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House takes a tech step forward with ADA Connect

ADA leadership—officers and delegates—have attended virtual summer school this year, learning how to master a new technological tool that brings the Association one step closer to a paperless House.

ADA Connect, based on Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration software, allows delegates, alternates and officers a secure platform for accessing House documents, exchanging information about issues and learning about their colleagues. It is replacing an older application, which is no longer produced, and it offers more features to users.

This step in rolling out ADA Connect is in keeping with the objective of Resolution 36H-2009 to transition to an electronic House by 2012. The software is designed to work with Macs and PCs, and the ADA is aggressively working to support iPads and Android tablets.

The ADA has held a series of webinars online so that delegates, alternate delegates and officers could learn the new system before the House meets in Las Vegas in October.

An advisory committee of dentists provided user input to ADA tech experts. The HOD Collaboration Team consists of Drs. J. Thomas Soliday, ADA Speaker of the House; John Nase, ADA Council on Communications; David McCarley, ADA Council on Ethics, Bylaws and Judicial Affairs; Rita Cammarata, Texas delegate; Alan Friedel, Florida delegate; and A.J. Smith, ADA 1st vice president.

Dr. Nase, who heads the Council on Communications Social Media Workgroup, says the training has been well-designed and executed. “The three phases of training is a smart move in attempting to familiarize House members a little at a time, in order that those of us who may not be entirely tech savvy get up to speed without being overwhelmed with information.”

Dr. Mark Zust, a delegate from Missouri who participated in the online training, said, “I have personally not used paper in the House for a few years now and I look forward to more of our delegates using electronic means to streamline the business of the House. I remember receiving a new set of pages on the first day of the House. I would sit for an hour just to collate the new pages. Now I am able to simply download a new complete workbook. As the vice-chair of the Council on Dental Practice, I encourage our members to use technology whenever they can. The ADA is committed to making our work easier, and the webinar was particularly helpful in explaining the changes that the House will see this year.”

“Document management” may not sound like an exciting term, but Dr. Nase sees it as key for the House getting its work done efficiently, especially given it only meets once a year. “This has been a perennial challenge for the House. ADA Connect has the potential to solve many problems experienced by the House in an organized, user-friendly manner. Personally, one of the great things about electronic document management through ADA Connect is the future possibility of being more responsibly earth-conscious. Ever since my first experience with the HOD, I frankly have been appalled at the enormous waste of paper and associated carbon usage by the House. ADA Connect’s document management capabilities are a huge step in the right direction.”

CEBJA’s Dr. McCarley agrees. “We have almost a thousand dentists and ADA staff who need to stay connected while doing the business of the House of Delegates,” he said. “With ADA Connect we can now respond instantly to discussion of House resolutions and updates to the House agenda. New delegates will find ADA Connect very helpful with the flow of information that can seem overwhelming at times.”

Dr. Ken Weinand, a delegate from Missouri, after participating in the webinar, called the ADA to say how valuable it was for him. What he particularly likes in the new software is the ability to tie budgetary impact immediately to a resolution. “It is organized so that we can see easily how much a resolution will cost the ADA. This will help us be better stewards of our members’ dues. We will be better budgeteers.”

Dr. Weinand has long been an advocate for a paperless House and last year thanked delegates at the microphone for bringing their laptops and saving some trees. “Another big plus is that this system is secure, unlike emails. This is a tool that will help us be more efficient in our business at the House.”
Dr. Nase emphasized the collaborative aspect. “ADA Connect will not only allow delegates and alternates to access House documents seamlessly, but will also allow for socialization between constituent delegations, councils, reference committees and special interest groups, as well as our many experts on a plethora of subjects. ADA Connect is a tool that should not sit idle for 11 months out of the year if used properly; rather, it should be utilized by delegations on a consistent basis. This socialization should make for a well-informed House year round and not narrowly relegated into the confines of a weeklong session.”

The software will also be deployed in the fall to ADA councils and commissions, followed by the tripartite, State Public Affairs program and ADA Standards development, with completion expected in the first quarter 2012.