13 min readEpisode 138: The Power of Photography in Your Practice

Carrie Webber, Owner, The Jameson Group

Below, we’ve compiled the key points discussed in the Jameson Files Episode 138. To enjoy the full conversation with our very own Carrie Webber and Brett Wilson you can watch on YouTube or listen to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or Spotify.

Carrie Webber:

Welcome to another episode of the Jameson Files. I’m your host, Carrie Webber. And I’m so glad that you’re with us. The question before us is: how can we improve patient education and ultimately improve case and treatment acceptance? To discuss that with us, we have Brett Wilson, the president of Digital Doc LLC. The team behind Digital doc had been friends of the Jameson Family for many, many years. And so, Brett, thank you so much for joining me today!

Brett Wilson:

I’m looking forward to this.

How Photography Educates Patients and Increases Treatment Acceptance

Carrie Webber:

So for those of you that maybe aren’t familiar with Digital Doc, it’s one of the premier companies in the camera space—intraoral cameras and so much incredible technology that you’re using in your practices today. Digital Doc stands at the forefront of innovation and quality tools for the best treatment, education, diagnosis, and presentation for both you and your patients.

So today I want to talk with you, Brett, about the power of photography in dental practices. Yes, it’s been around for a while now. It’s no new thing. If I were to ask five doctors or five hygienists sitting at this table with me today, “How many of you have access to a camera?” they’d all probably raise their hand. But then if I’d ask, “How many of you are using them in all of your appointments?” or “How many of you are using the photographs you take in follow up appointments?” the hands start to drop. 

So what do you find when you’re having conversations with practices, Brett? If they were to take a look at their utilization of photography and of their tools, where are they falling short? Where could they look to improve in the coming year?

How does your patient take in information?

Brett Wilson:

One area is looking at who is coming into my practice. I really like to refer to them as the consumer. Are we looking at our patient as a consumer? And if so, how do our consumers buy? How do our consumers live? 

We are all consumers. So how do we live? You know, what cell phone do we have? What size of television are we watching at home? Do those things matter? I believe they do. We live in an HD world today. No matter where you go, you’re going to see a 55” screen. You can order from Starbucks, or you can go to a fast food restaurant. Wherever you are, it’s there.

Or take sports. We’re all passionate about that. Some pro, some college. We’re not going to watch a sporting event in standard definition today. So when we go into dental practices and we see the computer screen on the counter or no imaging at all in front of the patient, what does that say?

How many put a 55” or even a 65” screen on the wall in front of the patient and really connect with that consumer? We’re not seeing that as much. And so I like to start there, just who are we really communicating with? I would argue we’re dealing with the most sophisticated consumer today that we’ve ever had.

Carrie Webber:

That’s such a great point! that I am 100% that. When we’re talking with practices about their patient experience and their treatment presentations, we’re trying to encourage them to shift their mindset from what they think patients need to look at it from the perspective of the patient. What do your patients want? How do they process information? The easier we make it for them to receive and process  information, the better it is for everyone. So, what are you finding that is really driving patient perceptions, Brett?

Brett Wilson:

So when we look at consumerism in general, we look at the studies done in marketing of how we connect with consumers and how we buy. We have to be connected multiple times, right? Five to seven, they say, on average. But we’re emotional. We buy based on emotion, not necessarily logic. 

But when we present treatment plans to patients, it’s oftentimes very logical-based, and it should be to an extent, because you have to deliver the information. But we need to be showing them the images while we talk. We are visual people. Our patient, who’s carrying around that $1,300 cell phone in their pocket, upgraded the phone because the images are spectacular, right? How does your presentation compare to what they experience on their phone?

What equipment are you using to meet that patient demand?

So when it comes down to the technology and the practice, you have to equip your hygienist and all providers. That’s the minimum. Our most successful doctors have a camera in every single chair. But at least have the minimum—a camera per provider—and make sure they’re using it. Make sure you have a system in place.

It’s very effective when doctors are checking that, when the hygiene patient comes in, images are on the screen. That’s very effective and works well. But be sure your providers are confident in their imaging as they’re using the product. Their images are something they should be getting excited about. They should be able to say, “Hey, wow! Can you believe this image?” 

I was in an office two weeks ago, and I was looking at the images they had up on a 60” screen on the wall. I was like, “That is unbelievable!” The image was just taken and it showed up on that screen. Wow. That’s something you can really get excited about.

Carrie Webber:

Yes, and the utilization is key. We have to be maximizing these tools. Hygienists, doctors, assistants need to take those images, pull them up on a screen, and have them ready when the dentist sits with that patient. 

So what do you see as the turning points for team members to really see that value and get excited about it, Brett? How can you encourage people to do the work and get more comfortable with the tools and become passionate about it? What’s going to turn the tide for practices on this?

Brett Wilson:

It’s all about equipping them with a camera per provider. And I’m not trying to sell you more cameras, but I know the impact that will have on your practice. And then just make the time. I mean, we can carve out the two minutes in an appointment that it takes to capture images. 

How important is a full smile photograph?

I like to talk a lot about the full smile image. I feel like we’re missing opportunities if we’re not taking a full smile photograph in hygiene. Many offices are into ortho, clear aligner therapy, cosmetic dentistry. They want to do more of that, but they’re not taking a full smile photo in hygiene. 

A lot of times I hear that. “Well, I took a full smile with our digital SLR on the new patient exam.” And that’s great. I’m sure you did. But how often are you reviewing those images with your patients? And we’re all in a different place in life six months to a year later. So we just use the smile as a routine image taken in hygiene. It’s powerful what comes out of that. And they don’t really even have to say anything. 

