As a new dentist, fresh out of dental school and working my first job with a large dental corporation, I made up my mind to learn as much as I could on the front-end of my career. Living in Gainesville, the University of Florida’s Master-Track Program was an easy decision although the financial commitment was not. By almost a decade I was the youngest member of the cohort and I quickly realized that I had much to learn from the experience of the other dentists whom I now call my friends.
Two years later, as that program drew to a close, I made a point of writing down the best advice I had received from each of my friends who had shared the journey with me. I remember Tony’s face as he paused when I asked him for advice. He thought for a moment, smiled and said, “Never do anything that doesn’t make you money.” The advice felt hard and raw almost lacking emotion and I was shocked that such a jovial guy would say something like that.
Fast forward a number of years, I now own my practice, employ staff and an associate, and make all the decisions made. With several pieces of equipment and software that I have barely used, I reflect back on Tony’s advice and realize the depths of that concise sentence.
Dentists are gadget-prone. We love the latest technology that detects cavities or scans and mills crowns and we drool over the cool software than can send messages to the entire patient base with a single click. Before we go run out and buy all the latest, we should pause and as ourselves a few simple questions.
Do I have an email that I need to send to every single patient? I have never drafted such an email. We are so wowed by the capabilities of these products that we forget to ask ourselves if there is a practical use for them. If you do not know a specific and essential need that the product is going to address, save your money.
How many crowns do I prepare each month and is CAD/CAM the answer to every one of them? The answer is most likely not that many and there are definitely situations, like surveyed crowns under metal partial dentures, where the answer is no. Beware of the pressure to use new technology in inappropriate situations to cover the costs of owning the product.
Lastly, what is the net profitability that owning this new product is adding to the bottom line? Take the time to count the number of procedures that the product allows you to perform (that you could not have performed before). Also consider potential time savings facilitated by its use and whether you are busy enough to fill that time with other productive procedures or would you rather take some well-deserved time off.
Each of these questions is unique to your practice, but is a key strategic decision based on need, ethical application, and operations management. Having obtained my MBA, I relate them to business concepts like Return on Assets, Return on Equity, and Process Analysis and Project Design. There are several really neat products in the marketplace, but it is for us to determine which ones are best suited to our practice so that we see tangible results.