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Interview: “Digital connectivity is changing how we work and learn”
Having had more than three decades of experience in the international healthcare industry, Donald M. Casey is better qualified than anyone to guide Dentsply Sirona through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s CEO recently spoke with Dental Tribune International about the success of this year’s virtual DS World and how the nature of product demonstrations has changed in 2020.
Mr. Casey, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. DS World went virtual this year. How did you find it, and what was the response of the attendees?
It was great. In May, we began planning for a hybrid DS World, one that combined in-person activities with digital events. As the summer months passed and the COVID-19 pandemic continued, we made the decision to go completely virtual, and the response was extremely gratifying.
As one of the few virtual dental events to charge attendees, we wanted to make sure that we delivered a tremendous amount of content. This meant live surgical procedures every day, more than 70 clinical education courses for viewing either live or on demand and the opportunity to experience fantastic world-renowned speakers like Simon Sinek.
Though it was a bit strange not being able to see everyone in person, the digital nature of DS World 2020 meant that, in a lot of ways, we were able to better assess how people were responding to each event. We could instantly see how many people were watching the opening session, how many had attended each course and so on. Overall, I have to say that it went really, really well. Frankly, it exceeded our expectations.
In the opening session, you announced that DS World 2021 is scheduled to return as an in-person event and will be held in Las Vegas. Moving forward, will there still be space for a supplemental virtual element for DS World?
If the pandemic’s taught us anything, it’s that digital connectivity is changing how we work and learn. Dental events and meetings can certainly benefit from having virtual components where those who can’t attend in person can still experience demonstrations of products like the new Axeos imaging system.
As we go forward, we’re planning to blend in-person experiences for those who can attend in person with virtual content, including continuing education and live surgery demonstrations. This is where the tremendous value of Dentsply Sirona to our customers really becomes apparent—we’ve been able to significantly extend our educational reach using technology. For example, in the first half of 2020, we offered 3,500 courses that reached more than 800,000 dental professionals around the world, including almost 750,000 dentists. In 2020, we’ve also doubled the total amount of online content available, and so it’s clear that this will play a significant role in our strategy moving forward.
“As we go forward, we’re planning to blend in-person experiences for those who can attend in person with virtual content, including continuing education and live surgery demonstrations”
What do you see as potential areas of growth for Dentsply Sirona?
We’ve reconfigured our R & D department to be able to transform the digital aspects of dentistry, and so digital dentistry is going to be incredibly important for us. Through innovations like our Primescan digital imaging system, we want to transform dental workflows that span across diagnosis and treatment planning through to the treatment itself. In this respect, we see artificial intelligence playing a role and contributing to the speed, accuracy and ease of use of Dentsply Sirona products.
The software side of the business is going to become increasingly important—that much is clear. At Dentsply Sirona, we have 108 years of experience as a company focusing on delivering better, faster and safer products to our customers. So, for us, a point of emphasis is on how we can utilize our products and streamline workflows so that we can help dentists deliver better patient care.
What role, then, does education play in allowing dentistry to become increasingly digital?
Oh, a massive role. Education is essential to us—we have training facilities, dental academies and showrooms in 97 countries, and they are absolutely a significant element of our approach to education, particularly in a hands-on sense. The amount of virtual clinical education that dental professionals have engaged with during the pandemic is unbelievable, and this was demonstrated in an amazing response to our webinars. Enrollment in on-demand courses also rose dramatically, and more than 7,700 dental professionals completed 175 self-study courses! So, it’s clear that these online resources will be key to our ability to continue innovating in digital dentistry.
“Education is essential to us—we have training facilities, dental academies and showrooms in 97 countries”
Despite the difficult circumstances, Dentsply Sirona has still managed to launch a number of products recently, including Axeos and Surefil one. How difficult is it for dental professionals to try these products out for themselves, given the pandemic?
It depends, really, on what the benefits of the product are, but also on where the dentist is located. For a digital device like Axeos, a dental 2D/3D imaging solution with a large field of view that delivers incredible image quality with speed and precision, it’s easy for dentists to see this virtually and understand the benefits. For Surefil one, it’s a little bit more difficult because the clinician wants to use the material, understand its handling properties, understand the chemistry and the speed of the bonding, and see firsthand the strength and esthetics of the restoration. The Dentsply Sirona team has done an excellent job of transitioning to digital demonstrations so that dentists can try the materials out themselves, and these skills are going to be invaluable as we go forward.