The future of OMS software uses technology to eliminate repetitive, impersonal, uninspiring, lengthy and laborious tasks. Machines help us to invest in humans. The future of your OMS practice starts here.
We are super excited for the future of OMS practice technology. (But that kinda goes without saying… it is what we do after all!) We see our sector’s future as a place of efficiency, safety, innovation, increased productivity, increased connectivity, and effective organization. Sounding pretty great? Keep reading.
Most oral surgery practices are already efficient, secure and productive. But all of us could probably name one or two things that make managing a practice maybe a little challenging…Hey, who doesn’t love a little “out of pocket cost estimate” calculation while the patient is waiting? But whilst new technology can help us overcome these challenges, big system changes can feel overwhelming and disruptive. The words ‘automation’, ‘AI’ and ‘machine learning’ can be a little bit scary. We know that many of you will have some serious reservations about using automated systems in your practice. So we’re here to offer some of our experience with automation; what it is and what it isn’t. We want to bust some myths, so you can make well-informed decisions about what you want your tech to do for you.
When we’re talking about software and automation in healthcare, lots of phrases get thrown around, often incorrectly. The first step is to get the terminology down. Let’s go over some definitions before we get into how automated technology will change the future of OMS.
Automation “automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labor”. 
Artificial intelligence (AI) “There are many definitions around, but most of them can be classified into the following four categories:
-systems that think like humans systems that act like humans
-systems that think rationally
-systems that act rationally.” 
“Unlike hand-coded software that only knows how to perform predetermined operations, AI takes it a step further by giving machines problem-solving and predictive capabilities through algorithmic computations and the recognition of patterns and relationships in data.” 
Internet of things (IoT) “the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.” 
Machine Learning (ML) “an evolving branch of computational algorithms that are designed to emulate human intelligence by learning from the surrounding environment.” 
Practice management software “… practice management software helps deal with the day-to-day work that goes on in a medical office… Practice management software automates tasks such as organizing appointments and scheduling specific tasks.” 
So when we use these phrases, you’ll know exactly what we’re on about! Now then… what isn’t automation?…
Myth number 1…. “Automation is unnecessary for our practice. If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it!”
Whilst your surgery probably uses some kind of automated systems already, using practice management software that is specialized for OMS is crucial. Specialized OMS surgery management software is engineered for the peculiarities of the specialty, such as documenting patient anesthesia records, 3D-image notation, recovery room protocols, and calculating accurate fee estimates using both the patients’ dental and medical insurances (which may or may not include oral or maxillofacial care).
In a recent survey we sent out, you told us you’ve had enough of calculating fee estimates, generating and mailing referral letters, and managing HR. Imagine a practice where any or all of these tasks could be automated by a software that learns for itself. Another practice management software buyer report from Software Advice found that 60% of medical offices who took part in their survey wanted to replace or upgrade their current systems. 24% of these systems were manual, and 11% used a third-party billing service, giving other medical offices who used automated systems a huge advantage in productivity and overheads. The practices in this report wanted specialized automated software that would reduce mistakes caused by human error and automatically update diaries with “integrated patient self-scheduling” through a patient portal. 
Integrated EMR was a priority to be automated for many medical offices in this report, which also found that surgeries wanted software to automate scheduling, billing, insurance coding, claim tracking, and sending appointment reminders. If you are still manually doing any of these chores, you might find that automated software can “dramatically reduce no-shows”, communicate more effectively with patients and staff, and help you to spend less time on tedious tasks. 
So even if you feel like you’re coping well at your surgery, there may be ways in which your software could automate more tasks to make your current management system more efficient and more effective.
Myth number 2… “Software is complex to train staff in. My team will resist changes to our current set-up.”
We understand that some members may find new software difficult to understand and use. Edgepoint Learning terms this “training friction”. An article from the Harvard Business Review recognises the “friction” that can face managers when change happens in a company… 
“The scenario is all too familiar… Determined managers follow up with plans for process improvements”, but those plans sometimes “miss the mark”, because “[m]anagers and employees view change differently”. 
This article, written by Paul Strebel, goes into great detail to describe why employees can resist change, and how managers can help their subordinates through this process.
Edgepoint Learning recommend these five steps to making sure your team is fully competent to use any new or upgraded technology:
“1. Trainers* need to know the software or system themselves
Make training a priority to improve buy-in
Set clear and realistic deadlines and rollout methods
Use training incentives for employees to use new software
5. Pick the right format for training” 
(*Or OMS managers!)
We have also written an article on how to managing big digital transitions in your surgery, and if you are considering upgrading your current practice management software, you might find it helpful to give it a read.
Myth number 3… “I don’t trust computers to make decisions for me.”
We’ve probably all experienced those ‘Arghhhh!’ moments when we really don’t trust our computers. Software can fail for different reasons: bugs or glitches in coding, human error or more maliciously, hacking. Good quality software will not regularly fail, and will be secure, private and reliable, and customer service should be able to quickly solve any problem you might have. Every software company will have systems in place to recover data, fix code, and defend against hacking or malware.
Trusting computers that use machine learning or even AI to make decisions for us feels like something from a Ridley Scott movie. But you might be surprised to know that even some of our most everyday tech uses ML and AI. For example, if you used a search engine or social media to find and read this very article, then the algorithm that brought you here used machine learning. Even the predictive text function on your smartphone learns about your typing habits, and makes suggestions based on your language idiosyncrasies. ML is ingrained in our daily lives, and is usually very accurate about our needs and interests. Lots of us trust computers to make small decisions in our lives already.
