Is it Time to Say Goodbye to our DSLR Cameras?

By Dr. Anthony M. Puntillo, DDS, MSD

When I first graduated from my orthodontic residency, now more than 23 years ago, a standard set of initial records included plaster models, facial and intraoral photographs taken with film, developed, then trimmed and placed into mounts and panoramic and lateral cephalometric radiographs taken with film and developed in darkrooms. The digitization of our society has made the process of gathering and storing this important diagnostic information much more efficient for most orthodontists. In fact, more than four years ago (November 2012) I wrote a Tech Blog article on digital retainers and the impressionless orthodontic practice. Since then the use of intraoral scanners and 3D printing in our profession has grown exponentially. It is now not hard to imagine a day in the near future when impressions will disappear completely from the practice of dentistry.  As I near the end of my 8 year term on the CTECH committee, I can’t help but wonder what is next.   Where else can we use technology to eliminate inefficient processes from our practices?

The most obvious next step for me is the elimination of intraoral photographs. All of those intraoral scanners, now used by most orthodontists, take multiple photographs of our patients’ teeth to create the 3D digital images. Several of these scanners can capture images in true, or close to true color. It can’t be long before we come to the realization that digital images taken with a good intraoral scanner are a better alternative to the standard set of 5-7 intraoral 2D photos we have been taking for decades. The 3D digital image is not only a better diagnostic record of the patient’s current dental state, it also is more versatile in that it can also be used to create and fabricate appliances (i.e. clear aligners, indirect bonding setups, retainers, etc.). If a good intraoral scan can consistently be completed in less than 10 minutes, aren’t we wasting our time and that of our patients’ taking 2D photos. I concede that we are all very accustomed to diagnosing our patients with these 2D photographic images. However, it was not that long ago when most thought that multiple radiographic exposures were necessary on the majority of our patients.   Now most of our patients are diagnosed with a single, quick radiograph taken on a CBCT machine and from that single exposure we derive a much higher level of diagnostic information.

To be honest, I am not yet ready to mothball our cameras. For starters, I still think that facial 2D photos are necessary. I know that there are 3D cameras available that will someday eliminate the need for our extraoral series of facial photos. However, for whatever reason (I believe primarily cost) these have not yet caught on. So for now we will still be taking a series of three 2D digital photos of our patients’ faces. Additionally, 2D intraoral pictures still play a significant role in our new patient consultations. We have not yet found the best way to display and share the captured 3D dental images (STL files) to educate our patients. I anticipate that this last hurdle will be overcome in 2017 and when that happens our DSLRs are going to see much less action and our IOSs are going to play an even larger role in our new patient process.

Reevaluating Your Password Management

By Dr. Matthew Larson

We live in an amazing age where the world is at our fingertips… if only we could remember our password.

It’s no surprise that passwords can be a frustrating part of our digital lives. Websites can have different requirements for passwords and then have to be changed at different intervals. In theory, there are clearly good reasons to have high standards for strong passwords. However, in real life this often means the same password is used for multiple websites and are frequently saved in other locations to remember them.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself about how you handle passwords in your office:

  1. Do you use strong passwords when needed?
  2. Do you have UNIQUE passwords for different sites?
  3. Do you change passwords when you have changes in staff?
  4. Do you keep important passwords private? (This means not posted in plain sight! In many practices the private WiFi password or Invisalign login can be easily found by opening the drawer or cabinet near the computer.)

If you answered no to most of the questions above you may want to consider a password manager app. (If you answered yes to all the questions and do NOT use some form of password manager, I would love to have your memory.) There are many good password manager programs – some are built into web browsers (Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Safari all have password managers) while some are 3rd party programs (some of the more popular ones are LastPass, Dashlane, 1Password, and Password Safe). These programs and apps can help manage your existing passwords and help create strong new passwords.

