by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Gather feedback from staff and patients to inform your evaluation.
3. Identify Gaps and Opportunities
Identify deficiencies in your current technological setup where new solutions could enhance efficiency or patient care. Develop a business case for adopting new technology, focusing on non-financial benefits such as improved patient satisfaction or streamlined operations. This step is crucial for understanding where improvements are needed.
4. Set Clear Objectives
Establish clear goals for what you aim to achieve with new technology, such as enhancing patient experiences or boosting operational efficiency. These objectives should be in harmony with your broader practice or business goals, ensuring a cohesive approach to technology adoption.
5. Research Technology
Informed by identified gaps and set objectives, delve into current and emerging technologies in the dental software arena. Engage with vendors, request demonstrations, and gather information on pricing and support. This research is vital for making informed decisions about potential technology investments.
6. Budget and Investment
Determine your budget for technology investments. Prioritise technologies that align with your identified needs and objectives and complete your business case. This budget will guide your decisions and help maintain financial discipline during the technology adoption process.
7. Plan the Rollout
Create a detailed implementation timeline. This should include periods for testing, schedules for staff training, and phased integration of new systems. Allow for adequate configuration and adoption time before expanding the use of new technologies.
8. Implement the Solution
Roll out new technologies as per your planned timeline, making necessary adjustments to ensure sustainable implementation. This phase is critical for the successful integration of new systems into your practice.
9. Review and Adjust
Conduct regular assessments of the new technology’s effectiveness. Be prepared to make adjustments based on these reviews to ensure the technology continues to meet your practice’s evolving needs.
The pace of technological innovation in dentistry continues to accelerate, offering new solutions to enhance practice success. While 2023 saw exciting developments, the real opportunity lies in aligning these innovations with practice needs and objectives. By adopting a structured approach to technology review and adoption, dental practices can leverage advancements to improve efficiency, service quality, and patient outcomes.
Dental practices can position themselves for long-term gains with a focus on thoughtful change management—assessing current systems, identifying gaps, budgeting for upgrades, and supporting staff adoption. 2024 promises further breakthroughs, but lasting benefits depend on data-driven planning and integration. Guided by clear objectives, the next wave of solutions can transform practices and oral healthcare. The future is increasingly bright for tech-empowered dentistry.
About the Author
Sean has 18 years of experience in the Australian Dental Information System industry and currently works as Head of Product and Innovation at Centaur Software. Sean holds a Bachelor of Applied Science from RMIT University and a Master of Business Administration from Swinburne University.
Sean is a passionate data analyst who loves everything data. Outside work, Sean spends most of his time doting on his little daughters, Amelia and Olivia.
Mindful Modernisation: A Framework for Dental Businesses to Strategically Implement New Technologies in 2024Published: 13/12/2023
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