Digitalization and technological advancements within the dental industry have been a game changer for all dental professionals, both on the clinic and lab side. It has resulted in improved, faster, and all-round more predictable patient care. For dental labs it has expediated turnaround time for cases, efficiency, and better workload management. But where it has also had a significant impact is in the lab-clinic collaboration.
Many steps in the right direction
Compared to the non-digital days, where impressions had to be physically shipped to labs, the digital way involved scanning with an intraoral scanner and sending the scan files electronically to the labs. Needless to say, this was groundbreaking in terms of how clinics and labs worked together because of the significant reduction in time for each step of the process.
A typical workflow in the digital scenario involves creating a prescription of the treatment and scanning the patient, sending the file electronically through a secure file transfer program such as 3Shape Communicate or similar. At the lab end, once the files are received, they are imported to the lab’s CAD design software where the lab technician can then start working on the case.
So what are the issues with the current setup?
There are still several areas in the lab-clinic collaboration that are not fully on par with the remaining digital workflows.
1. Multiple channels of communication
While the above steps and workflow sounds simple, the major drawback is in the lack of integration between the system used in the clinic and the system used in the lab. This means that the communication between labs and clinic, even with an intraoral scan file, the case specific information, additional modalities, such as patient photos, x-rays, even intraoral scans, are still shared through multiple channels such as, messenger, WhatsApp, SMS, mail etc. While some clinics might prefer one communication channel, others might have a different preference. So, labs end up having to be ‘online’ on several channels and use multiple programs to communicate and receive files from different clinics.
2. Establishing new connections
In a non-integrated digital setup, establishing new collaborations and connecting with new business partners, for labs and clinics are today more or less still done in an analog way, for e.g. physically at tradeshows, meetings, conferences, etc. But this does not match the needs of a modern clinician or technician who is used to everything being seamlessly connected and integrated in other aspects of their lives. Moreover, in most communication programs, labs can only promote themselves with a name and/or e-mail. Their services, employees, specializations, etc., are not reflected in the communication platform.
All this results in inconvenience and inefficiency, as information is scattered across various channels. This means that both labs and clinics must monitor many different portals and communication channels, to make sure that all necessary information is received, and the case can be finalized according to the agreement.
The solution – a single integrated platform
The only way to overcome the limitations of a non-integrated system is an integrated system. A single platform, with the right focus on collaboration between labs and clinics, could be a steppingstone in improving and delivering world-class ‘send to lab’ workflows.
A single platform for communication
For the purposes of communicating and sharing case files, both labs and clinics would benefit if there was a single platform where both parties can be logged on to, share case files and additional images, communicate and agree on case information. More importantly, a platform that makes case information available to both clinics and labs anywhere, anytime.
Connect digitally with labs and treatment providers
When it comes to connecting to new business partners, the possibility to connect digitally through an online platform gives labs and clinics the opportunity to expand their offering and business in the long run. They will no longer be restricted to who or what kind of lab or treatment provider they use to provide treatments.
Labs as apps
One way to connect digitally could be through an app. Just as we, as individuals, connect with a number of service providers, stores, information sources via apps on our smartphones, clinics should also be able to connect with multiple labs that appear as apps on their dental platform. Just as apps on smartphones have a description, rating and other information, labs in this case will get the opportunity to promote themselves with more than just a name and email address.
Uniting is the way forward
A lot of clinics and labs are starting to work globally, which means, they want to connect with global partners. Therefore, it is key to have a platform that gives both labs and clinics to connect with partners globally via apps and once they connect, be able to communicate and share cases seamlessly via a single platform.
An open integrated platform will be key in solving these two crucial pain points and the users, both labs and clinic, will start experiencing truly digital workflows that can create more transparency and predictability between the collaborating partners.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Przemek Seweryniak, who is a renown dental technician, the CEO and Founder of Cosmodent, and a native digital user.
When asked what the biggest challenge for his lab is he said, “the biggest challenge, I believe, we have is that today the data is spread out in different platforms and gathering all that data from different platforms, is perhaps the biggest challenge we have in the lab.” According to him the ideal solution would be, “to get an open platform where all the data can be collected in one place so that the lab can log in to one place, get all the information from all our clients and all the clients can also send all their information to that one place.”
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