Here are my personal thoughts when selecting a password manager program:

  • Select a program that requires a strong master password to open the app. This rules out most default password managers within web browsers, although there are browser extensions available for many of the 3rd party programs which do require a separate logon. This master password unlocks all your other passwords, so carefully create a unique and very strong.
  • Select a company that has a strong history with good reviews. You want a company with a strong reputation that will continue to maintain high security.
  • Expect to pay a small fee for a high quality company. These programs are inexpensive overall (most range from free to about $5 for the app), so don’t get too caught up trying to find a bargain. A bargain price typically means they are either trying to grow (and then will likely increase fees later) or they are making money through other venues (and the priority may not be the password management program).
  • Use a program that works on mobile devices, Windows computers, and Macs so you can utilize it on all your devices. Additionally, make sure you can sync your database files easily in the cloud between devices.

Related to the database files, ensure the program you choose maintains an encrypted database file. This requires that you have the program and the master password to open the database. All the 3rd party programs mentioned about are encrypted with AES-256 encryption (which is much better than a word document on dropbox).

Currently, I personally use 1Password (https://1password.com/ ), mainly because I like the “Teams” option that allows you to share passwords between team members. You do this using shared “Vaults” as shown below. They charge per user so currently I only have one account for my personal use and one account that the staff uses for ordering and insurance. The program also allows you to save credit card information and profiles, so entering information on a new website goes much quicker. It is also a great way to organize NPI and license numbers for you and your team.

Another nice benefit of these managers is that you can actually load the sites and passwords very quickly and efficiently. I found myself actually saving time going through and paying bills after switching to a password manager because loading every site basically just takes a couple clicks of the mouse. A couple screenshots of how this looks on a mobile device are shown below. (I use this as quick access to my office Facebook account, since the app on my phone has my personal account saved.)

Some may have security concerns by having all your passwords stored in one spot. However, keep in mind that this is the focus of the company and they likely can manage it better than most people can with the little time they realistically devote to it. The first step to deciding if this type of program is right for you and your practice is an honest look at the security and efficiency of your current systems. If managing these passwords is stressful or they are not being stored securely, take a look into what current password manager programs can add to your practice.

2017 Winter Conference – Technology: Balancing Profit, Lifestyle & Patient Care

By Dr. Doug Depew

The 2017 AAO Winter Conference is quickly approaching. Our theme of this year’s meeting Technology: Balancing Profit, Lifestyle and Patient Care.  It promises to be a meeting filled with information for both newer and established practices to help make those tough decisions on what technology is important to use in our practices and when we may wish to invest in it.

The meeting will begin with keynote speaker Jack Shaw.   Mr. Shaw is a world- renowned technology futurist who will be discussing how cutting edge and disrupting technologies will change the way we do business and run our practices in the coming years.

IT guru Steve McEvoy will be answering some of those pesky questions we all have about computer hardware, effective and cost-efficient data backup, and security.   In the ever changing world of computers, what you hear at this meeting will certainly be different than what Mr. McEvoy would have talked about even a couple of years ago.

On Friday afternoon we’ll have a lively discussion by Drs. Greg Jorgensen and Neil Kravitz regarding building our practices through social media, websites, and Internet marketing. Their success in these areas has been paramount in growing their thriving practices.

Saturday morning will begin with Dr. Aaron Molen sharing his experience and thoughts on bringing emerging technology into our practices to help create more efficient and more comfortable patient care.

We’re excited to have Drs. Ed Lin and Christian Groth discussing how to integrate some of the latest technology hardware into our orthodontic practices. This includes workflows for using CBCT, Scanners and 3D Printing.

The conference will conclude with Chris Bentson and Charles Loretto with a discussion on how technology can affect the value and profitability in our practices. This should help answer the question about at what stage of practice a doctor might consider investing in advanced technology.

The location for the meeting is at the gorgeous Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The dates are February 10-11, 2017. The schedule is organized in a way to allow some time for afternoon recreation.

There will be plenty of time allotted for attendees to ask questions of the speakers to be sure all bases are covered.   To learn more and to register, visit https://www.aaoinfo.org/meetings/2017-winter-conference-technology-balancing-profit-lifestyle-patient-care

How Can Patients Contact You During an Office Relocation?

By Dr. Dan Grauer

member_on-phoneMoving your office to a new location is a tedious process involving many tasks and some headaches. A critical moment during the move is the transfer of your main phone number to the new location. Unfortunately not all numbers can be transferred to certain areas. Phone carriers have rules regarding the assignment of specific numbers to defined geographical areas that are beyond the purpose of this blog. Luckily there are solutions to this problem.