The hygienist simply captures the smile photograph, then just leaves it on the screen and goes to get the doctor for the hygiene check. When the doctor comes back, most of the time, the patient has some questions about what they’re seeing on the screen. Either answer the questions now or bring him back to have more of a consultation regarding those larger treatments. 

That’s been very effective in increasing the education for patients and the revenue of the practice.

Carrie Webber:

You know, I love that because photography should be used in education and in motivating people to move forward with the treatment they want or need. It not only helps you in presenting a diagnosis, but it can also be such a powerful tool to help patients see the value of the decisions they’ve made. Seeing the value will offset buyer’s remorse and help them see, “Oh, wow, I’m making a really good decision.”

And who doesn’t like to watch the progress of the clear liners that they’ve invested in or that ortho treatment you were talking about. That can really help build value and loyalty in your patients and also give them tools to talk about you to friends or family that may be looking for a dental home.

So, Brett, I’m sure doctors are asking you, “What can I expect out of doing all these things?” So you and your team at Digital Doc, what kind of results do you see from these practices that are all-in on the utilization of photography?

How much revenue increase can you expect by embracing this kind of photography?

Brett Wilson:

We talk a lot about a 10% increase in revenue, and we believe that’s conservative. Definitely a 10% to 30% increase in revenue. I remember speaking to your team, and, Dr. Kathy spoke up and said, “Brett, it’s 30% with the right number of cameras. We’ve tracked this for 30 years.” So it is powerful, the increase that can and will happen with the adoption of the camera minimum per provider, and then taking a series of photos. 

And the volume of images does matter. Patients need to see more. We talk a lot about “See More, Do More” in our organization. If the patient gets to see more on the screen, the office will see the impact in increased case acceptance with general treatment, but definitely with those elective dentistry items. Those electives are the things, often, that the patient wants to talk about that doctors didn’t have on their list.

Doctors, be sure to make a big deal of the photographs!

And doctors need to be empowering the individuals that are taking the images. That’s a big deal. Doctors can talk about how amazing the image is and how great a job their hygienist is doing capturing photos. And, wow, can you believe this before and after? I find that that goes a long way with getting more adoption from the hygienist in taking more images.

Carrie Webber:

Yes, and I agree that 10% is very, very conservative. I appreciate the conservative approach. And what a lift in treatment acceptance, even if a 10% increase is all experience. And for those of you that are listening that perhaps already have cameras and all the pieces that Brett is encouraging, it may be that you need to take a look at how to use it in a different way. So, Brett, how many practices is Digit Doc working with at this time, approximately?

Brett Wilson:

We have at least 40,000 doctors in our database. We sell through distribution, so we don’t know all of the doctors, and that’s our minimum—40,000. We’re celebrating 21 years. We were a one product company for 17 years. So we still manufacture cameras. We are still passionate about it. We have added some products of the last few years, but photography is still one of the most powerful tools in the practice—not just to educate patients, but to truly grow the practice revenue. 

Doctors need to do photography too.

And then on the doctor’s side, you know, I always ask the question, “Doctors, what pictures are you taking on your side?” I believe that before, during, and after on every restorative case on the restorative side is important. It’s impactful to communicate with the patient the quality of the work you did, and that you’re proud of that. And it’s a great time to ask for a referral at that point, when you’re able to show the before and after of the work that you just completed.

Carrie Webber:

Absolutely. And then when you get permission from those patients to use their progress in educating other patients with similar cases, those before and after images are so powerful. They are useful in future treatment presentations as well as in marketing and sharing patient stories, especially if you’re doing a great deal of comprehensive restorative or cosmetic work. It can make such a huge difference. 

And, you know, considering that yours is a company that’s been working with at least 40,000 doctors for the last two plus decades, I think all of our listeners will want to explore and to consider if your utilization of photography might be worth looking into for themselves. These are actual, proven best practices that have maximized revenue, retention, and growth for many dental practices. 

So Brett, you said you’ve gone well beyond the original model and aspect of Digital Doc. Tell me, what’s, what’s new on the horizon for you? What are you launching? What are you all working on for dental practices right now?

Additional Imaging and Dental Practice Technology Tools

Brett Wilson:

Sure. So we’re always building the next camera. We’ve had four generations of cameras over 20 years. People ask us, “When are you going to come out with another camera?” And we’re always designing. We’re really just waiting on the technology to catch up to release the latest. That’s our goal, to be the industry leader and continue to just push the industry with images and with technology that they’ve never seen. 

So we’ll continue to do that. We’ve launched handheld x-rays. It’s amazing the increase in efficiency we’re seeing in dental practices and how easy that product is to use. Size one and size two sensors are really starting to take off. And imaging software. Our latest addition has the goal is to bring a whole solution to the digital imaging of the practice.

Carrie Webber:

And where can they find out more? Where can they learn more about all of the tools and resources that you have at the ready, Brett?

Brett Wilson:

So our website, www.digi-doc.com, a just-launched new website, has all of our products. It answers a lot of questions. You know, we really worked on the FAQ’s to answer the questions our doctors ask us routinely. And we have virtual demos, and an entire human in-office sales team. We also have sales reps that go into dental practices and show the product live. 

We just had an office call, and they were ready for some real solutions. So we jumped on a virtual demonstration. Virtual is important in today’s world. And they not only got cameras, they got other technology, the whole package. And they were able to do it all online and see and understand what they were getting.

And you know, COVID really helped offices and doctors and team members get used to doing more virtual video presentations like we’re doing now. So we offer that.

Carrie Webber:

I love that. And, I do encourage our listeners to visit that website and learn more about the tools there. Brett, thank you so much for your time with us today. I’m so grateful that you took time out of your very busy schedule to be with us and share some of your insights and passion for the work that you do.

Brett Wilson:

Thanks, Carrie, appreciate it very much.

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