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Dentrix Ascend and the Natural User Interface

The sneak peek demo I got of Dentrix Ascend at the Chicago Midwinter confirmed one of my favorite high tech adages, ”A car is not just a faster horse.”

When we first create a digital version of a traditional analog paper system we invariably attempt to duplicate the paper system in a digital format. In other words we are just looking for a faster horse. However once we begin to understand the power and increased usability of digital systems we re-create the paper system completely.

Digital patient records are a prime example of this process. PMS (Practice Management Systems) like Dentrix, Eaglesoft and all the rest created digital charts that were exact copies of the paper forms we had used for so many years. The forms were arranged in the e-chart just like the pages of a paper chart. In fact some products even used an image of a traditional dental office to guide us to each module.

However once we understand how digital systems work we can recreate the chart based not on the old limited paper model but on the actual workflow of a dental office. Dentrix calls this a Natural User Interface.

For example when a person was making an appointment, the traditional paper system we used was an appointment book; and all the PMS systems recreated the books right down to the ring bindings.

However when making an appointment it would be useful for the scheduler to know if there are medical issues or if the patient has an outstanding balance. With the paper system we would have to run for the chart, flip through to the medical section then scramble for a ledger to check the balance. Actually that is just too awkward so we actually don’t run and scramble.

A digital system has the medical and financial stuff segregated to various digital modules and we have to drop down, click and scroll to find it.

A Natural User Interface recognizes how we actually work or should work if the system allowed it and presents the scheduler not with a digital book but with easy links to the functions and data we need to do the job.

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