Imagine a world in which—if you owned a Volkswagen—you could only fill up at a Volkswagen gas station using Volkswagen gas. Ford gas won’t work. You can only drive in the Volkswagen lane and take the Volkswagen off ramp. If the Volkswagen off ramp is closed for repairs, you can’t take the Ford or Toyota off ramp. That whole scenario is ridiculous but it is basically what happens when we use closed proprietary dental systems.
Interoperability is the ability of different systems from different vendors to work together. The opposite is proprietary, where users are restricted to one vendor’s products.
Dental management systems with electronic records, digital radiographs and digital impression systems are all highly proprietary. That is the user can not transfer a patient record from one office another electronically. Radiographic sensors are limited to specific software and some vendors even restrict which transfer system a user can use to send and impression over the Internet.
When shopping for a digital product, tell the vendors that an open system is an important buying factor. Ask the sales person if you can transfer the digital impression to any lab of your choice or if you can load the impression into design software of your choice. In most cases, the answer will be no. Let the sales person—or, better yet, the sales managers and product managers—know that you won’t buy a closed system.
Vendors love closed systems that keep dentists captive. They will not change until the dentists buying the systems demand a change.