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Which-hunt ... for new technology.

Health care technology can be defined as all drugs, devices and procedures used in health care and the organizational systems that support them. The appropriate selection and adoption of new technology offers dental hygiene clinicians the opportunity to increase client comfort and improve oral health outcomes while simultaneously raising office productivity. Effective implementation will ensure that clinical and business objectives are mutually achievable.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS

One of the current challenges in dental offices is pressure caused by the pace of technological change. The ancient saying, "May you live in interesting times" appears to have taken effect. It is not surprising that many practitioners have difficulty deciding which products and procedures will work best for their clients. Therefore, a review and analysis of research literature is essential in order to choose and integrate effective new therapies and techniques.

Having a strategic plan for implementing new technology is recommended. The planning process should include preparation of a:

* statement of expectations

* prioritized list of requirements

* prospective technology inventory

* review of the "usability" of these products (compared to alternatives)

* list of associated costs and training (including maintenance)

* timeline for acquisition

TECHNOLOGY ITSELF IS NOT INNATELY GOOD OR BAD

Birch and Ismail (1) review the concept of utility as a measure for the individual's well being and preferences regarding different technologies. Their article cautions clinicians to consider what the client will accept in order to achieve desired health outcomes, and that clients with the same clinical conditions may prefer different treatment modalities.

The technology utilized in oral health care delivery can be broadly categorized as:

* Diagnostic Systems: including oral cancer screening tools, digital radiography or voice activated periodontal probing devices, and intra oral cameras.

* Therapeutic Systems: including subgingival local anesthetic gel, lasers and photosensitive subgingival antimicrobial gel systems, and ultrasonic tips with fiber optic and LED lights.

* Information Processing Systems: including software for appointment scheduling, charting of oral health status, and treatment planning.

In addition, there are specific types of technology aimed at combating the physical stressors of dental hygiene practice. For example, surgical dental loupes and ergonomic seating systems reduce the strain of performing procedures where visibility is limited and where natural or neutral body posture is often compromised.

The overall goals of technology innovation should be to improve upon quality of care and client safety, consistency of outcomes, and efficiency and cost effectiveness. (2)

When is the best time to adopt emerging technologies?

The answer to this question will often depend upon the personality of employees, and work culture of the practice. Roger's model for the adoption and diffusion of innovations classifies adopters of technology into categories based on their openness to change. (3)

* Innovators are risk takers and are ready to quickly adopt new technology.

* Early adopters are leaders but are more careful in researching and less likely to take risks.

* Early majority are thoughtful, more conservative but do not want to be left behind.

* Late majority are skeptics and will use new ideas or products only when the majority have adopted them.

* Laggards are traditionalists who want no risk whatsoever and are critical towards new ideas; their attitude is "if it isn't broken, don't fix it."

In practical terms it is more effective to start by convincing the innovators and early adopters of the value of new procedures and products.

Some useful sources clinicians may wish to consult for information on technology innovations are:

* DHnet -- The National Center for Dental Hygiene Research at: http://www.usc.edu/hsc/dental/dhnet/

* The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health site offers a wide range of health technology assessment (HTA) reports and information at: http://www.cadth.ca

* The Cochrane Collaboration works to improve healthcare decision-making globally, through systematic reviews of the effects of healthcare interventions at: http://cochrane.org/reviews/en/topics/84_reviews.html

* Dentalcompare -- The Buyer's Guide for Dental Professionals provides information on new product research and innovation at: http://www.Dentalcompare.com

REFERENCES

1. S. Birch and A.I. Ismail. Patient Preferences and the Measurement of Utilities in the Evaluation of Dental Technologies. Journal of Dental Research 2002;81(7):446-450.

2. Grimes, S. Clinical Engineers: Stewards of Healthcare Technologies. IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine; May/June 2004;56-58.

3. Rogers, Everett M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations, 5th ed. New York, NY: Free Press.

The CDHA welcomes your feedback: library@cdha.ca
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:LIBRARY COLUMN
Publication:Canadian Journal of Dental Hygiene
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:726
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