Zettabytes… and counting

The concept of Big Data is not big news. We’ve all by now embraced the term to describe the sheer volume of information that accumulates through electronic record-keeping. Corporate America is investing heavily in digital transformation; many organizations are already skillfully analyzing their data and applying their findings to better understand their customers, attract new ones, influence consumer behaviour, and personalize their business relationships.

There is tremendous potential in the digital records of dental practices that – to date – remains largely untapped. This fact is one of the drivers of ABELDent’s Practice Management By Objectives™: Our strategic methodology that guides dentists in turning their big data into smart data.

You may recall the invitation I extended last month in this space to attend a Digital Transformation seminar we co-hosted with Microsoft. The response was overwhelming… and so was some of the information presented.

In particular, I was very surprised to hear some of the statistics shared by Lynne Clarke-Drew, Customer Acquisition & Marketing Lead with Microsoft Canada:

  • Every 2 days, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time until 2003
  • Over 90% of all the data in the world was created in the past 2 years
  • Every minute, we send 204 million emails, generate 1.8 million Facebook likes and send 270 thousand tweets
  • It is expected that by 2020, the amount of digital information in existence will have grown from 3.2 zettabytes today to 40 zettabytes

Jaw-dropping numbers, to be sure. (I had never even heard of zettabytes before this seminar!) Lynne went on to discuss the aspiration of the health industry to transform today’s “sick care” system by improving care outcomes, promoting population wellness and harnessing the data explosion.

I will recap additional highlights and learnings from this seminar in future posts. If in the meantime you would like to receive a recording of the full presentation, just call me at 1-800-267-ABEL (2235) Extension 350 or drop me an email at angelas@abelhealthgroup.com

A truly rewarding business trip

As a regular follower of my blog and member of the ABELSoft community, you probably know that my company has long been a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. It is definitely an honour to be invited to their annual premier event for partners around the globe, this year newly titled Microsoft Inspire.

When I boarded the plane en route to Washington, DC with my colleagues, I had no idea that we would end up on centre stage at the main event just a few days later.

Indeed, there we were during the awards banquet standing in front of a big screen announcing our company’s award as the 2016/2017 Microsoft Dynamics ISV of the Year for Canada!

This level of recognition is momentous.

While we have always believed in the power and value of Microsoft’s products and services, we worked in extra-close collaboration with them over the past year to optimize the use of Dynamics 365 for ABELDent users.

As a result, ABELDent software is now integrated with Dynamics 365 for Financials. We’re even providing a free license to customers to underscore the value of better and faster service and richer enhancements. Today’s ABELDent users can manage their practices with real-time business information at their fingertips:

  • Advanced analytics
  • Integrated accounting, clinical and financial reporting
  • Streamlined Human Resource management
  • Patient acquisition and retention management
  • Inventory management

Partnering with Microsoft helps us maintain our pivotal role in the digital transformation of the dental practice. We’ve always known that our innovative solutions and services exceed customer expectations, help them surpass business goals  and deliver unparalleled value.

Clearly, Microsoft agrees.

 

 

 

Could your practice benefit from a digital makeover?

As pioneers of practice management software about to celebrate our 40th anniversary in Canada, we are very gratified to see how technology has evolved to support every aspect of the dental practice. Today, the office that is operating without digital support is the rare exception.

On the surface, this is a great achievement. Yet when I dig deeper, as I frequently do in business development initiatives, I am surprised at how few dental teams are actually utilizing their technology investment to its full potential. Some may be limited by their choice of simple software that satisfies only basic tasks like scheduling. But many others have invested in more robust software that is just waiting to be optimized.

Wherever you sit, it’s time to seriously examine the state of your technology. Increased competition; heightened consumer expectations; the quest for planet-friendly, paperless solutions; cybercrime… these are among today’s external pressures that will continue to impact your success. For a dental practice more specifically:

  • The security and privacy of your data is more important than ever, yet has never been more at risk.
  • Cloud computing presents the opportunity for huge advances in the speed, mobility, reliability, and storage capacity of data. It can be more cost effective and quicker to deploy while improving the efficiency of backup and recovery.
  • Integrated communication portals enable amazing levels of practice/patient interactivity, heightening patient engagement and loyalty.
  • From a reporting and analytical perspective, your practice data can offer a wealth of valuable insights. Awareness and measurement of your KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – is a gateway to continuous improvement.

