The Cognitive Dental Practice

Reading my latest issue of Wired magazine on the flight back from Portugal last night, I noticed an advertisement by IBM for “the cognitive business”.

To quote:

“A cognitive business is a business that thinks.

A new era of technology is giving rise to a new era of business, made possible by three historic shifts:

  1. A world awash in data (by 2017 healthcare data is expected to grow by 99%)
  2. A world reinvented in code (the aircraft used for my flight back last night carried 7 million lines of computer code, the latest passenger cars carry 100 million lines of code)
  3. The advent of cognitive computing (technology that takes in data, understands it, learns from it and reasons through it)”

IBM Watson is the “wired” approach to cognitive computing and represents the company’s major focus going forward.

You can read more HERE and/or watch this short video.

Synchronistically, I enjoyed sitting next to Brendon Macdonald at the Practice Plan Gala Dinner on Saturday evening and discussing our frustrations with the impact of digital marketing in the dental landscape.

We agreed that there are two fundamental challenges:

  • lack of budget – practices simply either cannot (too small) or will not (not convinced) invest sufficient funding into digital marketing and have unrealistic expectations of ROI
  • lack of engagement – both Principals and team members often feel that marketing (including digital) is somebody else’s problem and that, once a budget has been allocated to a marketing agency (like 7connections or Yelloveedub – Brendon’s company) that they can just settle back into dentistry and wait for the results to follow

Reading Wired last night I realised that we need to change the message to our clients (you) that marketing is a cognitive activity for the whole dental team.

We have to:

  • drive people to your web site (can we please stop calling people “traffic”?)

You have to:

  • convert people
  • nurture people
  • treat people
  • care for people

Consultants, agencies and practice teams need to regularly take in the data, understand it, learn from it and adapt/evolve your marketing plan and patient experience through reasoning.

There is no “done for you” – there is only “done with you”.

We all have a lot to do – IBM Watson is showing us the way.




Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.