25 February 2010

Something Old, Something New..

The more offices I'm called upon to fix, upgrade, or build from scratch, the more unique circumstances I come across in regards to dental technology. Replacing computer systems is relatively inexpensive when considering the cost of dental-specific software, intraoral cameras, digital x-ray sensors, and the like. Inevitably, the desire to get as much use as possible out of the dental hardware while taking advantage of the capabilities of upgraded software on new computer systems becomes a pervasive theme.

And so, my task becomes how to combine pre-existing intraoral cameras and digital x-ray sensors with new computers. This would all be simple if everything used USB for connectivity. Unfortunately, that's not the case for the majority of older dental hardware. Coupled with the fact that many new computer systems are removing older connectivity ports (e.g. COM), I've found myself searching for solutions. Some products are able to communicate through USB to <insert your favorite connection type here> adapters. Others require the addition of capture cards, which have proven altogether frustrating. The pairing of older cameras (read drivers) with new PCIe adapters has not been particularly successful.

Some have asked why not just explain to the Doctor the necessity of replacing the dental hardware. My experience has told me this is easier said than done. Especially when the cost of a single intraoral camera can be just as much as all of the computer systems throughout the office. It's a difficult justification to make to avoid searching for a solution. And the chance to solve the puzzle is nearly always a little satisfying. Gradually, though, this will all become moot as the older dental hardware is eventually replaced leaving USB as the defacto standard. Happily, USB doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.