Here is some interesting data gathered by the Pew Research Center:
(Source: Pew Research Center)
This means that first, a super-majority of people 50 years and older live with at least one significant health condition that impacts their lives. Second, another super-majority (and growing) of just about everyone use the internet in their day-to-day life.
What implications could these two facts have for dentistry?
People will always need dental care, and they are more ingrained in technology than ever before. Fact 1 means that providing care is becoming more complex and requiring expert awareness of how these chronic conditions can affect dental treatment we provide. Just how should I modify treatment for a patient with a joint-replacement 5 months ago, or that is taking plavix? How will the drugs I prescribe interact or react? These questions become top of mind when encountering complex medical histories of patients more frequently.
Fact 2 tells us how our population (and thus our patients) behave. Dentists have been increasingly adept at finding ways to leverage the internet in their practices like creating websites or to increase patient compliance with appointment reminders and online bill-pay etc. But as the trend in internet usage continues to skyrocket, there will open up more and more avenues to increase office efficiency and patient communication. More and more patients will expect to be able to engage with your practice online.
Here’s one more fact I’d like to bring up:
This is just common sense, but of course every patient who comes into our offices must register and complete a form that collects personal, financial and health history information. And if there are important flags raised in the health history, we have to modify our appointment and treatment procedures. Sometimes significantly. (For my thoughts on the registration process, see here and here).
Together these three facts tell a story that goes something like this:
A dental practice is a business that thrives on efficiency; but it is also an important provider of health care. With more patients living longer with chronic disease, being able to pre-screen them for critical risks and important information that affects my decisions as a clinician is a huge plus. And with more people relying on the internet for everyday activities, registering my patients online before their appointments is a convenience that cannot be passed up.
Using online registration with “pre-clinical” analysis meets the challenges of dentists and their patients in today’s world.