Offices are often strange places, filled with odd anecdotes. There are plenty better places on the internet to hear all sorts of professional folklore, but I will share my own tale here: I will never forget the day an update broke the office.
Picture it: an office of 30 or so professionals file in for a regular Monday morning. Each sits down, turns on their computer, and sees the dreaded progress bar of doom. Patiently, they sit and wait for the updates to complete.
Ten minutes pass. A handful of people go on a coffee run. Twenty minutes; someone starts tidying their desk. An hour – phone calls are placed about deadlines that were about to be missed. “I can’t bring the report up, the computer’s updating.”
By lunchtime, most of the office was reading books or chatting. The computers were still updating; we were at their mercy. We forgot about the meetings scheduled on our calendar; we couldn’t update documents or answer emails or access files. For the rest of the day, IT was the only busy department in the company.
“I don’t understand the need for these updates,” someone lamented. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
It’s an adage I often return to when I think about technology. I admit to being technophobic at times; if the old way works, why change? Does everything have to be optimized and improved to the nth degree? Can’t we do it the old-fashioned way?
Perhaps this doesn’t count (the definition of technophobia is a fear of tech, and this amounts to a mild grumble at most) – but it’s certainly a close relative, reluctance to change. Traditional businesses often suffer from this, sticking stubbornly to their guns until customer pressure causes them to cave – sometimes too little, too late. Newspapers are struggling to find a financial model to fund reporting in the information age, travel agents are an endangered species, and the Financial Times forecasts that even car insurers will soon come under threat, thanks to driverless cars. So how does a traditional industry like dentistry keep from becoming a dinosaur?
Get ahead of the curve.
Most popular modern innovations simply solve common niggles with tech, providing a level of convenience consumers have always dreamed of – and in dentistry, it’s no different. Automated appointment reminder systems are taking the place personal organizers and diaries used to take up, providing a paperless, portable solution. Sending treatment instructions, information and recall reminders straight to the patient’s phone puts the power over their schedule in the palm of their hand, whilst automation ensures your office runs smoothly – freeing up your staff to concentrate on more important tasks.
Sounds simple. So why are some practices still reluctant to make the switch?
It turns out, we have a history of technophobia. Just look at society’s reaction to the telephone in 1876. From TechRadar:
“The telephone wasn’t greeted with universal enthusiasm. Some elderly people feared that touching it would give them electric shocks, while men worried that their wives would waste too much time gossiping. In Sweden, preachers said the phone was the instrument of the Devil and phone lines were stolen or sabotaged; others feared that the lines were conduits for evil spirits.”
We can only imagine what they would have made of Twitter.
Although the initial reactions to the telephone ranged from cautionary to outright terrified, it soon caught on, and today most of us walk around with a portable version in our pocket. Far from afraid of its powers, most of us are more likely to feel separation anxiety if we leave our handy life-organizer/communicator for too long.
Yet electronic communication between doctors and patients isn’t new. As early as the 1990s, the American College of Physicians published research examining the impact of email on patient communication, determining that “E-mail between physicians and patients offers substantial promise as a way to improve access to health care, to let physicians reach out to patients, and to increase the involvement of patients in their own care.”
In truth, it mostly comes down to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But when patient care can be improved by automation, it’s time to wonder if getting on board with tech is better for both patients and practices.