How to get a high-tech office without breaking the bank: Part II

2008 10 31 11 14 24 315 Breaking Bank 70

You don't have to be a millionaire to look like one. Sometimes all it takes is a little ingenuity and smart shopping.

This same principle applies to building a high-tech dental practice for less than $10,000, according to Martin Jablow, D.M.D.

Take intraoperatory communications, for example.

"Is your staff constantly looking for you?" Dr. Jablow, a self-professed technophile (dentechblog.blogspot.com), asked a packed audience at the recent 2008 ADA meeting in San Antonio. One solution is to install an instant messaging system on your office computers. Two such systems -- RealPopup or Mercury Messenger -- can be downloaded for free on the Internet.

Another option is to invest in what Dr. Jablow calls "family service radios" -- the modern-day version of the walkie-talkie -- which can be purchased for about $50 a pair at Best Buy, he said. These devices are "location-independent, offer instant access, and save time and steps."

Patient education also doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Software and DVD products such as Caesy, Consult-Pro, or Orasphere make case presentation simple; aid the informed-consent process; provide an instant, unbiased second opinion; and increase the perceived value of your services, according to Dr. Jablow. Even if you don't have a computer in your operatories, you can "go to Target and buy a DVD player for $50," he added.

"There are not just legal reasons for this," Dr. Jablow emphasized. "It helps the patient. And it does a much better job than we can do."

Dr. Jablow also talked about several imaging technologies that can add value to a dental practice while still being budget-friendly:

  • Digital cameras: "You don't need fancy stuff. Every patient who comes into my office gets some pictures done, even just a 'passport photo' for identification purposes," Dr. Jablow said. He recommends the Nikon CoolPix P5100 (12 megapixels), which sells for $299. For an additional $99.95, consider picking up an EyeFi -- a 2-GB WiFi SD (secure digital) card that will wirelessly transfer pictures from your camera to your computer. "This is a regular memory card with a wireless connection built into it," Dr. Jablow explained.

  • Intraoral cameras: Dr. Jablow said he currently uses the Air Techniques Acclaim USB intraoral camera, which sells for $3,990. He also considers the Acteon Sopro 717 "a wonderful camera," although it is more expensive at around $6,000. Another budget-friendly product is the Discovery CAM intraoral camera, which sells for $200.

  • Digital radiography: "If you don't need panoramic images, a phosphor-plate system [such as the OPTime from Soredex] will fit within the $10,000 budget," Dr. Jablow said. He also recommends the Aribex Nomad portable x-ray system, which sells for around $7,000. "You don't have to walk out of the room to take x-rays!"

Dr. Jablow ended his ADA presentation with a strong endorsement of anesthesia delivery systems, such as the computer-controlled STA system from Milestone Scientific. Among its advantages: it delivers single-tooth anesthesia precisely, provides one- to two-minute injections, eliminates the five- to 15-minute wait for mandible blocks, and sells for $1,995.

"It takes the stress off both the patient and the dentist," he said -- something we all can appreciate.

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