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The future of practice management: How AI and machine learning are shaping dental practices

The first conference regarding artificial intelligence took place in 1956. Around that time, John McCarthy, the man many believe to be the father of AI, coined the term “artificial intelligence.” Now, over fifty years later, it seems the terms “AI” and “machine learning” are everywhere. There’s a good reason for that. The technology has become a part of our everyday lives. We can get everything from fashion advice to stock tips from computers. They can even beat us at games like go, chess and Jeopardy.

It’s only natural that AI and machine learning have a place in the future of dentistry. When thinking about dental AI, many people automatically think of diagnosis and treatment. We may one day use smart toothbrushes and artificial intelligence to diagnose problems, and it’s likely that AI will guide dentists in choosing the best course of treatment. For now, though, a more realistic use of AI is in dental practice management.

Software for dental practices is constantly getting smarter. Dentistry trends in smart software include automated patient contact, whole-practice management tools and software that facilitates dental staffing. Here’s a look at where these technologies are now and where they’re headed.

AI in scheduling and patient contact

Dental practices currently have loads of options for scheduling and patient contact. While many practices choose to manage contact entirely by themselves or to hire a calling service, smart software is an option. By noticing which patients haven’t been in for a while, a dental practice’s computer can trigger phone calls or emails to remind patients to schedule an appointment. Some software can send notifications and allow patients to schedule themselves. Practices can get their own branded apps, through which patients may contact the practice, schedule appointments, update information and post reviews to popular review websites.

Dental practices can expect the patient-contact software of the future to continue along the same lines. In the future, it might be enhanced by artificial intelligence and machine learning. For example, a practice’s software may be able to learn from past input that Mr. Hernandez prefers to be seen by Dr. Carlisle on Tuesday afternoons. Once it knows this, it can automatically contact Mr. Hernandez by text, phone or email (according to his preference, of course) and recommend an appointment time that fits his preferences.

AI in practice management

One of the most popular trends in dental-leadership software is whole-practice management. These tools allow a seamless fusion of clinical and administrative tasks. They can integrate scheduling, insurance and billing with patient history, diagnostics and treatment plans. There are even apps that let staff use their smart watches to optimize their time and that of their patients.

Trend watchers can expect the whole-practice approach to rise in popularity. Dental practice leadership means keeping track of everything, and the more seamless a practice is, the better. In the future, AI and machine learning may play a bigger role in dental-practice management. If software can learn how patients and personnel typically interact in a visit, it may be able to recommend ways to improve efficiency. Such software may also be able to provide relevant records exactly when and where they are needed. The possibilities with this type of practice-management software grow exponentially when AI and machine learning become involved.

AI in dental staffing

One area in which machine learning is advancing rapidly is search technology. As AI and machine learning are making strides in online search technology, they’re also becoming part of today’s dental staffing trends. In the same ways that machine learning helps optimize search results, it can help dental practice leaders find the best candidates for their open positions.

As a cloud-based staffing solution, Cloud Dentistry is making use of the latest online technology to match dental jobs with dental professionals. The platform provides a searchable collection of professional profiles. Dental practice owners can view each candidate’s qualifications, schedule, hourly rate and reviews. They can also communicate directly with candidates to get to know them better before hiring. Today’s technology is quickly replacing the traditional dental temp agency, and the tech continues to advance.

In the future, AI and machine learning will do even more to help dental practice owners and HR managers identify candidates for specific jobs. For example, tools such as Cloud Dentistry may recommend candidates based on a practice’s historical or current needs. Staffing software may even interface with practice management software to suggest candidates that are available during the practice’s peak times. These are all predictions, of course, but as AI and machine learning progress, they’ll certainly become increasingly important in dental practice management.

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AI and the future of dentistry

While we’re still not using AI on a daily basis for scheduling, practice management and staffing, the future described here isn’t that far off. Technologies that assist dental practice leadership in these areas are already on the market. The logical next step is to enhance practice-management software with artificial intelligence. Practice owners’ leadership skills in dentistry will be sharpened by future technologies, increasing practice efficiency and productivity.

We don’t know whether any of the AI pioneers at that conference in 1956 envisioned a dental practice aided by machine learning. Whatever the specifics, many of them must have had big ideas about the future of AI. Now that we’re well into the twenty-first century, it’s easy to see where machine learning might take today’s dental practices.