Communication is a big part of most businesses, however when it comes to detailing necessary information regarding a patient case, direct communication between the dentist and the lab is essential. To date, most communication with the lab has been via phone and in person. Lab technicians see patients with and without dentists for a variety of reasons such as shade selection, treatment presentation, try-ins, and impressions both at the lab and in the dentist’s office. But is this a realistic method to conducting our business once we come through to the other side of this global pandemic?
The truth is, the dental industry will change drastically in the aftermath of COVID-19. Patients will be reluctant to go to a dentist to begin with, let alone to be in a small room filled with assistants and lab technician. So what does this mean for continuing to provide quality work to patients when things return to “normal” after COVID-19?
There have been several innovations in our industry to take dentistry digital and thankfully, this will allow laboratories and dentists to actually increase communication capabilities. Digital impressions have been on the rise in recent years and especially in 2019 with the launch of several new scanners. Our 3Shape scanner can accept digital impressions from any impression scanner on the market allowing us to work on a case digitally with higher accuracy. This eliminates the need for PVS impressions which could transfer contagious germs throughout a dental office and then to the lab. 3D printing models are then printed to confirm fit and accuracy, but soon this step will be eliminated completely as well.
Digital Smile Design (DSD) is yet another tool at our disposal that can be done virtually without contact, merely a 2D or 3D image is needed. This tool allows us to evaluate and propose a treatment plan that everyone, including the patient, doctor and lab technician can agree on and move forward with provisional and final treatment based on approved aesthetic design. Prior to COVID-19 this is something that would have included several in-person appointments and presentations with the lab, doctor and patient, all can now be done virtually with the same, if not better results with higher patient acceptance.
And finally, with the launch of our Doctor Gateway, dentists are able to log on to their accounts online and check the status of a case in the lab, request a pick up, enter a new case and attach supporting documents such as pictures, review, print and pay invoices and statements all with the click of a button.
The Doctor Gateway provides your team with the tools they need to do their jobs more efficiently, even when we’re not around to help. That said, the online portal is meant to provide an additional tool for communication, not as a replacement to human contact. But in the aftermath of COVID-19 this tool will be that much more relevant and helpful in sharing important details about patient cases.
As we prepare to return to work, tools like the ones mentioned above will help us maintain our physical distance all while continuing to support detailed and accurate work to our patients. While communicating via phone is still of utmost importance, the additional communication tools noted above will only help us in supporting one another as we try to navigate through these trying times together.