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The Importance of Training and Customer Service in the Face of Change

Fear of the Unknown

Fear of change is an impediment to innovation. Innovation in O&P is about survival. So where does that fear come from and how can we overcome those fears to realize the benefits of innovation? Let’s take 3D printing check sockets as an example.

Since their introduction in the 1970s, check sockets have become an integral part of the prosthetic fitting process. Some providers fabricate their check sockets in-house while others outsource to a central fabricator.

For in-house fabrication, traditional methods are tried and true, even comfortable, with the accuracy of the model rarely in question. Plaster doesn’t lie. It’s a tactical medium. Decades of experience have led to proficiency and confidence.

3D printing, on the other hand, involves new tools and techniques. Lack of experience leads to a lack of confidence in resulting check sockets and ultimately, patient outcomes. For instance, with digital scans, the scale of the model needs to be validated as scanner accuracy and precision must be factored in.

Given the fact that check sockets are a critical step in the fitting process where everything downstream is affected, it is understandable why many would hesitate to adopt new tools and techniques to complete this critical step.

New tools include 3D scanners for digital shape acquisition, CAD (Computer Aided Design) software for modification and design, CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) software for converting the shape to a printable file, a 3D printer, and filament. Given the number of new tools needed, component selection alone can often be paralyzing, with fear of picking the wrong tools creating a roadblock to progress.

Fear of Failures

You don’t have to look far to find a peer that has been disappointed with failed attempts at technology introduction. Carvers that never carved, printers that never printed, etc. Some of these disappointments can be attributed to a lack of training.

Other failures may have been the result of a lack of support or failure to follow through. With solutions that have many components that work together, root cause analysis when troubleshooting solution issues can be challenging. Is it the printer or scanner? Software settings or filament? Who do I ask?

When components are provided by different vendors, solution-level support will, by definition, be lacking. Practice managers can end up coordinating the troubleshooting of issues and resolutions across a group of component suppliers, each providing their own siloed support.

Knowledge is Power

Training is often the key to success when adopting new tools and techniques. Things that often seem daunting can become comfortable once we know precisely what to do, how, and when to do it. Think of how the transition from wood to metal and plastic must have felt to prosthetists 60 years ago.

Each of the steps in a digital workflow are digestible and can be easily learned with the proper instructional approach and focus. Learning involves a mix of theory and practical application. Like with any new tool or technique, proficiency increases with practice. Over time, the digital workflow can become as comfortable as plaster, only cleaner, a whole lot faster, and way more efficient.

Prerequisites for digital workflows are minimal beyond a willingness to learn. Applying the knowledge gained throughout one’s formal education and work experience can be straightforward with a carefully crafted training curriculum delivered by experienced instructors knowledgeable in both the technology and the context (i.e. check sockets within the prosthetic fitting process).

Support is Critical

When things go wrong, who do you call? And regardless of the quality of your tools and techniques, and how good your workflows are, things can and will go wrong. Just like in traditional fabrication or even in a more general sense, akin to how automobiles break down and need service from time to time.

Your successful transition to all-digital workflows will require solution-level support. This includes the ability to create a support ticket as soon as trouble is encountered, regardless of the day or time of day. Best in class solution support means submitted tickets remain open, with resources assigned. The people who are actively working the ticket will be accountable for a timely resolution, ensuring that your practice can continue to run smoothly, even when bumps are encountered along the way.

When contemplating transitioning your check socket fabrication to in-house, or digital workflow, be sure to seek a partner and not just a supplier or vendor. What distinguishes a partner from a supplier or vendor?  A partner is committed to your success and provides solution-level support to answer any questions on the process that you might encounter. A true partner understands the role that these new tools now play in supporting your practice.

You are not alone. We got this!

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