What equipment can do for you and your practice

What equipment can do for you and your practice

Using a new piece of equipment for the first time is like playing with a new toy. But the technology is more than just fun and games—here's how it can help you, your patients, and your practice.
Apr 01, 2010

New equipment is just cool. It's shiny, comes with lots of bells and whistles, and keeps your job interesting. And if the practice makes a sound investment, it allows you to do your job better. But how do you know which items are more than just high-tech toys? Go straight to the source: In this case, veterinary hospital staffers who use practice management software, in-house diagnostics, digital dental radiology, and therapy laser on a daily basis. These technologies benefit both the team members' practices and patients—and they can help yours too.

Dental digital radiography

Estimated cost: $3,000 to $12,000

How it helps the patient: Unnecessary extractions become a thing of the past. "We want dogs and cats to keep as many teeth in their mouths as possible," says Lori Bollinger, RVT, a dental technician at Camelot Court Animal Clinic in Leawood, Kan. "When I discover a dental abnormality such as a pocket in the gumline, an enamel defect, or color change, I can take a radiograph to determine whether the tooth needs to be extracted. It's much more precise. Before we had the ability to do radiographs, we extracted more teeth because we were playing a guessing game." Radiographs are also instantaneous. If veterinary technicians don't get the right angle on the first shot, they can take another. This is especially beneficial to pets, who are sedated while the radiographs are being taken. "When an animal is under anesthesia, every minute counts," Bollinger says.

How it helps the practice: "It's another service we can charge for," says Bollinger, whose practice bills $18 per radiograph. "We feel good about this because we only take one if we need it. People get really nervous when you talk about extractions because they don't want their pet to lose any teeth. They're not worried about an $18 charge if we can save the tooth." Also, having such advanced technology inspires confidence in clients. "I think people are impressed," Bollinger says. "It's made our dental program much more comprehensive and has added a whole other dimension to dentistry."

How it helps the team: As a rule, dentistry provides an excellent area for technicians to focus on and advance their careers. For example, at Camelot Court, not everyone can take digital radiographs. "It takes some skill and a lot of practice to get it right," says Bollinger, who took classes to learn how to get precise pictures of each tooth. "We take x-rays of the premolar number 4 tooth most often, a three-rooted tooth which can be challenging. But it's an important tooth for a dog, so you want to save it if possible." And most often they can, because the image allows Bollinger to see potential problems that a change in color or enamel might not always point to. "We know we've done the best we can and we don't have to guess anymore," she says. "I feel really good about that."