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The Impact of New Technology

Issue: Winter 2011

Way back in the last century computerswere big and heavy. They needed to be plugged into a wall for power and data. The monitor was a huge piece of glass and plastic that required either a staunch desk or a strong man to support it. Computers were put in one place and they just stayed there. If you needed to use the computer, you went to it—the computer did not come to you.

Amazing new technology has fundamentally changed all that. It is no longer necessary to assign a computer to a place—the computer can be assigned to a person and it simply goes wherever the person goes. It is a bit like an old wall-mounted corded telephone and a handheld cell phone. The old wall mount is the kitchen phone that you use to make or take a call— everybody uses it. Your cell phone is your phone—you carry it with you and it is intensely personal.

The idea of a personal tablet style portable computer is not new. In fact it was introduced by Microsoft as the Tablet PC in 2001. However, it never caught on. It seemed a cool concept—but people just weren’t that interested.

All that changed with the input from that “old MAC magic” and the introduction of the Apple iPad. The iPad is really just a variation on the Tablet PC concept, but it is such a well-designed and exciting variation that it has single-handedly changed the face of personal computing.

Several advances have made this possible including safe and effective wireless networking, reliable long-lived batteries to run mobile devices, ever tinier and more powerful microchips, lightweight portable flat-panel touch screens, and innovative input techniques. When you combine all these advancements you get something like an iPad.

In our homes we can use digital technology to look at and share photos, read the newspaper, take notes, check the weather, and read our mail along with countless other tasks. However, even though we can use our home computer to do these things it seems awkward and it is not always convenient to go to an office and sit down at a desk to use a computer. You don’t really want to drag your friends into your study to sit at your desk to look at photos of the kids at Disney World. It is much more natural and suitable to just have a computer with us wherever we are in the house—hence Netbooks and iPad.

In the dental office, we are faced with similar tasks and activities. That is, things we can do or have our patients do while sitting at a desk, but are really done much more effectively elsewhere. For example—filling out forms; showing images to patients (photos or X-rays); running a patient-education presentation; sending an appointment reminder; or writing a prescription.

Dentrix has a number of special features like Kiosk, Mobile, Guru, and various e-services that allow us to use iPads, smart phones, and other mobile devices.

When you study the history of technology you find that over and over again people adapt and use technology in ways that the inventors of that technology never imagined. Who would have thought we would be using our phones as cameras, maps, address books, and for texting? Who would have guessed “texting”? In the dental office, we will be using these new devices in ways we have not yet imagined. So be creative, try out new technology and new ways of doing things; the future is coming and it will be amazing.

Dr. Larry Emmott is one of the most entertaining speakers in dentistry, and is considered a leading dental high-tech authority. He has addressed hundreds of professional groups, and has been a featured speaker at every major U.S. dental meeting. Dr. Emmott is a pioneer in online publishing with his blog EmmottonTechnology.com. You can contact him at larryemmott@drlarryemmott.com