Does Imaging Technology Improve General Practitioner and Specialist Relationships (and Therefore Referral Business)?

The collaborative process is essential in interdisciplinary healthcare, and dentistry is no exception. My colleagues and I have had several discussions on what makes a general practitioner choose a specific specialist over another and how this critical relationship can be optimized for the benefit of all concerned.

While opinions may vary, a study commissioned by the American Association of Endodontists study found that technological competency to be the #1 reason for a general practitioner would choose one specialist over another.  This is surprising, as most people think perceived clinical competency would be the deciding factor.

The research underlines that your technology can be influential in capturing business opportunities from strategic relationships—and that it does have an impact on your practice’s bottom line. Although many dentists don’t think about all of the possibilities associated with dental practice equipment, digital imaging technology is one of the best tools that facilitates the referral process between generalists and specialists.  Consider:

  • Speedy and comprehensive referrals – digital imaging technology allows dentists and dental specialists to electronically share secure patient information, enabling them to improve the quality of care when multiple providers collaborate in the patient’s treatment.
  • Accelerated insurance predetermination and optimized payment benefits – imaging technology–including digital radiography and intraoral camera images–allows you to submit indisputable evidence with your claims, minimizing insurance company payment disputes and enabling you cover your office and referring specialists costs in a timely manner.  Financial expedience often fosters trust among business groups.
  • Increased communication and education – according to an article in Dentistry Today on The Interdisciplinary Referral by John D. West, DDS, MSD, Ralph V. O’Connor, DDS, and Daniel H. Cook, DDS, MS, communication and education are major factors in the dentist-specialist relationship.

To more specifically highlight how digital dental technology aids in the communication and education collaborative process, I have created the following chart:


How Digital Technology Helps….

General Practitioners


Communication When general practitioners refer their patients to a specialist, they need to be kept informed on the progress and outcome of their mutual patient’s treatment. Having digital technology enables a smooth and coordinated communication process that enables the general practitioner to be informed of their patient’s care. There is an expectation to provide reports to the general practitioner after completing the specialty treatment. Digital imaging technology—such as phosphor plates, sensors, and intraoral cameras—can be easily integrated into software, making it easier to produce a high-quality report. Facilitating this communication ensures more quality referral opportunities from general practitioners.
Education Dentists often look to specialists for guidance on technology. By working with a specialist who has state-of-the-art equipment, a dentist can learn about advancements and apply them to his or her own practice. Thanks to advanced software and imaging systems, specialists can easily educate both patients and their referring dentist partners on recommended treatment plans, treatment process and final outcomes.

Have you found that imaging technology improved the interdisciplinary process? Please share your thoughts below.

Author: Carestream Dental Blog Administrator

Carestream Dental provides industry-leading imaging, CAD/CAM, software and practice management solutions for dental and oral health professionals. With more than 100 years of industry experience, Carestream Dental products are used by seven out of 10 practitioners globally and deliver more precise diagnoses, improved workflows and superior patient care. For more information visit