How to get your team to embrace new technologies

2010 10 14 14 14 41 155 Ada Show Report

SAN FRANCISCO - Half the battle in transitioning to a digital dental office involves convincing your team and your patients that it is a good idea.

The key, according to Amy Morgan of the Pride Institute, is to sell them on the benefits and engage them in the adoption process.

Speaking Thursday in the South Hall CE Hub at the ADA Annual Session, Morgan shared her tips for "Creating a Technology Culture" in today's busy dental practice.

"There is a mistaken assumption that technology takes you away from your patients, but that is not true," she said. "Today's technology enables you to be closer with your patients, to 'touch them' in new ways."

“Leadership is something you do with people, not to them.”
— Amy Morgan, Pride Institute

Despite the many benefits that new technologies such as electronic records, 3D imaging, and digital impressions can offer, dental practitioners face a number of challenges in successfully integrating these new ways of doing business into their daily routines, Morgan noted.

"When we do our technology assessments with Pride clients, we find that offices are either uncomfortable with technology, find it difficult to integrate the new technologies with their clinical practices, can't afford it, or that their patients are uncomfortable with it," she said.

Morgan offered an eight-step approach to this process. A critical starting point when deciding whether investing in digital dentistry is right for your practice, she emphasized, is to develop and communicate a clear vision.

"By 'vision' I don't mean a mission statement that sits on your wall -- rather, a compelling reason to buy a new piece of equipment," Morgan said. "You have to be able to sell it to your team and your patients."

Next, it is important to plan for your return on investment (ROI) using both qualitative and quantitative factors.

"When considering a new technology purchase, ask yourself these questions: Will this new technology reduce your stress? Increase efficiency? Increase morale? Increase productivity and profitability? Create more balance?" she said.

From a quantitative perspective, knowing your active patient base is critical, Morgan emphasized. "That is anyone you have seen for anything in the last 18 months, counted once," she said. "Anything under 800 is a practice in growth, and they will consider different technology purchases than a practice with 800 to 2,200 active patients."

Other quantitative factors that should be part of your ROI calculations include the number of new patient inquiries, the number of new patient appointments, production, collections, profitability, case acceptance percentage, and continuing care compliance, she noted.

And never forget to factor in the qualitative return, especially when trying to engage you team members on the value of transitioning to a new technology. "I'm going to feel better about what I do because it reflects clinical excellence," Morgan added.

Overcoming resistance

The next step involves partnering with your team to help them rally behind your decision to adopt a new technology.

"Leadership is something you do with people, not to them," Morgan said. "Your team needs to be part of the process. In fact, partnering with them is one of the most important parts of this process."

Meeting with resistance is not uncommon when trying to introduce a new idea or way of working -- which brought Morgan to step 4: Be prepared to overcome resistance.

"If you are going to sell your team on a new piece of equipment and make your technology purchase a success," she emphasized, "you need to be able to answer these questions for them: Why do we need to make this change? What's in it for me (how is it going to make me better at what I do)? And will I be able to learn how to use it?"

Morgan recommends having a staff meeting to create a sense of urgency -- "the competitive realities and opportunities around this," she said. It is also important to create a master plan on how to increase patient commitment, and also to give each team member a task that makes each person part of the process.

"Appoint a technology liaison," she suggested.

Providing appropriate training also is critical, Morgan added, noting that too many practices often overlook this when they change a process or install a new piece of equipment.

"Identify the training needs required to support the purchase -- that is, the knowledge, skills, attitude, and ability of each staff member," she said.

Marketing the new technology to your patients is equally important, Morgan noted, and social media, your practice website, and an e-newsletter can help tremendously. Just as with your team, however, the key is to emphasize the benefits to them, she stressed.

"You need to engage your patients to want to do what you want them to do," Morgan said. "Having a link to a website explaining the new technology doesn't engage. You don't want to just say, 'We do CAD/CAM restorations' -- you need to emphasize efficiency and quality, 'affordable and effective.' "

And just as with your team, communicating these benefits to your patients is a process, not an event.

"You have to keep talking about it to build momentum," she said.

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