One way of transferring your number in an undetectable way is using a cell phone as a proxy. You will need to call your old office phone carrier a few days before the transfer and assign your old office number to a cell phone. This process could take from 3 to 5 days. Once your number has been assigned to a cell phone it automatically disconnects from the physical location of your old office. The last step is to forward your calls from the cell phone to the new office number. This is done through the setting menu of the cell phone, and it can be activated or deactivated on demand. The cost of this transaction will depend on the cell phone plan and the cell phone purchased. Advantages of this solution include that your patients will automatically reach the new office and you will maintain your old number regardless of your new geographical location.  Another advantage is that by deactivating the call forwarding function on the cell phone, it becomes an emergency phone for your new office.

Am I legally responsible if I receive a patient referral from another dentist and it is sent to me unsecured?

By: Charlie Frayer, JD, MS, HCISPP, CIPP, CIPM

DISCLAIMER: Protected Trust cannot and does not provide legal advice, and the following question(s) and response(s)—like everything else we publish—are not intended as legal advice or opinion. If you need legal assistance, you should contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

For the purpose of this answer, we assume that “sent” means “emailed.” Yes, it is possible that you could be responsible if something bad happens to the patient’s electronic protected health information (ePHI) contained in the email referral, but only if it happens after you receive it.

Under HIPAA, a health care provider is called a “covered entity”. The HIPAA Privacy Rule defines “treatment” to include, “…the referral of a patient for health care from one health care provider to another.” The Privacy Rule also states that, “A covered entity is permitted to use or disclose protected health information…[f]or treatment…”. Therefore, under the scenario you describe, neither the referring dentist nor you are violating HIPAA by merely sending (disclosing) or receiving a patient’s ePHI as part of a referral. Given this good news, the core question now becomes, “Does a covered entity violate HIPAA by sending (or receiving) ePHI in an “unsecured” manner?” Again, the answer is mostly good news, but BE VERY CAREFUL AND READ THE REST OF THIS RESPONSE!!!

First, we have to know what makes ePHI “unsecured” vs. “secured”. Then, we need to know whether HIPAA requires ePHI to be secured (seems like a silly question, but you’ll probably be surprised). And, lastly, if HIPAA does not require ePHI to be secured, then what risks do you have if you face by choosing to leave it unsecured?

Unsecured vs. Secured ePHI
The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule states that, “Unsecured protected health information means protected health information that is not rendered unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized persons through the use of a technology or methodology specified by the Secretary [of HHS] in the guidance issued…”. The HHS guidance emphasizes the use of encryption to make ePHI secure. So, technical details aside, the simple answer is that “unsecured” means unencrypted, and “secured” means encrypted.

HIPAA: Encryption Is NOT Required…What?!?
That’s the title of one of our blog posts from Feb.-Mar. 2016—republished by AAO, which we highly recommend that you read immediately (here or here). Although you would be crazy to not use encryption when emailing ePHI—because the risks are enormous, it is true that HIPAA does not literally require encryption (again, read our blog post here or here right now). Rather, what the federal government decided to do was strongly encourage the use of encryption by making it a get-out-of-jail-free card (apologies to Parker Bros.). Under the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule, you must notify certain persons and/or entities whenever you have a breach (e.g., a loss or theft) of unsecured (unencrypted) ePHI. For example, depending on the breach details, HIPAA requires notifying not only the affected patients, but also the federal government (HHS) and prominent members of the media. But—and here’s the GREAT NEWS—if you have a breach of secured (encrypted) ePHI, you do not have to notify anyone. Why? Because the loss or theft of encrypted ePHI—which cannot be read without the key(s)—is not considered a breach at all. So, encryption=no breach=no notifications=no problems for you.

Risks of NOT Encrypting ePHI Emails
If you’ve already read the above-mentioned blog post—and, if you haven’t, stop now and do so immediately (here or here), then you already know the frightening list of risks you face for not using encryption. In summary, in the event of a breach of ePHI:

No Encryption = Notification(s)

Notification(s) = Investigations, Fines, Lawsuits, PR Disaster, and Lost Business

Investigations, Fines, Lawsuits, PR Disaster, and Lost Business = Wasted $,$$$,$$$.

