Your Technological Legacy to Your Children and Grandchildren

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

You might imagine since I am knowledgeable about technology that at least one of my three daughters might share that gift. Sadly, that is not so. It’s not because I didn’t try to make it so. I consistently provided them with above average technology (usually my hand-me-downs, but still). Often referred to as Techno Dad, I was available to answer any and all questions about technology they had. Once again, few questions arose. Perhaps technological ability skips a generation because two of my three granddaughters have picked up technology and have done things with it that I could never have dreamed about when I was 4 or 7 years old.

Every year before school starts, many law enforcement agencies put out a list of 15 or so apps you should be concerned about that your kids might be using. Google it, it’s easy to find that list. I bet you may recognize five of those. The other 10 you’ve probably never heard of at all. The list probably scares you into checking their devices just to see.

The real question is, how much are you paying attention to what your children and grandchildren are doing with the advanced technology they have at their disposal literally from birth? Do they have limits about when, where and how often they can use the technology? I’m no medical doctor, but I hear reputable people talk about the addictive effects this technology has on children. I see it with my own eyes, and I can’t help but wonder what that will mean for them as they grow older. We’ve had the opioid crisis and I’m afraid a techno crisis is coming soon.

I’m convinced I bought my teenage daughters smartphones so they could text me from their rooms 10 feet away. I know technology is not evil unto itself. It’s a tool. But like any tool, it can be misused, so you need to keep tabs on when, how and for what purpose it’s being used. I heard Simon Sinek in a video recently say, “They are children, you can take it away.” Talk about starting World War III. So, as parents or grandparents, what are we to do? Here are three things to consider.

First, set limits when the phone can be used.

There are technological solutions to this (setting up systems that permit use during certain time frames, etc.) or there is the Sinek method and just take the phone away. However, allowing children unfettered access to technology is not the best idea even if it seems to make your life easier now.

Secondly, determine where those devices can be used.

At the dinner table? Never. School? Limited usage. In their rooms overnight? NO. Teach your children and grandchildren proper use etiquette, but realize you’ll have to adhere to that, too. No “do as I say not as I do” with this stuff.

Lastly, see what they are doing on their devices.

The best way I could do that was have all the devices funneled through one account. If my kids or grandkids wanted some app, they had to ask me to get it for them. Did I track their website usage? You bet I did. I knew when and where they went on the web. I know all the bad stuff out there. I know the horror stories of people trying to get to our kids through technology. Occasionally, I physically inspect all their devices. I pay for it, so I can have access at any time. They knew this when I entrusted them with it. I’m the parent and I have the responsibility to do my best to protect them.

Our children are too precious to imagine that Google, Facebook, Snapchat or whatever is next will look out for their best interests. That’s our job, and it’s time we start doing it.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, Jan/Feb 2021. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view Today’s FDA archives.

Who’s Zooming Who?

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

The title refers to an Aretha Franklin song and the first time I heard it, I struggled to understand what that even means (it refers to checking someone out). Now it has a new meaning. I remember just a month ago, the FDA Board of Trustees had their first Zoom video call. It seemed like such a novelty then — almost like watching a Brady Bunch intro with squares of talking heads. Little did we know then that this novel way of communicating would now become the standard for so many of us.

In the last month, so much has changed thanks to COVID-19 and our response to it. The saving grace for us is that our technology is up to the task in most cases. My daughter needed to see a doctor for a minor illness. Thanks to telehealth, she “saw” the doctor and got a prescription called in the same day. My wife is a teacher and she has at least weekly and sometimes daily video interaction with her students via technology. I’ve even attended church services virtually through Facebook Live. A different world indeed.

This year, we had a few employees at the FDA who could work remotely. Now, everyone is setup with that ability. It’s a challenge to work remotely, but at least we have that option. There are a few things to remember in this new Zoom Age we’re in now.

First, remember to communicate with others. While social distancing may be around for a while, communication is still essential. I admit, despite my technology background, I like face-to-face communications better. There are so many obvious physical and non-verbal cues you can pick up on in person that are missed when the contact is virtual. However, we have to now relearn the art of communicating intent through texts, emails, phone calls and even through video sessions. Communication now is intentional and likely requires more effort, but do not cease to do it. When communication ceases, people are left to doubt, question and become fearful. Be honest, kind and as positive as you can be.

Secondly, get to those projects that have been “when I get around to it” things. For me, that means clean up my email inbox, organize our shared company file system and review our websites. I do these when they become emergencies, but seldom think of them when other things are happening. It allows you to stay productive and prepare for the time when we’re able to return to our new normal.

And lastly, do not lose your spirit of volunteerism. Dentists are caring and giving people. It saddens me that the Florida Mission of Mercy was postponed, but it was the only option. There are so many other ways you can volunteer. People still have needs. I’m helping my wife’s teacher friends with technology. I’m advising churches who are forced to go online how best to do it. I am assisting my daughters’ friends who now take all college classes online. I’m using my gifts to benefit others. I’ve always wanted to help others, and I’m not going to let COVID-19 stop me from doing just that.

