My study club recently used the “To Scan or Not to Scan” video lecture by Dr. Paresh Shah as an evening program. Early on, some folks were not sure it would be a worthwhile evening. However, the program sparked extensive, and sometimes heated, discussion. My comments are not intended to push in one direction or the other regarding scanning. Rather, they are meant to help us see some of the elements in our decision making process that we may be unaware of that impact the choices we make.
Personality style impacts decision making. Many of us in the profession adhere to the old saying, “better the enemy you know”. Meaning, I know that the process I am doing meets the clinical standard of care and that is good enough. Some might say that what I am doing may be “outdated” but I know how to do it and do it well. I am comfortable with the process and my clients are not complaining. Why should I change?
Others enjoy trying different ways to achieve a clinical goal, especially if it involves learning a new technique. Others may be interested in reaching the goal faster or with greater economy or patient comfort.
For those who are comfortable that their clinical process is delivering the highest standard of care that they are capable of there is probably no argument that can convince them to consider a change. For the remaining group that would consider change there are some serious questions that should be answered before taking any action.
Vendors make profits for their stockholders by selling us “stuff”, much of which we do not need. If we are considering a change, like moving to scanning for impressions, there are going to be serious costs involved. The costs involve much more than dollars. Let’s list a few things to consider.
Are you changing technique for the “Wow factor”? If so, be very careful as the wow factor goes away very quickly in many cases. A more critical question is whether the new technique helps you deliver care to your patients at the highest level you are capable of.
Are you willing to make the investment of your very valuable time to learn the new technique to its fullest use in your practice? This is a key reason why so many offices have lots of expensive “junk” sitting in a storage room. Doctors get sold on the “Wow” and never make the time to learn to use the new equipment and incorporate it into their practice routine.
Forget about how much the new gadget costs or is supposed to help you earn. If you lack the commitment to learn to use it and train your staff to incorporate it into your practice you have thrown your dollars down a rat hole.
Do the basic math on any significant purchase. Take the vendor’s projections and then make them real using your own numbers. If the claim is that you will save time on a procedure, what is that worth based on your specific hourly production? What will you really do with the time saved? How will your office schedule have to be changed to take advantage of the projected time saved? Are there other potential savings you can take advantage of – like dental materials, reduction in appointments or less lab costs? This is all “pie in the sky” if you are unwilling to commit to the work needed to learn to use your new toy and get your staff on board to make things work in a new and better way.
Vendors claim that you may be able to delegate tasks to staff that you have been performing with new systems and equipment freeing up more productive time. Are you willing to take the time to train your team to do the tasks, and more important, are you willing to trust them to do the tasks? Can you delegate in such a way that you still feel you are in good control of the final outcome and remain within the practice laws of your state? One good way to test your thoughts is to determine whether what you are delegating can be remediated if it does not meet your standards. If it can be remediated it is probably legal.
This is where the excuses start. “I don’t have the time to do the training. My staff is not capable of learning to use the equipment and systems. It is too expensive.” If this is what you believe it is true! No matter what your vendor sells you it will end up in the closet. Know yourself before you spend the money.
Are you willing to do the homework to understand what new technology might improve your practice? Are you willing to include your staff in the decision making process? Are you willing to hold yourself and your team accountable to incorporate new process and equipment into your office? Do you have the right people on your team that you can trust to make this work? Have you “run the numbers” based on the way you practice, and do they make sense to you? If you can answer yes to all of the above there is a good chance that whatever you spend on new technology it will work for you to improve your life and enhance your patient’s experience.
To scan or not to scan is not about how much it costs or how much it saves. It is all about your commitment, knowing yourself and your people and your philosophy. For some – don’t waste your money. For others – spend the money and enjoy the ride.