Time Capsule: My Low-Tech Dentist Turns Out To Be a Closeted Techie: Why Nobody Cares What IT You Use, Only What Outcomes You Deliver
I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).
I wrote this piece in December 2008.
My Low-Tech Dentist Turns Out To Be a Closeted Techie: Why Nobody Cares What IT You Use, Only What Outcomes You Deliver
By Mr. HIStalk
My 2005 experience with an IT-savvy dentist was not good. My first (and last) visit to Dr. High-Tech took forever since he had to show me his PACS equipment, his electronic dental record, and his swing-arm TV monitor that would allow me to watch the Three Stooges while getting drilled and scraped.
Unfortunately, he was also a terrible dentist: slow, annoyingly educational, and prone to ill-concealed panic. Despite a flawless exam a year earlier, Dr. High-Tech somberly declared that my mouth was in imminent danger of total destruction, requiring a long list of heroic and expensive interventions that included $7,000 worth of work on one tooth alone.
I headed off for a second opinion, picking a dentist at random from the phone book (I’ll call him Dr. Low-Tech). His conclusion: I needed a filling and nothing more.
I’ve gone to Dr. Low-Tech for the three years since. His office has wood floors, real living room furniture, and no Judge Judy on the TV. He takes his time, talks my ear off, and sings loudly and off-key with the piped-in oldies station. He doesn’t need a dream team of ultra-specialist colleagues. He doesn’t hurt me, he’s never late, and he doesn’t overcharge.
Last visit, I saw something as shocking as Mommy kissing Santa Claus. I followed Dr. Low-Tech out from the treatment room and watched him pass through an unmarked door, getting a brief glance of a massive LCD monitor whiteboard showing every room’s occupant and status.
No wonder he can single-handedly juggle maybe 10-12 patients at a time, all in various stages of numbing, drilling, and swishing. He’s using online scheduling and resource management!
Suddenly everything became clear. I remembered that instead of getting appointment reminder calls, I’d been getting “click if you’re coming” e-mails. The hygienist always knew my history. The front office ladies could always give a perfect balance on my insurance.
Dr. Low-Tech was a closeted techie. He used IT, but didn’t want it to get in the way of taking care of his patients in a personal and caring way. That’s unlike Dr. High-Tech, who hoped patients would be impressed with his gadgets since that’s about all he had going for him.
Dr. Low-Tech has it right. Patients don’t need to know about IT any more than they needed to understand the old-school manila folder filing system. ‘Most Wired’ nonsense aside, nobody gets points for owning technology, whether it’s a doctor, a mechanic, or an accountant. Those professionals are free to use whatever tools they want, but they’ll be judged on outcomes, not on what they’re packing under the hood. Tools might make them a little bit better, but that’s about it.
Measuring the impact on the patient experience should be a part of every technology implementation review. Did patients notice? Was their impression of the overall experience (not the technology itself) better or worse? Did it enhance their experience, or did it get in the way and take away from the human interaction and caring that most people would agree is a vital part of a patient encounter? Did outcomes change?
Doctors always say “first, do no harm.” That’s as true of technology as anything else. Even bad golfers carry around the same expensive gear that Tiger Woods uses, hoping that owning it will make them better golfers. Unfortunately for them, scores don’t lie.