Totally digital

small digTotal Orthodontics has discovered the benefits of going digital

Total Orthodontics is a leading orthodontic group based in South-East England, and is the largest provider of NHS orthodontic treatment in the region. With a dedicated team working across 11 practices, they are committed to high standards of treatment and patient care. As well as creating beautiful smiles, their specialists are actively involved in research, teaching and product development, keeping Total at the forefront of orthodontics.
Back in early 2012, the Total group had identified a number of issues relating to the storage and retrieval of plaster study models. After some initial investigation, they decided to take advantage of JJ Thompson’s new digital study model service.
Utilising the very latest in laser scanning technology, JJ Thompson use reliable, onsite scanning to convert physical impressions or plaster models into accurate 3D digital images which are then sent back to the practice, and can be viewed and manipulated on-screen using a straightforward software package.
A year later we look at how the digital system was implemented and how it’s helped to change working life in the practice.

Clear benefits

The benefits are clear. Much-needed storage space is freed up, as well as staff time. Practices can get instant access to all their patient models without wasting time and effort retrieving physical models (which may or may not be damaged) from expensive, dedicated storage facilities. Files can be emailed anywhere in an instant, cutting down lab turnaround time and making it easier to comply with requests from regulatory bodies.
John Costello is a partner at Total, and saw the potential immediately. ‘We were having major storage issues,’ he says. ‘Physical models were being stored off-site at great expense as there just wasn’t any more room for them in the practices. Staff were spending far too much time archiving, logging, transporting and retrieving models. We knew something had to change.’
Moving to digital study models was a huge undertaking for such a big group. A change in culture was needed, as well as a change in working practices. So over the course of 2012, Total worked closely with JJ Thompson to gradually switch to digital format, one practice at a time. Now, all eleven practices are working with digital study models.
We asked some of the staff how they’d found the transition, and how life had changed one year on.
Tarryn Bethel is head nurse at Total Orthodontics in Horsham, and says, ‘All the nursing staff prefer digital study models as they save a lot of surgery time, from request to delivery. It’s a huge contrast for us, as before it was an additional nurse job to number and file away the cast models. Now it is just an email with no postage. For the clinicians, having it on the PC saves time in clinic too, and there’s no longer a risk of models getting broken or misplaced.’
Harriet Black, head nurse at Total Orthodontics in Sevenoaks has also used the system to help with PAR scoring, ‘It was hard at first, but I had a one-to-one support session with the software providers ESM, and that really helped. It is easier to find the models as they are on the computer and you haven’t got boxes of models everywhere.’

Easy transition

Glyn Merritt is group IT manager and oversaw the entire transition process. ‘This was a big project to implement as we have several sites and this is a fully automated system with an offsite backup system too,’ he comments. ‘The setup of the server software from ESM at each practice was fine and I managed to do it on my own after I had been shown the installation process. Once the server software was installed (around 20-30 minutes) I just installed the client software which only took about five minutes per computer. This had to be done across all our sites on approximately 80 computers.
‘Security hasn’t been a problem. Only a connection from JJ Thompson will be accepted by our SFTP (secure file transfer protocol) server. JJ Thompson enter in a username and strong password to log in, and they only have the ability to upload files. Each file is sent over an encrypted tunnel so transfers are fully secure. Once the patient study models are delivered to the server, they are automatically transferred via a secure private network to the relevant practices and an email notification is generated for each practice notifying them of the deliveries. Some quick guides to the software would be great to give to new users of the software, but overall, the setup was smooth.’
John Costello says the whole group saw multiple benefits almost immediately. ‘The entire process has been a painless and positive one. Going digital has proved to be cost efficient and popular with the majority of staff, particularly the nurses who’ve found it saves on admin time. ‘From the outset, Total were very keen to be one of the first orthodontic groups to convert to digital. I think we can all agree that we’re glad we did, and we’d recommend it to others too.’


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