We recently purchased new direct digital xray sensors for my group practice. This is the first major technology purchase in our practice for a handful of years and we took the time to do our ‘due diligence’ to compare the products and make the right choice for our practice. If you’re facing a new technology purchase, here are some ideas on how to evaluate competitive products, train your staff and then follow up to make sure you’re making the most of your purchase.
How to evaluate new dental technology
Once you decide that it’s time to invest in the new dental technology you’ve been hearing about, you owe it to your bank account to do some homework:
- Ask other dentist friends what they have purchased
- Ask your dental supply representative
- Ask your IT company
- Visit tradeshows
After all this data gathering, choose your top three competitors you might like to work with. I’m a big fan of the side-by-side comparison, in fact, I’ve created a spreadsheet that lists the criteria and the three companies we had quote. You create the criteria by pulling the features from the product information from each vendor and then asking all the vendors to answer the same questions. That’s how you end up comparing apples to apples. Not only do you compare features, you also compare pricing and warranty. On this one page, you should clearly see which product offers the most/least and how the costs compare.
Make your purchase
With this side by side comparison, you can feel confident in your purchase decision. Call the vendor that won the bid, and call the other two that lost and let them know. Vendors appreciate a quick phone call to let them know one way or another. Don’t share pricing with the vendors either – confidentiality is essential. You may very well be buying a new technology in a few years and want this losing vendor to spend the time to quote you again. The more respectful you are during this process, the better it will go next time.
Train your staff
Choose a champion – someone on your staff that will volunteer to be the expert with this new technology. This can be the dentist or a staff member, but be sure to put this person front & center for training. Part of their responsibility is to take good notes and help the rest of the team. You can help by publicly praising and appreciating your staff member – that helps to grow more volunteers in the future!
One challenge is to fully train each and every member of your staff. It’s common for some staff to feel they don’t need to learn the new technology because someone else knows it! Your job is to make very clear that everyone is responsible. You also need to think about new hires – how will you train someone you hire next year to use this technology properly? In my practice, we have staff training addressed by using our dental staff training levels system. When we purchase new technology, we decide where in our written training levels the notes belong and we save them. For example, last year we purchased a new SLR camera for the practice – we took notes and added them into our assistant level 2 – this is the level where assistants working at the dental chair to assist the dentist learn all the tray setups and how to support their dentist clinically. We already have a training section on Taking Digital Photos – and so we added the notes for this new camera right into this level. Then, we hung up the notes beside the computers right where it was needed – and gave a copy to all the staff. This also takes care of new hires – anyone we hire in the future will have the same notes available and the expectation to learn this camera & use it in order to be “checked off”. Nice quality control.
Probably every dental practice has a piece of technology sitting in the corner, not being used. In my office, it’s the hot towel machine. It still works and the idea was great – pamper your patients by giving them a heated, damp towel to wipe their face off at the end of an appointment. Unfortunately, we do a terrible job of using this piece of equipment. To avoid this, you can follow up to make sure your new technology is still being used routinely. Ask your staff to bring pictures they’ve taken with the new camera to the next staff meeting or print x-rays they’ve taken. Use peer pressure to your advantage in a staff meeting to get everyone motivated to use the new technology you’re buying.
If you’d like to go through this material in person, a friend of mine is presenting at the Cincinnati Dental Society Roundtable Discussion event in mid-November. Held on Wednesday, November 14th in Cincinnati,