Recent surveys from various dental journals suggest that the vast majority of dentists have become computerized in the last decade. Most dentists would have difficulty handling their schedules, billing, insurance, and a host of other functions without the use of a practice management system. While the use of a computer system in the front office has become almost mandatory, these computers are nowhere near as prevalent in the treatment rooms. According to a recent poll, only one third of dental offices report having at least one computer system in the operatories. The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the reasons why computers belong in the operatory, and to recommend some products that will allow us to reach this goal.
The electronic scheduler is a must for the modern office. Among the many advantages of electronic scheduling is that it allows for a rapid means of finding patient appointments, easy methods of changing appointments, and scheduling to achieve production goals for the day. However, contrary to popular belief, the scheduling is best handled from the operatory. The doctor and the assistant often require that a patient’s next visit be longer or shorter than is normally scheduled. In a typical dental office, the assistant walks the patient up front and relates specific instructions to the office manager or receptionist. However, if that person is busy, or has another patient to handle, or is on the phone, those instructions are often not heard and the patient is improperly scheduled. This doesn’t happen if the assistant schedules the next visit right from the treatment room. In many offices I’ve seen, the assistants are trained to collect payments and process insurance claims right from the operatory.