Taking photos with a digital camera is game changing in a dental practice. As the ultimate communication tool, they allow patient’s to “see” what their teeth look like and give us a way to talk with them more powerfully. Taking the photos requires the implementation of several systems one of which is storage of the images. Whether you are taking 4 or 18 photos once they are taken we have to be able to show them to the patient and refer back tot hem at future appointments.
Many of the dental software systems have the ability to store patient images. If this is the method you decide to use you will have several key questions to answer. First figure out who on the team will be responsible for moving the photos from the camera to the computer. Depending on the software you are using this process may be one or several steps for each image that was taken. Whichever team member you chose will need a card reader hooked to a computer with access to your dental software and the time to make the transfer. One of the questions to answer is who will need to utilize the photos moving forward and how? In my office I am the primary person who uses the photos. I work with the photos on presentation software to show the patient, I e-mail the photos to specialists and technicians, and I go back to refresh my memory.
In my office the most important place to have the photos stored is on my laptop. Under the “documents” folder I have a folder named “patient photos” and then each patient has a folder which is “last name, first name”. As you begin taking more and more images you will want to organize them. You can place them inside the patient folder in separate folders by date taken, or the name of the procedure or other folks label them with the tooth number if it is procedural. The more effective you are at the front end in your naming protocol the easier it will be to find the images later. Lastly, be consistent and use the same protocol for all of your images.
Images take storage, and external hard drives are available these days without much expense. Make sure you have plenty of room and don’t bog down your computer. It is heartbreaking when a computer failure results int he loss of images, so BACK UP!! Lastly, if you are using a single camera card and taking photos of several patients, create a system to identify them. The first image we take is of the patient’s name. All of the photos that follow belong to that person until the next photo of a name. This way any team member can transfer photos and we are not going through the office asking if someone recognizes an image.