When working in a high-pressure, high-stakes medical sector such as OMS, however, decisions need to be consistently accurate, and we need to trust the technology we are working with. OMS clinicians have already seen the benefits of using computers to make decisions about physical movements during robot-assisted surgeries which “can be performed with less blood loss, fewer complications, shorter hospital stays, and better cosmetic results than standard open surgical techniques”.  In fact, the OMS sector has been hailed as one of best to push AI technology, with “surgeons… uniquely positioned to help drive… innovations.”  AI can be a “technology-based second opinion” that “gives dentists the support of a professional colleague who doesn’t eat or sleep and has nothing but time.” 
And as for practice management software, imagine a program able to learn about an individual doctor’s habitual inventory needs to make orders. Imagine a language-processor that can understand a patient’s call to your surgery. OMS managers can “use the data for everything from front office training to winning back unscheduled callers to determining whether their marketing efforts are driving the right kinds of calls.”  Even insurance reimbursement could be handled for you; “AI can review claims, radiographs, and supporting documentation in seconds, generating approvals or identifying fraudulent claims much more quickly.” 
Myth number 4… “Robots will take my job!”
With every new technological advancement, we can’t help but fear that robots will cause mass unemployment. We worry that a machine will be able to do our job with greater efficiency and greater accuracy, and at a much cheaper cost.
However… we’ve got good news! In a 2014 survey by the non-partisan think tank, Pew Research Center, the majority of experts predicted that AI technology will in fact create more jobs. And, even better news, this same research forecasts that AI technology will invent “entirely new types of work” that will take “advantage of uniquely human capabilities”, and will “free us from the day-to-day drudgery, and allow us to define our relationship with ‘work’ in a more positive and socially beneficial way.” 
This paper also looks back on recent history, and sees that machines can improve the quality of our jobs. Machines take on chores that are dangerous, laborious, boring, repetitive, uninspiring, impersonal and lengthy. Imagine a surgery where painstaking and arduous tasks such as data entry, ordering materials, organizing rotas, calculating payroll, working out fee estimates, or managing insurance claims are all automated. Technology leaves you with more free time to focus on other responsibilities that are uniquely human. This might be connecting face-to-face with both doctors and patients, leading your team, recruiting, onboarding, and upskilling staff, thereby improving the quality of the whole practice. Patients love a high-tech, high-touch experience, and using automated software to help you provide that personal and individualized care.
Technology empowers you to action analysis results, train and inspire your team, manage conflict, boost morale, take risks, manage change, and stay on the cutting edge of practice management. Automated software gives you more time to spend on staff and patients, and more time to progress the vision of your practice. More time for dreaming big. That’s something computers don’t know how to do. Software can never replace a warm welcome at reception, a much-needed word of advice in the staffroom, or a friendly voice on the end of a phone. Computers can’t crack a joke, they can’t empathise when there’s bad news or celebrate good news with a smile or a high-five. Think about why you got the job you currently have. Your interpersonal and leadership skills are irreplaceable. Just remember that.
Myth number 5… “Relying on computers takes away the human touch.”
Using automated software gives you more time. More time to be available for your patients, more time to be available to your colleagues. And, when monotonous tasks are automated, you have more energy to spend on people, on being a fully human, fully present, fully engaged member of your OMS team. With a day free from staring at a computer screen: entering data, sending appointment reminders, trawling inventory lists, imagine how much better your patient experience could be.
In a TEDx talk, Pedro Uria Recio predicts a future where “AI will push human professionals up the skillset ladder into uniquely human skills such as creativity, social abilities, empathy and sense-making, which machines cannot automate.”  As an OMS practice manager, these are the skills that both patients and doctors need from you. Your ability to aid team cohesion, manage change, train new team members, set the culture, advise in decision-making, welcome patients… all of this makes you uniquely human, and no robot will ever be able to do that!
Investing in automated software can seem like more trouble than it’s worth, and several misconceptions about the technology have made many of us slightly fearful of the future. But the benefits for our time, our productivity and the expertise we offer, are manifold. Software that automates tasks is already our present, so we might as well embrace the future!
(Do read the articles quoted from in this blog post, as all of them offer expert advice on the future of AI in healthcare, and how best to use this technology.)
Further reading: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/automation  https://www.eolss.net/Sample-Chapters/C15/E6-44.pdf  https://www.dentistrytoday.com/news/ai-in-dentistry/item/8118-ai-and-dentistry-envisioning-the-dental-clinics-of-the-future-and-today  https://internetofbusiness.com/what-exactly-is-the-internet-of-things/  https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-18305-3_1  https://www.selecthub.com/medical-software/difference-medical-practice-management-ehr-software/  https://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/practice-management-report-2018/  https://www.powerdiary.com/uk/what-is-practice-management-software/  https://www.edgepointlearning.com/blog/how-to-train-employees-on-new-system/  https://hbr.org/1996/05/why-do-employees-resist-change  https://www.edgepointlearning.com/blog/how-to-train-employees-on-new-system/  https://synapse.koreamed.org/upload/SynapseData/PDFData/3070jkaoms/jkaoms-44-205.pdf  https://www.bjoms.com/article/S0266-4356(19)30327-4/fulltext https://www.dentistrytoday.com/news/ai-in-dentistry/item/8118-ai-and-dentistry-envisioning-the-dental-clinics-of-the-future-and-today  https://www.dentistrytoday.com/news/ai-in-dentistry/item/7813-how-to-leverage-ai-to-grow-your-dental-practice  https://www.dentistrytoday.com/news/ai-in-dentistry/item/7813-how-to-leverage-ai-to-grow-your-dental-practice  https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2014/08/06/future-of-jobs/  https://towardsdatascience.com/artificial-intelligence-will-make-the-workplace-more-human-not-less-49af1ce6cd0d