Our Recommendations

  1. Never email ePHI without using Protected Trust Healthcare Email Encryption.
  1. Require all of your fellow covered entities (e.g., health care providers and insurers), other business associates, and patients to use Protected Trust Healthcare Email Encryption.

IMPORTANT REMINDER: As a Protected Trust client, all of these third-party persons and entities can communicate securely with you, free of charge, and forever. No catch!

  1. To comply with HIPAA, make sure everyone in your office has their own Protected Trust Healthcare Email Encryption account (shared accounts are not permitted by HIPAA).

3D Digital Indirect Bonding…Why You Should Consider It for Your Practice

By Dr. Ed Lin

DrLin-Headshot-2Indirect bonding was first introduced to orthodontics over 20 years ago and has become an integral part of many orthodontic practices and orthodontic labs worldwide. The four reasons/advantages for its inception are: 1) Indirect bonding has been widely viewed as giving the orthodontist the ability to achieve more accurate bracket placement on a static model and not having to deal with the clinical challenges with direct bonding on a patient, 2) The doctor can perform the final check for bracket placement at his/her own leisure and not under a set clinical schedule, 3) To improve clinical efficiency with decreased doctor chair time at the full bonding appointment, and 4) Finally, for improved patient comfort due to decreased time which the patient is in cheek retractors.

Having utilized indirect bonding in our practices for over 17 years now, these four reasons/advantages are without a doubt why all four doctors in our practices utilize indirect bonding for all of our patients. However, there are some disadvantages that are also present with conventional indirect bonding such as: 1) Distortion of the impressions leading to inaccurate models/trays, 2) Distortion of the pour up of the impressions resulting in inaccurate models/trays, 3) Short clinical crowns are not ideal for conventional indirect bonding and need to be direct bonded especially in the mandibular arch, 4) Brackets can be bumped prior to curing on the model leading to incorrect bracket placement, and 5) Seating of the indirect bonding tray is technique sensitive and can lead to over seating or under seating of the trays resulting incorrect bracket placement.

With the advancements of technologies in dentistry with intraoral scanning, 3D digital virtual bracket placement software, and 3D printing, these technologies have now given us the capabilities in orthodontics to improve upon conventional indirect bonding with 3D digital indirect bonding. Currently, there are 4 companies that I am aware of in the US market that offer 3D digital indirect bonding: OrthoSelect’s Digital Indirect Bonding System (DIBS), Arcad Digital Indirect Bonding System, Great Lakes Orthodontics’ Exceed, and SureSmile’s Elemetrix 3D Printed Indirect Bonding System. All four of these companies have proprietary cloud based software for management of patient case submissions and all of them accept intraoral scans.

For Arcad and Great Lake Orthodontics, upon final approval of the virtual bracket positions in their proprietary software, they will 3D print the models with specific indexes for very precise and accurate bracket placement on the 3D printed models. Once the brackets are placed manually on the 3D printed indexed models, their labs will then create an indirect bonding tray through conventional lab techniques and are then ready to be utilized for indirect bonding for the patient. The advantages with both systems are that they are dealing with digital data with an intraoral scan so there are no issues with a poor impression. Also, with 3D printed models, there are no issues with a poor model with air bubbles or blebs on the model. As a result, the conventional indirect bonding trays are more accurate and precise.

For OrthoSelect’s DIBS and SureSmile’s Elemetrix indirect bonding systems, upon final approval of the virtual bracket positions in their proprietary software, both of these companies will 3D print the indirect bonding trays. The brackets are then manually placed into the 3D printed indirect bonding trays for both systems and are then ready to be placed on the patient. OrthoSelect’s DIBS and SureSmile’s Elemetrix systems have the same 2 advantages as Great Lakes and Arcad’s systems, as they are only dealing with digital data with an intraoral scan, so there are no issues with poor impressions or poor model pour ups. However, since only the indirect bonding trays are 3D printed, both OrthoSelect’s and SureSmile’s systems have 2 advantages over Great Lakes and Arcad – 1) There is a significant time savings on the lab side of things since there are no 3D printed models, only the indirect bonding trays are 3D printed and 2) There is no human error brought into production of the indirect bonding trays since they are 3D printed.