The Value of a $10 Gift Card

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

In light of Facebook’s personal data issues several months ago, there are more things out there that we never even think twice about. What about the innocent looking email that asks you to fill out a simple survey for a $10 gift card or perhaps a chance to win a larger prize? Most people never give those a second thought. You fill out that survey and even if you use a throwaway email address (with so many free email services, you can create one that you hardly ever check and use for just such an occasion), you still provide valuable data to the company or the people who sponsored the survey. The value of your personal information is much higher than you think.

There’s already so much data mining (personal data compiled into a profile about you) going on. One day my wife and I were talking about backpacks for a trip; the next day my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Amazon shopping feeds were flooded with ads related to backpacks. So, who gave them that information? I never Googled it. Alexa heard me and so did Siri. Talk about Big Brother listening to me! I wanted to break out the tinfoil hats and go off the grid for a while.

We provide so much personal information when we use the internet, smartphones and tablets, and don’t even realize it. Facebook didn’t even have to try very hard. Several quizzes about which Kardashian you resemble and we have given up a lot of our personal information for free. So, what are we to do in the aftermath of this?

Here are five things to remember:

  1. Guard your personal information. There’s no need to give it away for nothing, and trust me, $10 is a bargain for your personal data. Are those $10 gift cards worth the risk?
  2. Never assume there are private communications on a public internet. Anything you put on the internet (social media, email, etc.) can and will be seen, heard and shared with others. This includes Snapchat and other sites that say they are “secure.”
  3. Use all security measures that are afforded to you by the devices you use. If that means encrypted emails or a virtual private network, then use them. Be careful about using open Wi-Fi (a password isn’t required to use it). Nothing is free, and although open Wi-Fi may appear free, it could cost you greatly in the end.
  4. Keep a tight rein on your personal brand. If that means regular credit bureau checks, services that monitor “risky” websites for your data or even staying off social media altogether, then do what is necessary to protect yourself. Once your identity is stolen, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
  5. Treat your virtual world like you would your real world. If you would not do or say something face to face, in person, then why do it in a virtual world? If a stranger showed up at your door asking a slew of questions, you’d probably slam the door in their face. On the internet, we give them what they want and more.

Bonus tip: The next time you install an application on your smartphone, visit a website or use software on your computer, take a moment and read the terms and conditions that you blindly click to accept. You’ll be shocked by what you are agreeing to without even considering the consequences.

This article first appeared in Today’s FDA, July/August 2018, Vol. 30, No. 5.

3 Solutions for Payment Processing at Your Dental Practice

By TransNational Payments

Between scheduling appointments, filing paperwork and coordinating staff, operating a dental practice can be stressful. Add to that the responsibility of selecting the right treatment and procedures for your patients, and the last thing you want to worry about is how you and your colleagues will get paid.

Fortunately, there are effective solutions for payment processing at your dental practice that can give everyone something to smile about.

Credit Card Terminal
A credit card terminal is a stand-alone device that enables your patients to pay with their credit or debit cards. It’s a very common option in dental practices today — in fact, you may have one at your reception area right now. But, do you know if it’s EMV-compatible?

EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa), a standard behind chip cards, is a must for all businesses that want to enjoy secure payment processing and avoid liability for fraudulent transactions. When it comes to your dental practice, security is key, especially considering all the confidential patient information you handle daily. This one-time upgrade is simple and can protect your payments for years to come.

Mobile Payments
It’s 2018, so why should you or your staff be stuck at the front desk when processing your patients’ co-pays? It’s time to give your staff and your clients the flexibility of mobile payments! Here are just some of the many benefits you can experience:

  • faster payments — complete transactions in just a few seconds
  • shorter lines — reduce the wait and increase customer satisfaction
  • stronger security — keep the cardholder information safe and sound
  • diverse features — enjoy real-time reporting and paperless receipts
  • reasonable price — get modern payment processing without breaking the bank

Getting started with mobile payments is just as simple as using them. All you need is a mobile device, such as a smartphone or a tablet, a card reader and a mobile app that lets you perform, save and manage transactions at the palm of your hand.

Recurring Billing
Payment processing isn’t hard, as long as you approach it in a smart way. If you have patients visiting the office on a regular basis, there’s no need to request their credit or debit cards each time a payment is due. Instead, ask them if they want to enroll in recurring billing. If they agree, you can use your payment gateway to select the transaction amount and the frequency of withdrawals. This is a great way to give your patients an excellent visit experience and help your practice achieve a steadier cash flow.

Recurring billing also is something worth looking into for your personal payments. It’s no secret that dental school debt is sky-high right now, averaging $287,331 as of last year. Some of the best advice for loan repayment includes consistent and timely installments. With recurring billing you can achieve just that, all while avoiding late fees and penalties.

Don’t let your existing payment processing make a dent in your dental practice. At TransNational Payments you can enjoy the transparent interchange plus pricing structure and work with dedicated account managers committed to helping you lead your dental practice to success. Experience payment processing made simple today!