Then there’s the “D” word

There is growing evidence that 2016 will be the year that the UK will evolve beyond Digital Marketing, Digital Smile Design and Digital Practice Management into the fully-integrated Digital Dental Practice.

A future in which every item of equipment in your practice communicates with every other item, in which every step of the patient journey, both clinical and customer service related, is connected, automated and calibrated to generate maximum efficiency, effectiveness and accuracy.

When Henry Schein announce a Digital Dentistry Conference, populated with an impressive line up of Digital Dental Innovators, we know that the “D” word has arrived like a long-lost Californian relative and is unpacking to stay permanently in the guest bedroom. Life is never going to be the same again.

Which has me thinking about the role of team members in this brave new world.

A Female Principal client amused me some years ago by recalling the view of her tutor (so now we are back in the 90’s) that dental nurses were nothing more than “spit suckers and surgery maidens” (his words – not hers or mine).

A Male Principal once told me that his tutor from the same era described associates as “grossers or tossers” – best understood if you say it with a Scottish accent.

I’ve heard a dentist introduce their patient to the practice hygienist by suggesting that they “pop next door for a polish.”

There is a tendency amongst dentists to regard themselves as an officer class.

So here comes a sea-change.

We are all getting very excited about this new Digital Dental Practice and the clever gadgets and gizmos that will now fill our exhibition halls, feed the finance companies and replace your new cars and Apple-ware (for a time).

But what about making it all work?

Are we going to see the development of a new intelligentsia of “those who know how”, the High Priests of a Digital Cult who carry on employing LCD (lowest common denominator) people to perform the basic and less important functions – like empathetic communication with patients!

Are dentists going to regress to the equivalent of hospital consultants who consider a read-out more important than rapport?

Are they going to become a Digital Warrior Class – the Samurai of Technology?

If not (and I hope not) then it follows that their team members are also going to have to understand how all this technology works.

If your telephony, online communication, live chat and Front Desk are connected to the CRM systems that sit behind your Web Site, if your CRM systems are connected to your Practice Management Software and if your Practice Management Software is connected to your Digital Diagnostic and Delivery equipment, you are going to need everyone in the team to know how it functions and integrates.

It starts with the Principal recognising that the disparaging 90’s descriptions of the dental proletariat are gone and that effective team members in the future are going to require better education, careful selection, more complex training, a career pathway and MORE PAY.

That will impact profitability, so if you go Digital you had better be confident about putting your prices up.

Equally confident that your patients will be so amazed that they will want to pay more.

Cognisant that they will not be impressed by your Digital wizardry, they will be won over by your customer care.

It follows that existing staff are going to have to be ready to up-skill and that new staff members are going to have to be of the right calibre.

If Mary on the Front Desk at £9.00 an hour “doesn’t do computers” but she’s been there 20 years and “knows everybody” – that’s lovely but she won’t know how to drive the new bus.

If Susie is a dental nurse at £10.00 an hour and tries her best but is really a bit too much of a party animal and not committed, she will seriously affect your ability to work digitally.

The ASK formula in dental recruitment, Attitude, Skill and Knowledge, are about to take a big step up – it may be a step too high for some.

Digital is sexy, topical and relevant – it’s exciting to see where all this will go.

But here’s my thought for the day……

The equipment manufacturers want to sell you equipment and logically they want to bedazzle you with membership of a tribe of innovators.

7connections, equally, want to sell you digital marketing systems.

The biggest lesson we are learning in digital marketing is that there is no point in installing fancy new digital marketing systems in a practice if the team don’t understand how it all integrates and where they have a role to play – or are incapable of fulfilling their role due to a lack of the correct attitude, knowledge or skill (and, sometimes, resistance to change).

The bleeding edge of technology is a stimulating place to be.

Go for it. Go Digital.

But before you do……..

Will you be able to carry your team with you?

You cannot Go it Alone – not this time.


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.