Our practices are now making the transition from conventional indirect bonding to 3D digital indirect bonding with SureSmile’s Elemetrix 3D printed indirect bonding tray system so I will give a brief overview of how we utilize this in our practices. We have a 3 Shape Trios 3 intraoral scanner at each practice location. With the “Insane Mode” of the Trios, we can intraoral scan 2 arches with a digital bite registration in a total of 1 minute. We then upload the intraoral scan through the cloud to SureSmile. SureSmile will then segment, clean up, and create the 3D digital model and we will receive the digital model back on our end in 1-2 business days. We then assign the virtual brackets (.018 American Empower stainless steel or clear) and virtually position them on the digital models. Upon final approval of the virtual bracket placements, we then order our SureSmile 3D printed indirect bonding trays. The indirect bonding trays are then 3D printed and then shipped to us. We currently schedule 15 days between the intraoral scan for indirect bonding and the full bonding appointment to allow time for setup and approval, 3D printing of the trays, and for shipment to us. In the future, I hope that we will have the capabilities to 3D print our own indirect bonding trays in house, which will give us the capabilities to have quicker turnaround time with the indirect bonding trays and we will not have to deal with any shipping issues. Because SureSmile’s 3D printed indirect bonding trays are rigid, there is also an added benefit with their indirect bonding trays as we do not have to worry about over seating or under seating of their trays as you do with conventional indirect bonding trays, which are softer, as a result of the silicone and polyvinyl siloxane materials which are used to make them. The total cost for a full indirect bonding case with SureSmile’s Elemetrix Indirect Bonding System is $105 which is very affordable and attractive to me especially considering the added benefits which I have stated above.

My personal opinion is that any of the 4 digital indirect bonding systems, which I have stated above, are a step above and are an improvement upon any conventional indirect bonding systems currently available. If you are currently utilizing conventional indirect bonding or are considering transitioning to indirect bonding in your practice, I would strongly encourage you to evaluate the digital indirect bonding systems which are currently available today. As with all other aspects of our lives, technology is changing the way we all live and is helping to improve how we do things in everyday life as well as with our practices.

Pokemon Go or Pokemon No?

By Dr. Aaron Molen, DDS, MS

English_Pokémon_logo.svgAugmented reality is the integration of digital information with our physical senses, (e.g., touch, smell, sight). This technology is far from new and has multiple uses in the commercial market but has struggled to find a foothold in the consumer market – that is until recently. On July 6th, 2016 Niantic released the Pokemon Go game app and within 20 days it had already been downloaded 75 million times while producing $10 million in revenue a day for Niantic. The popularity of this augmented reality game is not relegated to kids, as you may find adults as well as young patients playing Pokemon Go in your waiting room or clinic. It’s still to be determined if it will simply be a fad or a long-term success, but regardless, there are several things we as orthodontists can be doing to leverage this augmented reality app for the benefit of us and our patients.

The basic premise of this game, and other location based games, is that certain tasks can only be performed at specific physical locations. In Pokemon Go the goal is to capture as many Pokemon, (small exotic looking creatures with magical properties), as possible so that they can be trained up to compete against other players’ Pokemon. A casual walk down the street with your Pokemon Go app will reveal Pokemon randomly hopping across your path. In addition as you walk around you’ll discover the location of PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms. Pokemon Gyms host the battles between players and their Pokemon but PokeStops serve as one-stop-shops to purchase items to improve your gameplay

Lissterine13PokeStops present a unique opportunity to orthodontists and other savvy marketers. One of the items available for purchase at a PokeStop is a lure. Lures can be purchased and activated at a PokeStop to attract Pokemon. The lure lasts for 30 minutes and attracts Pokemon to gather at that particular PokeStop for easy capture. For example, I once stumbled upon a crowd of 60 people sitting in an amphitheater by the Willamette River in downtown Portland. I assumed they were awaiting the start of a performance and asked a nearby vendor what show it was. He explained there was no scheduled show and there were simply two PokeStops located side-by-side which both had active lures. The crowd had congregated to take advantage of the lures to easily capture Pokemon.

