Investing in new technology for your dental practice can help you provide better diagnoses and treatment, improve communication with patients and make your practice more efficient and productive. No wonder that 42 percent of dentists in a new survey by TD Bank say “upgrading equipment” is their no. 1 priority for 2017.
But when considering a new technology purchase, it's easy to get caught up in all the bells and whistles. How do you know if a new technology is truly worth the investment? Here are 7 questions to ask.
- Are your competitors using it? If all the other dental practices in your market are using a certain type of technology, you don't want to be the only one without it. On the other hand, do you want to be the first? If one or two competitors are using a certain technology, investigate whether it's helping them attract more customers. For example, if Dr. Gupta is marketing herself as the No. 1 cosmetic dentist in town because of a certain technology that no competitors use, perhaps investing in that same technology could enable you to capture some of her market share.
- Will it help you attract and retain patients? Patient-facing technology can greatly impact how patients view your practice. When you install screens at each treatment chair so patients can watch TV during treatment, or implement the newest teeth-whitening technology, patients feel confident that your office is keeping current and that they’re getting quality care. While it's not as immediately apparent, technology that enables your office to run more efficiently also impacts patient satisfaction. For instance, Lighthouse 360’s patient communication tools keep your daily schedule on track so patients spend less time in the waiting room.
- Will it help you grow revenues? When chosen wisely, new technology has a direct impact on your practice’s revenues. For example, by automatically contacting patients when they're due for a cleaning, sending automated appointment reminders and confirmations, and messaging waitlist patients when there is a last-minute cancellation, Lighthouse 360 ensures your practice is minimizing downtime and maximizing revenues.
- Will it make your staff more productive? Both patient-facing and internal technology can enable your staff to do more in less time. Technology that speeds up treatment, for instance, allows you to see more patients per day, boosting revenues. Technology that helps your front-office staff operate more efficiently makes them more productive, too. Lighthouse 360 saves your front-office staff time by automatically generating daily task lists and follow-up lists so nothing falls through the cracks.
- How well does it integrate with your existing technology? The vendor should be able to explain what's needed to make the new technology work with your existing tools. For example, will getting new software require purchasing new hardware? Will new treatment equipment require more space, so that you have to rearrange your office layout or even expand into a larger facility? Unless you know and plan for these requirements ahead of time, you could end up with unexpected costs.
- What is the TCO? The upfront cost of new technology is not the only expense involved. You also need to consider the TCO, or total cost of ownership (sometimes called true cost of ownership), which calculates how much the technology costs you over its lifetime. This includes:
- Usable lifetime of the technology
- Upfront cost of acquiring the technology
- Cost of training employees on the new technology
- Ongoing cost of service, maintenance and repairs
- Expected cost savings from the new technology
- Tax benefits from acquiring technology
- Anticipated revenue increase due to new technology
- Is it easy to learn and to use? Technology that’s simple to use reduces the time and expense needed to train your staff. More importantly, if it’s easy to use, it’s more likely to actually be used. New technology that’s so complicated no one ends up using it is a waste of your money. Ask the vendor if both you and any staff members who will be using this new technology can be taken through a demo. Take your staff’s opinions into account when making your decision.
In general, regularly updating to new technology is essential to staying competitive. But don’t be blinded by the hype about the latest “shiny object.” Before you invest in any new technology, carefully analyze the costs and benefits to your practice.