Friday, October 26, 2012
Two years ago, in a remarkable twist of fate that sent shockwaves through the very fabric of the universe…I won a raffle. Yes, that’s right. A guy like me, with luck like mine, actually had his name picked and I became the proud owner of an iPad.
Fast forward to the present day. I joined a dental office in my hometown, and my iPad now has a stepbrother—an iPad 2 belonging to my practice partner. Over time, the tablets have become permanent fixtures in the office. We’ve experimented with employing our iPads for a number of roles in our practice. Here is some of what I’ve learned.
Dentrix Patient Kiosk: Kiosk allows patients to log-in upon arrival and complete forms such as medical/dental history. This app utilizes the same user info patients can use to access their account through our website.
My take: While this e-form feature seems appealing, the software didn’t perform without a few glitches such as occasionally closing without warning or without saving. More importantly, in my practice it seems that patients are not ready to fill out their forms on a tablet. They express a preference to complete their history on paper…and can do so much faster. For these reasons, this function has fallen to the wayside for now.
DDS GP: This program from Kick Your Apps provides a library of treatment animations for chairside consultation. Available through Apple’s App Store, it is priced at $400, or $500 with a Paul Homoly case acceptance add-on. The app allows you to add your own images and create animations (albeit with little instruction or explanation for how to add a module). A collection of videos can be assigned to a patient and emailed to him or her as a “video treatment plan” with the animations even assigned to the appropriate teeth.
My take: DDS GP is the primary use for tablets in the office, and the app has largely replaced the role of our desktop-based patient education software (at a fraction of the cost). It is perfectly suited for an active conversation between doctor and patient, it effectively illustrates procedures in a stepwise fashion at your own pace, and animations can be easily shared with patients via email.
I do not use the “video treatment plan” feature heavily, nor did I see the need for the Homoly add-on. Free updates were a major plus so long as addition of new video continues (…haven’t seen much lately). I’ve called the support line several times for guidance with creating my own module…disappointingly, no one answers the phone.
The practice will continue using (and loving) the app as long as the developers don’t drop the ball, so hopefully the new videos will start arriving before long.
Apple Newsstand: Should you choose to make iPads available in the lobby, online subscriptions to magazines might replace the multiple, and sometimes outdated, paper copies that clutter the tabletops.
My take: I choose not to provide free and open access to the iPads in the waiting room. I prefer to have them readily available and clean for chairside use. I do like the idea of digital subscriptions, but have not implemented it just yet.
Pictures & Video: A digital library of dental videos and images can be available at your fingertips with a tablet in the office. Before and After photos are powerful motivators for patients considering cosmetics, orthodontics, reconstructions and other major treatment plans. The iPad can put those images right in the patient’s hands.
My take: The staff is currently building and updating our library. We’re eager to start showing them off to patients on the iPad.
So is a tablet the right prescription for your practice?
Everyone utilizes technology differently. When days get busy, tablets can easily be relegated to nothing more than expensive paperweights, but if you’re committed to using it often and effectively, a tablet could be an easy and effective enhancement for your office.
Three final thoughts:
- Keep it clean. A smudgy, dirty screen put in front of your new patient? Major turn-off. Gross. If the Apple Store can keep all of its screens clean, so can I.
- Consider Apple TV. For $100, you can instantly (and wirelessly) pop the iPad screen onto the operatory or consult room television via Apple’s AirPlay feature. The big screen can be a plus.
- High impact, low cost. The greatest value of a tablet is surprisingly simple. I bring out the iPad for a new patient consultation, and the patient says, “Oh, cool, you have iPads here!” There is a definitely a wow-factor that cannot be overlooked.
With a constant influx of new, better tablet models (ahem, iPad Mini), making the leap to tablets is more affordable than ever before. Even with newer, faster models now available, my iPad 1 hasn’t missed a beat as I continuously look for new ways to utilize tablets in everyday dental practice.