Professional Courtesy: Powered by People and Technology by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi

Professional Courtesy: Powered by People and Technology

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, editorial director

It’s time to consider a future that includes fewer team members. The world is fixated on working from home, but dentistry is a service business that offers only limited options for remote work.

The pandemic has been especially difficult for service businesses because they rely on people to deliver that service. By now, you’ve likely seen how staff shortages affect restaurants, stores and coffee shops in your community. Because necessity is the mother of invention, many businesses are adapting to deal with these challenges: Stores and restaurants alike have begun allowing customers to order and pay online before picking up their purchases, and some restaurants are taking orders through kiosks instead of cashiers.

What can we do in dentistry to adapt? Our first line of defense is to keep patients informed: They’ve seen similar messages at local businesses, asking for patience as the team does its best with fewer members. This is a short-term solution, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how understanding patients can be in these times.

The next level of response involves embracing various tech solutions to transition your office to a point where it can handle the usual workload with fewer human hands in the mix. This doesn’t mean your level of service has to suffer—you just need to implement these things in the spirit of removing repetitive tasks and freeing team members to inject personality into their work.

Luckily, many solutions can help make your office more efficient with fewer human hours:

  • Appointment reminder software. This falls under the category of technology that everyone should be using, and there are many options to choose from. At minimum, the software should provide appointment reminders via email and text, with options for patients to confirm without an unnecessary call to the office. Bonus points if you can send messages to patients to fill vacant appointments and make automated phone calls to confirm patients without an email address or phone number on file.

  • Digital statements. Most practice management software can send digital statements to patients and provide them with a link to pay their bills online. Stop printing and mailing statements that require manual processing when the payments are returned.

  • Online scheduling. This is technology that has finally reached the mainstream: You’ve had patients asking for this feature—or at the very least, looking for it on your website. Not all dental appointments can be scheduled this way, but you might have new patients surfing your website at night who are ready and willing to schedule. This leads me to my next item. ...

  • Chat feature on your website. My practice website uses Simplifeye’s live chat tool. I was admittedly skeptical at first, but I’m continually amazed at how many new and existing patients regularly use this feature. This type of interaction allows data to be collected so your team can respond when they have time, rather than having a lengthy phone call.

  • Electronic payments (EFT, ERA and EOB). Insurance payments have had digital options for some time now. The time saved with payment processing, bank deposits and data entry in your practice management software is incredible. If you haven’t incorporated this into your practice, the time to start is now.
The last item for consideration is the menu of services in your practice. Look for procedures that can be done in fewer visits—clear aligners, in-office milling and digital dentures. I recently started using Philips Zoom Delivered, a teeth-whitening option that allows you to scan your patient in the office and have the trays and bleaching gel delivered to their home. This saves the staff the time of fabricating trays and eliminates a second appointment.

Do you have a change to share that’s made your office more efficient? Please share in the comments under this article below. I can also be reached via email at

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