Interview: “Digitalisation was the missing element”
A 2013 graduate of Leipzig University in Germany, Dr Michaela Sehnert currently runs her own dental practice in the nearby city of Halle (Saale). In this interview, she discusses the process of transitioning to an entirely digital workflow and how it has benefited her practice.
What prompted you to digitalise your new practice?
My decision to go digital was made when I set up my own practice. Although it was a modern dental practice when I took it over, digitalisation was the missing element. As a result, we could not work as fast we would like to.
Going fully digital also allowed me to remain completely up to date with all of my customers as well as with my laboratory partners. Sending and receiving files could be done without wasting time. No one needed to collect or drop off impressions anymore; instead, all we needed to do was upload pictures and scans, communicate with the technician in the space of approximately 2 minutes. Plus, we could then immediately share treatment plans whilst the patient was still in the dental chair. You need a seamless digital workflow like this, especially when the practice offers comprehensive dentistry and there’s a lot going on.
How does the digitalised treatment planning benefit both you and your patients?
We are able to show the patient a treatment outcome before they embark on treatment—and fast. We scan using the iTero digital scanner, and in approximately 2 minutes, we have an outcome to share with the patient which we can then use to explain what we hope to achieve and how.
As a next step, we are then able to match the patient’s photos and digital scan together and compare the look of their current dentition with the outcome shown on ClinCheck—Align’s proprietary software. We show a predictable result on a 3D model and can tell the patient what the treatment time is going to be to reach this result.
Can you explain the impact of the iTero/Invisalign workflow on the patient experience and on your staff?
With the Invisalign Outcome Simulator, you get an instant “wow” effect, and that’s exactly what you need to convince patients to consider starting treatment. You can show them what we can do with their teeth in the space of a few minutes.
Predictability is so powerful, and the most important criterion in helping them reach a decision is what they see before and what they will get. Patients don’t want to have pain and they are reluctant to spend a lot of money, but what matters to them the most is definitely predictability. With the Invisalign workflow, you get a clear idea of the number of aligners you need, how many appointments need to be scheduled and at what intervals, how long the treatment is going to be. Patients love it.
For my staff, it is an amazing tool. They get the wow factor, too! The iTero scanner is not just for taking impressions but also for showing patients what’s going on in their mouths. My team are able to do all this by themselves—it gives them a new experience, it gives them satisfaction. They are the ones showing patients a fantastic outcome; they get all the emotional feedback from patients who are blown away by what we can do for them. My staff ends up in a prime position where patients actually listen to them more than they listen to our dentists. For me, it gives me more time to focus on the treatment and my staff is more involved and more motivated.
How can you predict treatment results and stick to a treatment plan with fewer patient visits?
The process is simple and straightforward. As long as the aligners fit, we are all OK. The first step in the process is that Align Technology sends us the treatment plan, so even before the patients get their aligners, we know how many aligners we will be giving the patient, when they need to change aligners and, subsequently, when we need to schedule each appointment.
Patients are also able to see that everything is on track; they are able to check their Invisalign mobile app and see for themselves what is going on with their teeth. It is about the overall patient experience, once again.
What is your advice for practitioners who want to distinguish themselves from competitors?
It is important to be different. And if everyone starts offering digital, it will be harder to be different. So it is about addressing your patients emotionally, creating an experience that justifies their spending.