If you are not yet tapping into the power of your software, maybe it’s time for a digital makeover… let’s talk! On Monday, June 26th, ABELDent Inc. is partnering with Microsoft Canada to present an evening of insight that has the potential to transform the success of your practice. Join us in person or online for this event by pre-registering today.

Pharming and Phishing and Smishing… what next? (re-post)

It seems a week does not go by without news of another hacking incident or privacy breach. Cybercrime is here to stay. I thought it would be helpful to re-post this article from last year to reinforce the importance of cyber vigilance in the practice management arena.

Pharming and Phishing and Smishing… what next?

Three words that did not even exist a couple of years ago – at least not spelled like this – are now mainstream threats. They’re right up there with spam and scams, spoofing and spyware, hacking and botnets, malware, viruses, worms, ransomware, Trojan horses and, yes, WiFi eavesdropping.

I’ve already written about some of these types of cybercrime in this space, in particular the ones that have been known to affect small businesses with big sensitivity to database privacy, like dental practices.

But online fraud is everywhere. I used to think that it was only the naïve non-digital-savvy individuals who got themselves duped with such schemes. No longer. Hackers and scammers are getting more and more sophisticated. Like the recent spate of official-sounding telephone calls directing taxpayers to a spoofed Canada Revenue Agency website to pay re-assessed taxes – that ploy would make most of us sit up and take notice.

So when I came across the Get Cyber Safe website sponsored by Public Safety Canada, I double-checked to make sure it was legit. The site is part of a national public awareness campaign around Internet security and online protection. It is full of great information and advice, from tips to safely dispose of your tech devices to precautions to take when an employee leaves your company. There’s even a downloadable Get Cyber Safe Guide for Small and Medium Businesses and a self-assessment tool that could be quite handy resources.

www.getcybersafe.ca

Even if you don’t have time today to check out this site, at least bookmark it for future reference.

We all need to learn to be skeptical – even if it’s against our nature. We must learn to detect fraud and protect ourselves, our businesses, our patients, our employees and our families from becoming victims of cybercrime.

Ps: I had to look up ‘’smishing’’: it is ‘phishing’ for private information using SMS (texting) rather than email.

Are you Living your Vision, Mission and Values?

Audience fragmentation is a challenge that marketers have been grappling with for some time. Consumers can no longer be pigeon-holed into a few contact channels: They are increasingly adventurous, capricious, demanding, and armed with information. Just when you think you’ve built a toehold on a social media site like Facebook, the early adopters have already moved on to the next shiny thing.

Consumers want to understand what you stand for, but they also want you to understand what makes them tick. Increasingly, they expect responsiveness, interactivity and customization.

Dental professionals cannot ignore these trends. The current environment for attracting new patients is competitive to the point where clinical expertise and caring service are just part of the equation.

Market differentiation is necessary to fuel momentum. A practice that can define and clearly articulate what unique advantages they offer to their patients can often move the needle from surviving to thriving.

In ABELDent’s Practice Management by Objectives™ methodology, the development of a meaningful Value Proposition is fundamental to a solid business strategy. There’s a mutual underpinning between the Value Proposition, the Mission, the Vision and Values statements, and the Operating Plan. Learn more about Practice Management by Objectives™.

If you have not yet articulated your thinking on this, your Mission is a good place to start. It should describe:
a. Why you are in business
b. Who you serve
c. How your practice adds value or improves the life of those you serve

Next, explore your Vision:
a. How do you define success, both short and long term
b. How will you and your practice improve, grow and prosper over the next several years

Finally, identify your Values:
a. What’s your patient care philosophy
b. What principles and qualities are important to you
c. What behaviours model those principles

This exercise is both a personal exploration and a team exercise. In order to create a shared vision and encourage buy-in, all staff and stakeholders could be involved. Your operating processes, practices and systems evolve from this foundation. And so will the emotional connections you create with your existing and new patients.

Working hard – or hardly working?

According to a recent McKinsey report, today’s workforce spends 61% of their time managing work, rather than actually doing it.

Does that strike a chord? It did for me, even though my job as a people manager is to deal with and eliminate bureaucracy so my team can focus on achieving their goals. But I hear the lament over and over that others are drowning in administrative tasks, battling red tape and knee-deep in paperwork (online demands included). Today, the biggest complaint seems to revolve around the overwhelming email bog.

