These next several posts will focus on Information Technology past and present. We will followup with Intelligent Solutions available now and on the near horizon.
Today, we begin with a look back through the rear-view mirror.
We live in a time of rapid change and upheaval. Much of this change is brought on by the impact of computers and the ubiquitous information superhighway, creating a global village. You are now separated from anyone in the world by just six seconds. If you have access to the World Wide Web, you can access the information that anyone else in the world has shared faster than you can say your name and address. You might say “that’s great, but it won’t affect my practice; I can’t deliver a minimal prep veneer over the Internet.” And in that regard you would be right, but the way you learn, administer, develop and communicate in your practice are affected significantly by the latest information technology. But I am getting ahead of myself, back to the rearview mirror.
Evolution of Staffing
To build a paradigm for the future, we should be aware of the evolution of dentistry and technology over the past several decades. Much of what is possible through technology today was not possible then. To thrive in the decade ahead, you must dismantle much of the previous paradigms.
In the 50’s and early 60’s, the typical practice was one dentist, one team member, and one chair. The technologies of that era necessitated a central location for telephone, ledgers, appointment book, patient records and visibility of the front door.
The front desk became a focal point for those technologies. Enter the “baby-boomer” generation, dental insurance, and the federal government with its concern of an impending dental manpower shortage. Initiatives and funding for dental hygiene, dental assisting, and expanded duty programs, as well as, expansion of dental graduate capacity ensued. With the boom of dental insurance in the 70’s, the dental office grew from a cottage of a dentist and one team member to an industrial model of administrative and clinical specialists. At the height of it all you could find appointment, financial, and insurance secretaries at the “front”, and in the “back” chair-side assistants, hygienists, and expanded duty assistants. How many front desk people do you need to handle the volume? “Is bigger better?”