Digital Transformation in Medical Technology

Interview with Jörg Haist, Dentsply Sirona

With the merger of Dentsply and Sirona in 2016, the company has become the world’s largest manufacturer of dental products and technologies in the field of dentistry and dental technology. During the past 3 years, Dentsply Sirona managed the multiple transformation of merging over 16.000 employees in over 40 countries into one single company and realizing an unprecedented digitization journey centers around connecting practitioners, patients’ needs and equipment. Julia Hahn and Felix Evert dis- cussed with Jörg Haist, Vice President of Platform Management Equipment & Instruments, how Dentsply Sirona leveraged the opportunities of digital transformation in medical equipment.

Dentistry is undergoing an enormous upheaval. The keyword Digital Dentistry moves the entire industry, especially the equipment manufacturers. How do you observe this transformation process?

10 years ago, X-ray systems were the start of digitization. It all started on a small scale: Initially, the devices were equipped with a digital interface, but were not yet networked with each other. Soon the desire arose in the practices that the images should also be available in other rooms than just the X-ray room. The dentists now wanted access to the images, for example, in the treatment room, at the reception desk or in the patient files. At that time, the images were still available in 2D; today, they are of course available in 3D. The practice management systems followed the same path. Here we faced the same challenge: Patient data should not only be available at the reception desk, but also in the treatment room. These two systems have greatly advanced digitization and networking in the dental practice and continue to act as catalysts for other systems. Today, all devices at Dentsply Sirona are networked. The devices have various interfaces at which they collect and pass on information; patients can communicate with the management systems, for example. On the operating side, for example, cleaning or maintenance cycles can be documented. The technical challenge lies in the growing volume of information. Sensor technology is becoming faster and more precise. This results in a large amount of data that we have to process sensibly and securely.

IDS 2019 – Sirona Dentsply

The transformation to digital dentistry means a great effort for all involved, which can only be justified by better treatment results for patients. What does Dentsply Sirona´s promise “Inspired by your needs” mean in this context? What needs do you see now and in the medium term?

One of the major tasks of digital net- working is that it must be made suit- able for users. Our motto for this year’s IDS, “Inspired by your needs”, starts right there: What is the problem, why does this problem exist in practice and how can we solve it?

It is currently becoming apparent that the virtual patient is the focus of attention: All information about a patient is transferred together to a virtual filing system. There it is made accessible for the treating dentist. Dentists today no longer want “disparate information bites”. A good example of this is implant planning: the restoration does not consist solely of the implant itself. During X-rays, the doctor can also see what it looks like under the crown. Without an x-ray, it is only possible to look at the restoration from above.

The patient does not initially care which technology is used. The patient would like to receive a complete treatment from his dentist. This is why we brought the various technologies together several years ago.

Dentsply Sirona deliberately works directly with dentists to incorporate their needs and wishes into product planning. There is a close exchange here, both in development and in the treatment practice, i.e. where dentists use our systems. Especially in software development, there is an increased risk that a lot of money will be invest- ed in something that will not be used afterwards. Therefore, it is essential to analyze and consider the needs of users. Not only the dentists, but also, we as a manufacturer are satisfied if everything works smoothly and without complications.

Dentsply Sirona actively promoted a digitization strategy more than 10 years ago. How do you rate and document the progress made so far? What path does Dentsply Sirona still have ahead of it?

We are constantly developing our products and systems and are always looking for ways to improve them. Especially in the field of digitization we see great potential for optimization of the intranet of dental practices. Above all, we, as a manufacturer, focus on cross-practice networking via the cloud in order to facilitate the ex- change of electronic patient data and X-ray images between the attending dentists. Further developments in artificial intelligence (AI) also appear promising in this context. Such AI systems are also increasingly being used in human medicine – for diagnostics, for example. In the future, these systems will probably even be able to suggest findings or automate entire processes. Incidentally, this technology is strongly cloud based.

As these systems are very maintenance-intensive, digital networking is gaining in importance here in particular. This allows the systems to draw attention to themselves independently and communicate with the user. The systems can thus draw the attention of their users to pending maintenance and care work with “Attention, I need maintenance”, “Salt” or “There is a problem”, for example, and thus sup- port smooth work processes.

In addition to technical innovations, it is also worth taking a look at developments in dental practices in Ger- many: more and more large practice chains with centralized purchasing or technical maintenance are emerging. Networked and automated communication is particularly worthwhile for these practice chains, in order for them to simplify and accelerate organizational processes.

Dentsply Sirona is rapidly bringing innovation to the ecosystem. How do you develop this power of innovation? Where does the drive come from?

In dentistry, basic technological re- search is less pronounced. This is more likely to happen in other disciplines. The art lies in adaptation, i.e. in bringing an idea into the dental environment that already exists elsewhere. In imaging, for example, there is already very good basic work from human medicine. Our Orthophos SL X-ray machine was one such development. It enables panoramic images with the best resolution at the lowest possible radiation dose. Innovation is therefore often achieved through the adaptation and new com- position of existing approaches. The merger of Dentsply and Sirona has brought together first-class specialists in a wide range of fields. We learn a lot from each other and can now focus more eyes on the dentist from different perspectives at the same time. Our perspective has widened.

At IDS, Dentsply Sirona also emphasizes its “simpler and clinically safe” solutions. How is this approach integrated into the innovation process?

Of course, there are comprehensive guidelines on how to develop medical devices. These are, among other things, in the areas of readiness for use and usability. Dentistry, in particular, is a discipline that is highly technological compared to other medical fields. As a result, the many different technical products must be easy to use. No user can master 50 devices down to the smallest detail. Therefore, we try to make our products as user-friendly and “simple” as possible. Many physicians are therefore closely involved in our development processes, be it in test installations, concepts or with personal feedback. We want to prove that products and solutions fulfil their purpose: Planning therapies, diagnostics, carrying out treatments.

At the end a short outlook. Dentsply Sirona has just announced its co- operation with exocad. The digital workflow between practice and laboratory is to be promoted and improved. What will it look like?

As I have already mentioned, all our products are becoming increasingly networked. This concerns the solutions from our company, but of course also the networking with the devices of our competitors. exocad is such a cooperation in which we work with validated workflows. The manufacturers exchange information in the interests of the doctors: How do the products actually interact and how do we ensure that this interaction functions smoothly? – We deliberately do not say: it only works with Dentsply Sirona. The physician should have and retain freedom of choice. The networking within the practice should nevertheless remain guaranteed, regardless of the product choice.

Mr Haist, thank you for this interview.


About Jörg Haist:

Jörg Haist is Vice President of Platform Management Equipment & Instruments at Dentsply Sirona. Prior to the merger of the two companies, he was Product Manager Imaging Systems at Sirona. There he was responsible

for the X-ray machine Orthophos SL, Galileos Comfort Plus and the Xios XG sensors.

Before joining Sirona, he worked at Frauenhofer Institut für Graphische Datenverarbeitung (IGD). He has also taught graphical data processing and medical informatics at the universities of Heilbronn, Heidelberg and

Mainz and at the TU Darmstadt.

The Interview was conducted by Julia Hahn and Felix Evert.