I’ve heard of companies creating ’email-free’ days where all internal business must happen over the telephone or gasp! in person. Other companies have turned to solutions like Yammer External Groups for patient communication, Microsoft Teams for internal office communication and document sharing, Slack and other instant messaging software to stem the flow. According to a recent TELUS report, tools like these ones can reduce email volume by as much as 40%.

Most companies at the very least publish email policy or etiquette guidelines for staff. I’ve been amused recently by a number of articles listing the major pet peeves of email users; here are some favourites:

  • Not entering a Subject line – making the email impossible to find later
  • Replying to an email and changing the topic completely – usually best to start a new email but at least add a word or a phrase to the end of the existing Subject line to inform readers of the change
  • Threadjacking – changing a Subject line to start a new conversation – please start a new email!
  • Using non-embedded logos and other graphics in a signature that come through as attachments, or little red exes
  • Intricate fonts, different coloured fonts, emoji overkill, SMS shorthand, excessive punctuation!!!!! None of these belong in business emails
  • PEOPLE WHO SHOUT AT ME
  • Messages that go on and on and say little or nothing
  • Messages that are so short they actually say nothing
  • People who can’t seem to master a professional tone; their writing is either far too casual or unnecessarily stiff
  • Those who mark everything urgent. Wolf-cryers
  • Asking for proof of receipt (unless it’s a summons, it’s insulting)
  • Replying to all when not warrented, cc’ing without approval, bcc’ing…

I wonder how much more work could get done in a day if email management took even half the time it currently does for most. If we effectively put to use the tools, technologies, approaches, and best practices that have been developed to reduce emails in the first place, we’d all be doing ourselves a favour. It’s worth the experiment.

 

Apparently, there’s a Q for that

My parents routinely told me to “mind my Ps and Qs” and I always tried to, even though I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.*

Turns out, the “Qs” are an especially important part of coping with the world.

The first one we encounter is IQ. Intelligence Quotient is an international standard that has been around for over a century. The results of various IQ assessments have guided – and misguided – the lives of many of the boomer generation. (That and gender stereotyping, a topic for another day.)

The second one is EQ. Although the concept of Emotional Quotient was identified over 50 years ago, it only gained mainstream popularity in the mid-nineties. Briefly, it’s the ability to use emotional information – your own and others’ – to guide thinking and behaviour. There are all kinds of assessments available, but to my knowledge, there’s no ‘official’ standard scale like IQ.

Then there’s CQ… twice. Cultural Quotient is the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures. This term was coined in the early 2000s, and there’s even a Cultural Intelligence Center in Lansing, Michigan. Managing diversity in the workplace is a much-explored topic.

The second CQ is also a recent addition to the list. I’ve seen several articles now about Confidence Quotient: The measure of how each individual acts and interacts based on their own self-perception and self-esteem. Again, there does not appear to be one standard assessment or scale that ranks CQ, but you can find a wide variety of tools online (like at http://www.funquizcards.com).

Your CQ can have an enormous impact on the success of your practice. Patients expect clinical expertise but it goes further than a certificate on the wall. They need the reassurance that their dentist and team believe in their expertise.

You and your team exude confidence – or not – in many ways. What you say, how you say it, your non-verbal cues, your ability to listen, how others deal with you… these behaviours all contribute to the trust your patients develop.

Here are a few things to think about to build a positive CQ:

  • Be aware of the power of positive thinking and the self-fulfilling prophecy
  • Pepper your vocabulary with positive words: “Absolutely!”, “Of course”, “No problem whatsoever”
  • Train your team to embrace these techniques as well. Get them comfortable with patient-centric comments like “Our dentist is the best!”, “We’ll take care of you!”, “You’ve come to the right place!”
  • Identify and showcase your strengths. Framed diplomas and certificates add gravitas. Framed or counter-top congratulatory postings as team members achieve continuing education show progress. Showcased testimonials and accolades from all sources support the official credentials.
  • Know your weaknesses and learn from your mistakes; correct errors and move on
  • Discuss your curiosity, ongoing learning and continuous improvement
  • Practise stress-reducing strategies. Calmness and control exude confidence
  • Identify and avoid toxic influences; nip negativity in the bud
  • Search for the upside and focus on the can-do
  • Celebrate others’ successes

The next measure looming on the horizon appears to be SQ: Spiritual Quotient. But I’ll leave this one for you to explore at your leisure. Religion and Politics… my parents taught me better.

*There are many theories as to the origin of this expression. My favourite is the Old English barkeep’s system for keeping track of your pints and quarts.