PokeStops have been preassigned by Niantic at locations of local significance. These can be popular stores, parks, art installations, schools, museums, etc. In a few cases I have heard of orthodontists who have been lucky enough to have their offices marked as a PokeStop. Unfortunately as of right now Niantic is not accepting requests to have specific locations deemed PokeStops so there is no way to influence their location.

The marketing opportunity exists for orthodontists who are willing to leverage nearby PokeStops to attract players. Since most orthodontists won’t be lucky enough to have their offices marked as PokeStops you’ll need to download the app or ask a patient where the nearest PokeStop is to your office. Then, on a Saturday, for example, you could set up a marketing table at the PokeStop and activate a lure to attract players. Of course if the PokeStop is on private land you’ll need permission from the landowner or if it’s on public land you may need a permit from the city or county first. If you’re willing to drop multiple lures throughout a specific time period it could be worth the effort. To support your efforts I suggest you post flyers around your office and post on social media the exact times and location you will be activating lures at that specific PokeStop. Word will spread among local players and you may be surprised by the response.

If you are unable to coordinate a marketing presence at a nearby PokeStop there are other ways you can leverage Pokemon Go. Simply placing signs in your windows notifying patients and non-patient passerbys that Pokemon have been spotted in your lobby may encourage more people to open your door. Asking patients if they’re playing Pokemon Go and engaging them in conversation about it may also help you continue to build rapport with them. Keeping up to date with the latest advances in virtual entertainment is not only good for your patients but may also be good for you.

5 Tips to Optimize your Voice over IP Phones

By Matthew Larson, DDS, MS

voipMany orthodontic offices have made the switch to Voice over IP (VOIP) phone systems, where calls are transferred over an internet connection as opposed to traditional phone lines (public switch telephone networks – PSTNs). When I first switched to a Voice over IP Phone system, I mainly considered it a cheaper phone option that could better handle multiple office locations. However, here are a few other advantages I have found to these phone systems:

1st: Phone numbers are not tied to a physical phone line at a certain location. This is probably the largest benefit of Voice over IP, but it can be a challenging change when people are used to traditional phone lines. This means that a call to your main office number can ring at any or all of your office locations at the same time (or a totally separate call center!). It means that once a call is answered, additional incoming calls are still shown as calls to the main number – they do not roll over to another line. It means that while multiple calls are being handled, someone else can still place an outgoing call using the main office number. We still keep a separate phone number for each office location for advertising, but it greatly simplifies how many phone numbers are utilized. One other great benefit is that cell phones can support Voice over IP calling, so they can become an integrated part of your phone system. On my phone, I can either dial normally using my cell number or dial using my Voice over IP app that will show up as a call from my office. This means you can have staff easily forward calls from a dentist or you can return emergency calls without anyone realizing you are calling from a cell phone.

2nd: Phones can be integrated with your computer. This can include things like click to dial from internet browsers or your practice management software, and pop up notifications on your screen of who is calling. Please note that the integration with practice management software definitely depends on the practice management company and the Voice over IP provider. One tip is that some companies use TAPI (Telephony Application Program Interface) for integrating the phone and computer, which will typically work with on-premise systems but not always with cloud-based systems.

3rd: Scalable. This along with the lower initial costs are why I would absolutely recommend new practices to look at Voice over IP as a phone system. There are no large initial costs with many Voice over IP systems if you look at a cloud-based option and there are no large costs to update the system as you grow. Also, adding a satellite office to the system is as easy as adding additional phones/users and adjusting a couple settings.

4th: Cloud Based management. Have to close the office for a snow day (yes, I’m from Wisconsin)? Add a message from home. Forget a holiday message when the office is closed for a long weekend? Add it from home. Staff doing recalls on a non-patient day? Track the number of outgoing calls from your house. Current Voice over IP systems typically make it very easy to switch call-flow, change messages, and view reports online. While these often can all be done with a traditional phone system, I never utilized them because they were difficult to find. Now I will look back at call volume and missed calls at different times and different days of the week to ensure we have the staffing to answer calls well.

5th: Handling call flow. This is part of cloud based management but important enough to mention separately. This type of system is very flexible, so carefully think through how you would want calls answered in an ideal world and you can likely adjust the system to make it happen. For instance, if you want team members responsible for checking in and out patients to only answer the phone if someone else is not free, have their phone ring only if it’s not answered after 2-3 rings. When our satellite office is open, we find it better to have that number ring only at that location first, but we still open it up to all phones in our main office before it goes to voicemail because we want the call answered if anyone is free!

