President, Association of Dental Support Organizations
With features like two-way communication, streamlined billing and scheduling, telemedicine, and more, advancements in dental practice management software have helped create a more positive and transparent experience for patients, while also giving dentists the metrics and tools they need to manage the business side of their practices.
“There’s a challenge going on right now where Amazon and other companies are making life so convenient for us consumers, that in healthcare, we have a challenge to keep up,” said Emmet Scott, president of the Association of Dental Support Organizations. “Consumers are saying ‘Well if I can do that on Amazon, I can do that with my favorite restaurant, why can’t healthcare be just as easy?’ Don’t give them a stack of papers to fill out — that world needs to be over with.”
The modern dentist
Dentists have long been refining their clinical approach to make the patient experience less painful, both literally and figuratively.
“What I would say to any individual practice is, ‘How can you get the work done today?’ Don’t break it up into five individual visits,” Scott said.
This same thinking applies to finding and implementing the right practice management software.
The patient portal is a key advancement in newer systems. Many allow patients to easily schedule and fluidly reschedule appointments, and chat with experts to answer any questions they may have. Some even offer annotated billing, which lets patients see what procedures were performed and why they received them.
“If I were going to give dentists a North Star, I think it would be making things more convenient,” Scott said. “Because when people opt out of preventative care because it’s not convenient, that’s when they end up going to the emergency room.”
While many people have put off routine medical procedures — such as dental check-ups and cleanings — to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19, studies show the risk of transmission is actually quite low. Dr. Michelle Neuburger, DDS, MPH, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Response Infection Prevention Control Team, reported in December that there hasn’t been a single COVID transmission between dentists and their patients in the United States.
Scott attributes this statistic to the thorough health and safety protocols dental practices usually follow, and the measures they’ve added over the past several months, such as temperature checks and COVID tests for all staff and patients.
“Go ahead and make the leap to go in, knowing that it’s going to be extremely safe,” Scott said of making dental appointments. “If you’ve felt comfortable going to a grocery store, this is 10 times safer.”
Keeping up with routine dental care is always important, especially during a global pandemic. A study published in the British Dental Journal revealed a link between poor oral hygiene and the severity of COVID-19 infections, underscoring the importance of maintaining good dental health habits, like coming in for a cleaning and check-up every six months.
“Not only is it safe, I would go so far as to say it’s a preventative measure to fight off any type of COVID-related disease you might get,” Scott said. “You don’t want your body to already be fighting a bacterial load when a viral load comes in.”