Putting digitisation front and centre

Align Technology explains why digitisation in dentistry is now more important than everAlign Technology explains why digitisation in dentistry is now more important than ever.

During the pandemic, Align Technology worked with a number of key opinion leaders.  The aim was to explore best practice strategies for returning to dental practice. They helped dental professionals to thrive in a new environment. Enabling them to turn the unprecedented challenges into potential opportunities.

One of its key enablers turned out to be the adoption of digital dental solutions. This led to alternative ways to diagnose, improve workflows, better communication. Also, patient care, safer procedures and staff protection. All whilst keeping the number of patient visits as low as possible.

Critically, this approach is achievable at the same time as accomplishing sustainable business growth once practices reopen and start receiving patients again – while following local guidelines.

New research on the impact of COVID-19 mirrors these thoughts. According to Research Reports World, the global intraoral scanners market post-COVID-19 anticipates a considerable rise between 2020 and 2025. The market was already growing at a steady rate in 2020. It is now expected to rise over the projected horizon.

A powerful tool

Multiple doctors agreed that the implementation of a digital workflow, with an intraoral scanner – such as Align Technology’s Itero Element intraoral scanner – at its hub, has made the post COVID-19 environment far less challenging. It has played a major role in their accelerated practice recovery.

They identified a number of reasons for this, including the facilitation of better communication with patients and labs. Risking to use time sub-optimally by taking traditional impressions is now even more questionable. It can get carried out quickly and highly accurately digitally. It eliminates the need to ask a patient to come into the clinic more than necessary.

Early adopters have also validated the business benefits of embracing digital dentistry as a new powerful patient conversion tool, which also becomes a revenue builder for the practice.

In short, these key opinion leaders highlight the pertinence of digitisation, in order to progress. As well as depriving patients from what one considers as ‘best practice’.

Using digital tools to increase patient safety and control cross-contamination in the new post-COVID-19 era. Everyone agreed that patient and staff protection has become a top priority. The doctors highlighted that the design of the Itero intraoral scanner and single-use sleeve made the cleaning and disinfection procedures simple and efficient to perform. During the appointment, they felt reassured to demonstrate the single use sleeve in front of the patient.

Scanning the patient with an intraoral scanner can help with close monitoring of their condition or progress of their treatment remotely. The real time visuals on screen help with patient engagement and treatment acceptance. Prior and after the appointment, it is possible to work on the patient’s personalised treatment plans. Their records can get referred through the Myitero.com digital platform.

For the patient, this means minimised chair time and fewer appointments. Their digital treatment files can get emailed directly to them, with a phone calls/emails to follow up conversation.

It is then possible to share these directly with the laboratory – either during or immediately after the patient consultation – which not only saves time, but also avoids cross-contamination through reduced touchpoints.

Digitisation as a business enabler

Dr David Galler (USA), an Align Growth Summit presenter, underlined that digitisation is also a business enabler as it increases patient engagement and helps with treatment uptake.

The power of visualisation for the consumer is one of the most important things we can do for our patients,’ he said. ‘In 90 seconds, a patient can visualise how amazing their teeth can look. If my local gym had an outcome simulator and they would show me how I would look after all the gym work, I would probably have the highest level gym membership.’

Dr Edouard Negre (France) also lectured at the Align Growth Summit. He says that digitisation, once mastered, becomes your second nature. You soon wonder how you were operating effectively without it. He emphasised the importance of jumping on the digitisation bandwagon now to avoid getting left behind.

Dr Marcos White and Dr Mark Hughes share enthusiasm on the business scope of the Itero intraoral scanner.

For Dr White, the COVID-19 situation has just reinforced how important digital dentistry has become: ‘It has been proven that digital keeps you in the game. Digital always wins in so many key areas of the practice. From communication, efficiency, compliance, storage, infection risk, upskilling of staff and profitability.’

Dr Hughes recently ran a webinar to share clinical and business strategies for dentists to thrive after the pandemic. He agrees: ‘Align Technology says that 60% of patients proceed with treatment after they see the simulation visualisation tool on their Itero scanner. That’s a powerful conversion rate to treatment.’

Improved practice efficiency and profitability

Dr Sandra Tai (Canada), a specialist orthodontist who spoke at Align Technology’s Invisalign Scientific Symposium, uses digital technology for diagnosis, treatment planning, simulating the treatment outcome, tracking changes over time and to assess how patients’ treatments are progressing.

She observed a surge in interest in intraoral scanning post-COVID-19. It minimised the chair time needed, compared with PVS impression taking. Also, you send scans virtually. This eliminates the need to disinfect and ship impressions. You can reorder broken retainers using past scans. Clinchecks also get carried out virtually.

According to Dr Tai, remote treatment monitoring through Invisalign Virtual Consult and the My Invisalign app, as well as virtual appointments and digital treatment plans will all become part of the post-pandemic way leading providers will practise orthodontics. Digitalisation is a driver for improved practice efficiency and profitability.

Dr Mark Cronshaw (UK), professor of oral sciences and integrated diagnostics and president of Pandora Dental, says: ‘Using a technology such as the Itero system totally transforms the way I can work and also meets the needs of post-COVID-19. It reduces the number of times patients have to come in and proves very efficient as a business model.

‘Technology is a way of growing the size of the business, reducing footfall, increasing profitability. It promotes the wider range of services that we offer because of it.’

Dr Cronshaw’s comments echo a 2019 study ‘Acquisition of Itero Element intraoral scanners: three-year examination of practice volume changes and economic impact’, which corroborates its scope to improve profitability through digitisation.

Dr Mark Hughes concurs: ‘It is now more important than ever to invest in a scanner like the Itero device and treat with the Invisalign system if practices are going to thrive again. Even in the current climate, it is sensible.’

Evidence like this from an increasing number of leading dental professionals shows what a successful dental practice looks like. One more likely to thrive in the post-COVID-19 era is the one that puts digital workflows front and centre.

It embraces digitisation and transforms the experience of dental treatment. As well as the way they work with their patients and laboratories.

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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