Achieving Interoperability While Maintaining Profitability
The adoption of technology to improve dentistry is hardly a new phenomenon, and over the years, many dentists have implemented various digital techniques and workflows into their restorative and other protocols. With the proper approach, the benefits of digital processes are numerous; however, some early adopters of digital dentistry have found that the lack of standardized file formats and the closed nature of digital systems can limit their interoperability.
To combat the problems related to integration, many device and software companies have made interoperability a primary focus of their new platforms, ushering in a future of unrestricted workflow possibilities. I've said before that your practice should be driving your choice of technology, not the other way around. As devices with open architecture become more widespread, it is no longer as simple as selecting one that will enable you to offer a new service or replace an existing workflow. Now, clinicians need to consider if each new device will fit into their entire technology ecosystem in a way that best enables efficiencies, communication, and future technological growth.
It is important to select technology that allows you room to grow, but only if it's going to allow you to grow in the right direction for your practice. Acquiring an intraoral scanner can obviate the need for some VPS impressions, allow a clinician to perform some laboratory tasks in-house, and more, but this is only viable if the clinician's protocols, number of assistants, and other factors facilitate an actual increase in efficiency or a reduction in costs. It all comes back to profitability. When you make an investment in new technology, it may immediately improve your dentistry, but you need to get a return on your investment. If you lose efficiency because the technology doesn't fit your protocol, it doesn't matter if you achieve a better result because you'll end up losing money. Each new piece of technology requires consideration of how it will be used, on which patients, and for which treatments in order for a practice to grow digitally and achieve interoperability while maintaining profitability.
This year, Inside Dentistry'sSpecial Technology Issue examines the state of interoperability in dental technology and explores how open architecture systems can further enhance efficiencies in diagnostics, treatment planning, and communication. As usual, our "Shop and Compare" charts are included, offering information for various devices and software applications from five major areas of dental technology. You're sure to find this information useful in guiding your future purchasing decisions. If you're planning to attend the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry's annual meeting in Banff, Alberta, Canada, find me and let me know how we're doing. I always enjoy interacting with our readers, and I'd love to hear any suggestions you may have to make next year's technology issue an even better resource.
Robert C. Margeas, DDS
Editor-in-Chief, Inside Dentistry
Des Moines, Iowa
Department of Operative Dentistry
University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa