Thursday, March 15, 2012


Hey all. I hope you are having a good week.

About 9 months ago my wife bought a new Samsung android phone. It was time for an upgrade, so we got a $499 phone for $125 (with a 2 year agreement). She had it about 2 months when my son dropped it and busted it to smithereens. We knew the glass was cracked, but the manufacturer deemed it “unrepairable.” Since we didn't buy insurance, we would have had to buy a new phone for $499, not $125. Instead, we borrowed an old phone and have been limping along with this one until someone was up for an upgrade.

I was finally up for an upgrade, so yesterday I got a new iPhone 4S and my wife got my old iPhone 4. Now listen, I am not into all the bells and whistles kind of stuff, but I have to admit that SIRI is pretty cool. The iPhone 4S really isn't that much different than the old iPhone, but the voice command software (called SIRI) is infinitely better.

You can do most things without actually having to touch the phone. You put the phone up to your ear and say, "Call Eric Smith's cell phone," and it will call. You can say, "Text to Eric Smith’s cell phone: 'I think we have a meeting tonight at church.Can you call me and tell me what room the meeting is in, please?” And it will type out your message with NO MISTAKES and send the text. You can tell SIRI to add something to your calendar, and it will tell you if you have any prior commitments that would coincide. So far, after about 50 commands, she has not even gotten one word wrong. It is a lot like the commercial. It is awesome.

But how would I be without SIRI? Yesterday I was just doing fine. In fact, my wife who was using an iPhone 3 for the last nine months was doing just fine, as well. And as cool as SIRI, is I don't know how much better my life is going to be with her. The camera is probably a little better and the capacity of the phone is probably better, but it really is just a phone.

This is the case with everything. Let’s look at cars. Now you all know that I drive a 2001 Ford F150. I love this thing (mainly because it is paid for and it hasn't given me any trouble in a long time). The only bell or whistle this thing has on it is that it has power windows. I am exaggerating, but as far as MP3 player hook-up, in-dash CD player, computerized traction, heated seats, beeping, when in reverse or going side to side when you are about to hit something, there is none of that. There is no digital read out of MPG or how many miles to go on a tank of gas. You get what I mean. But you know what it does do? It gets me to work every day without question (and Oh, I don't have to pay for all those bells and whistles). Am I missing something by not getting a new car? I don't exactly know because I don't have one.

It is is the same with the phone. And now I am going to bring this home with some dental stuff.

I alluded to my computers in Friday's blog. I have 6-year-old computers. I stopped getting the EagleSoft software updates because my old computers could not handle the upgrades. Am I missing anything? I don't know. I know that I work on EagleSoft XII and they are on EagleSoft XIV (or something like that).

I called my computer guy and asked him how much it would cost to upgrade my three front desk computers. I guess they are Dell desktops computers on steroids. He told me the specs. I looked it up on Dell, and I could get the computers for about $650 each. Yet his estimate was $4,500. It is about a day of labor for one of his guys. There might be some extra stuff he has to buy, but that is a dentist-like fee.

I don't have that right now and, quite frankly, I have had this estimate on my desk for about 6 months and don't see myself pulling the trigger on this for a long time. My computers are pooping out every once in a while, but I pay the guys to come out, do their thing, replace a part, and I am back up and running.

Look, I know I am selling him short. I know that he has a lot of skill and does his skill very well. And I appreciate a guy with skill who is familiar with my systems and returns my calls. I am sorry if I didn't sound like I did.

This blog is not about the fees of my computer guy. It is supposed to be about technology and whether or not we really need it. If we are missing a bell here or a whistle there, are we doing lesser dentistry? I think that depends.

And, as seen with my computer issue, technology costs money. Money gets in the way. “Will this make me a better dentist?” becomes “Can I afford this thing that will probably make me a better dentist?”

A good example of technology that is a must-have is an LED curing light (in my book). Another is Loupes. And right up there is a headlight. Then there some things that are wants but will not necessarily make us better dentists. A CAD/CAM machine would be awesome. How about digital impressions? A digital panoramic machine would be nice. I wish my hygienists had loupes.

How about computers in general? Maybe some of you are thinking about making the jump to paperless. Let me tell you: I am there and it is really, really nice not to have charts. But does it make me a better dentist? I am not going to answer that. You have to.

What do you all think?

Have a great Thursday and I will talk to you tomorrow.


Mary Lynn said...

Great Post John! I love my SIRI, too. The "talk to text" feature is perfect for when I am driving and it really is great for "finding a pizza restaurant nearby". Wild.
One dental technology we cannot live without in MY office is our intra-oral cameras. We have one in each room. We always take a photo to show the patient an old amalgam that needs to be replaced, a crack tooth that needs a crown, etc. If the patient does not appoint, then we print the photo out and send it home with out. Works great! Have a great weekend. Mary Lynn

Anonymous said...

I have computerized the office yet. I bought 2 computers so far but I cannot bring my self to spend the money on the software and updates. I even bought the 8 powers supplies.
As you said I will not make any money on this and it will not produce better dental work.

Anonymous said...

I think you're looking at this from the wrong angle. Is an upgrade in software, and most likely the hardware needed to accommodate it, going to improve YOUR skills as a dentist? No. But would such a move improve your office effeciency? Will billing and claims be smoother with electronic records? Will check out be faster? Will the hygenists be able to periochart better? Will the patient's overall experience be improved with newer technology? Very possibly. Most likely, even.

Look at this from the outside in, not the otherway around. You're doing yourself and your patients a disservice if you don't.


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