Technology and Overhead: Can They Coexist?
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused us to shut down the face to face interactions we’ve been used to. As a result, many new (and older) technologies have moved to the forefront. Many have changed the way they’re practicing and the conversations have turned to things like virtual exams and teliomedicine options. Moreover, the discussions have gone further to suggest that this virus might have made changes to the way we will all practice moving forward.
At the same time, there has been much discussion about running practices on “skeleton” crews with significantly reduced overhead. Doctors have described how great it’s been connecting with their patients while answering phones, taking all emergencies and doing things they may not have done in years. Many have mentioned how “simple” it was when they saw fewer patients and had smaller teams with lower overall overhead.
This leads to the question: When all of this is over, will we adopt more technology to help make our practices more efficient and will these technologies really deliver on their promise of making us more profitable through their efficiency?
Video conferencing has been around forever and the costs aren’t that high. But what about machine learning programs to help track treatment, texting apps, software to schedule online exams, virtual assistants, online documentation signing software, software to create in-house aligners, virtual payment portals, and on and on. Everything has a price and someone has to pay that price.
One could make the argument that each of these softwares and technologies are essential in today’s environment and that if we are to tailor the experience to the needs of our clients, we need to be heading down that road. Can we afford this?
Historically, a well-run orthodontic practice in a suburban area can run effectively at a 50-60% overhead. Let’s be honest, very few orthodontists have starved. However, every penny spent on technology is a penny out of the practice owner’s pocket, so it needs to make sense.
The biggest problem used to be the cost of acquiring new technology. For instance, a new compressor or Pan/Ceph cost a lot. What’s changed is that everything now comes with the ever present “monthly fee”, so while you might not spend much for a new app, software or device up front, one could find themselves with thousands of dollars in monthly fees just from the ongoing maintenance of the practices upgrades. In perpetuity.
Which technological advances REALLY make us money or pay for themselves through efficiencies and which technologies are just “cool” to have?
Every doctor needs to make the decision for themselves and figure out how to make them affordable. It used to be that one simply “raised their fees” to accommodate the increase in practice costs, however, today’s market-and recent economic downturn-make raising fees a difficult option.
To be honest, after 27 years in practice (albeit only 5 in orthodontics) I have come to rely on those around me and the technology available to reduce my stress and make practice more enjoyable. Yes, it makes my overhead higher, and yes, I can tend to get excited about introducing new technology into the practice, but my partner helps us decide what’s right and what’s affordable. An extra set of eyes on most decisions is a great help.
So, which apps/programs/software/devices make the most sense to you? Which ones are the ones that our patients will demand AND recoup their costs?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Wishing you the best,
If you want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group (OrthopreneursRD) where we come together to help each other build better practices and lower stress, please message me. To learn more about your region’s availability and what it’s all about, click HERE.
GLENN KRIEGER IS AN ORTHODONTIST WITH 20 YEARS OF RESTORATIVE AND COSMETIC DENTISTRY EXPERIENCE BEFORE HE RETURNED TO ORTHODONTIC RESIDENCY. DR. KRIEGER LEARNED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF WELL-DESIGNED PRACTICE POLICIES AND SYSTEMS DURING A YEAR AT THE SCHUSTER CENTER FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN SCOTTSDALE ARIZONA, AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF GENERAL ACCOUNTING PRACTICES AND INDUSTRIAL PSYCHOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL’S “DENTIST AS CEO” PROGRAM. HE IS THE HOST OF “THE ORTHOPRENEURS PODCAST”, MANAGES THE ORTHOPRENEURS FACEBOOK GROUP AND RUNS THE ANNUAL ORTHOPRENEURS SUMMIT.