Some final benefits are how easy it is to upload new hold music or marketing messages to the phone, to record calls, and to email a voicemail transcript or audio file. Regarding cost, most companies advertise around a 40% reduction in overhead by switching – we found slightly less than that but it did reduce cost.

The only negative to Voice over IP is reliability. It is dramatically better than it was 5-10 years ago, but due to its inherent nature of NOT being a dedicated phone line, it is typically not quite the equal of traditional phone lines. Insufficient internet bandwidth may still lead to dropped calls or poor call quality. Overall, though, our Voice over IP system has allowed our office to more effectively manage calls at our office locations.

Google My Business

By Dr. Doug Depew

unnamedGoogle my Business is another way Google has made it easy for us to let prospective patients know about the level of care we offer. It complements your website by giving your practice an identity and presence on Google. If you previously used Google Places for Business or Google+ Pages Dashboard, you may not have noticed it, but your account has already been automatically upgraded to Google My Business. The information you provide about your practice in Google My Business will appear on Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ to those searching for an orthodontist.   And if you had multiple Google+ Pages they will all show up on the Google My Business Dashboard as long as they are associated with the same email address.

The Google My Business Dashboard makes it easy to manage multiple locations from one central webpage. All you have to do it go to https://www.google.com/business/ and sign in using your email address and password associated with your previous Google+ Pages. From your Dashboard, you will be able to do a number of things.

Locations
For each of your locations, you can add, edit, and verify your practice information. This includes your practice name, phone number, website, and hours.   When you do so, it will automatically update as well in Google Search and Google Maps. For each of your locations, you can easily add pictures of yourselves, your logo, the exterior of your office, the interior of your office, and any other photos you feel will help others learn about your practice. When people search Google, they can learn a lot about you before even going to your website. From your Dashboard, you can also post directly to your Google+ Pages.

Reviews
In the Reviews section, you can see all the reviews patients have posted about your practice. The best part of this is that you can respond to those reviews. Experts in this arena recommended that we respond to at least three reviews a week. This can be to thank patients for especially kind compliments, but more importantly, we should promptly respond to any reviews that are less than stellar. Since negative reviews may inaccurately reflect the level of care you give, it’s important to attempt to set the record straight. In doing so it’s important to thank the reviewer for their feedback and respond in a way that is generic without referring directly to that patient’s experience in your office and their treatment details. Author Helen Overland stated “Respond to reviews, don’t let them sit. If someone sat outside your store telling people about your bad service, you would address it, right? So don’t let people sit outside your virtual door on Google Maps telling people about your bad service without addressing it. Addressing complaints is just good business.” And Google My Business makes it easy to do so.

Insights
In the section called Insights, you can learn how people are finding out about you, from what type of device they are viewing your profile, their demographics, and much more insightful information that may help in your marketing efforts. You can also see viewer activity trends such as how many people call your office from your Google profile, how many click to your website, and how many are asking for directions to your office.

Google Analytics
No longer do you have to log in separately to Google Analytics to see viewing trends on your practice website. This is now right there within Google My Business.   Google Analytics will tell you a lot of useful information such as how many new viewers, how they found your website, viewer demographics, length of their visit, and page views. Having this information on hand can help you in tweaking your website for the most effective and useful visits for prospective patients.

Adwords Express
Like many things Google, Google My Business is free to use. If you choose to make Google ads however, that’s a paid function. These are the ads that show up on the top or right side of a Google search. And Google My Business allows you to manage your Ads from your Dashboard since they should be under the same email.

Virtual Tour
From your Google My Business Dashboard, you are able to learn about how to incorporate a Virtual 3D tour of your office onto your Google listing. These can also be placed directly onto your practice website.

Going Mobile
By downloading the Google My Business app, you can perform most of these functions right from your mobile phone.

I have personally found Google My Business to be a great tool in my efforts to monitor and improve our practice’s online presence. It has consolidated many functions into one place, saving time and energy. I encourage you to look into it and see how it can help you.