When to Keep up with Technology

Dentists are inundated with new technologies that they are told they should implement but when is the right time and how do you decide?

Technology has absolutely revolutionized the field of dentistry, and new tech developments have gone a long way toward making life easier for dentists and hygienists around the world, which of course improves the comfort of patients. In the last generation alone, new breakthroughs in laser technology and digital impressions have made it much easier for dental clinics to offer a higher level of care.

Still, one of the most frequent complaints I hear from dentists and clinicians is how overwhelming it can be to stay on top of new tech developments.

With new breakthroughs happening all the time, and better tools reaching the market every year, it can be hard to know which developments are must-haves and which are not worth investing in – especially since many dentists are already stressed and are primarily focused on attracting new patients and retaining them in an increasingly saturated market.

So how should you decide what technologies to employ and when? Following are a few things to keep in mind when making your decision.

1. Ask Yourself What Problem the New Tech is Solving

The first question you should ask before upgrading to any new tech solution is what problem this new tech going to solve?

New technology should never be adopted for its own sake, but instead it should be adopted precisely because it helps your dental clinic operate more effectively and/or contributes to increased patient satisfaction.

Whether that means adopting automated patient communication or incorporating digital radiography, you should always be able to clearly articulate how this new technology makes your clinic better equipped to meet its quality and customer service goals. 

Essentially, ask yourself whether this investment will fill an immediate or anticipated need. If it doesn’t, it’s safe to pass.

2. Always do Your Research Before Upgrading

New technology gets a lot of hype and I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes it’s tempting to upgrade to the latest tech simply because it offers new, cutting-edge solutions. Novelty is exciting!

But in order to upgrade strategically and effectively, it’s important to look beyond the hype and do your research. If you are looking for new practice management software, one of the biggest questions facing dental clinics right now revolves around data security and storage. Consider the relative merits of cloud and local server solutions and make an informed decision based on your particular needs.

Since most dental software has now evolved to the point where appointment scheduling and clinical record keeping are relatively comparable between vendors, differentiation has shifted  to enhanced productivity tools such as integrated financial accounting and payment card processing, advanced reporting analytics, and more adaptive administrative and clinical workflows. These are the latest things to put on your comparison checklist.

In short, the best dental software solutions should always save your practice time and energy and give you the information you need to make informed practice management decisions.

Secondly, it is a good idea to make sure the vendor you choose has a good track record of keeping up with the latest developments in the dental industry. As CEO of ABELSoft, I can say that following this philosophy has always been a priority for our company.

3. Think to the Future

The trick is to time your upgrades to guarantee the best value for the longest period of time. Pay attention to patient feedback and to developments in your field with a goal of staying ahead of the curve without wastefully investing in every new technology that comes along.

One way to do this is to use the same framework that you use when considering a new treatment procedure – evidence based dentistry. By applying the same principles you will have much more confidence that the technology will deliver what it promises. 

4. Make Sure to Calculate Your Return on Investment

For example, innovative tools like 3-D intraoral scanning are starting to make difference in how dentists work. With the potential to provide more accurate replicas of the mouth than a traditional mould, they may offer a return on investment through time saved and mistakes averted. However, if you are considering such technology, make sure you consult with colleagues who have already implemented 3-D to get their impressions (no pun intended!).

If you manage a dental clinic, nobody needs to tell you that it is important for you to stay aware of the new technological developments – from improved record-keeping systems to efficient appointment reminders and confirmation communication – that make it possible to run your business better day-to-day.

In summary, whether you are a dental practitioner or office administrator, it pays to approach new technology in a strategic way that will allow you to minimize costs and ensure that you get solutions that can actually help your clinic reach its full potential. 

What will you do with your cloud-shift $avings?

There is no question that investment in technology can be significant for any business, let alone a small- to medium-sized dental practice. When it comes to your practice management software, the return on that investment and its inherent value to your bottom line is undeniable. But the cost of hardware, maintenance, security, and IT support can certainly add up.

One of the best advantages of working in the cloud is the prospect of dramatically reducing the technology expenses line item in your budget.

During a recent discussion with a client regarding her planned migration to our cloud hybrid solution, we got out our calculators to do a real-life cost-benefit analysis.

This led to a genuine “eureka!” moment for my client. She got excited about the many ways that she could spend the freed-up funds over the next year. She started out with practical suggestions; by the end of our phone call we were contemplating whimsical and downright hysterical options.

The whole topic went viral – if you can use that term for water-cooler conversation dominance – and before I knew it we were compiling a list of ideas to share in a blog post. Here are the team’s top ten picks:

10. A bucket-list trip on the panoramic Rocky Mountaineer through Western Canada and Alaska

9. Porcelain veneers

8. Two weeks on a beach in Maui with my mate

7. Home theatre with surround sound: one for my operatory and another for my rec room

6. A wellness spa retreat for my hardworking staff

5. A Jaguar hood ornament for my Honda Civic

4. “Everybody gets a car!” (well, maybe with a small cash infusion from Oprah)

3. A vintage Pac Man arcade game for the staff lounge

2. A staff lounge

1. A shiny new, state-of-the-art CAD and CBCT system – or maybe just an AI Dental Advisor. Siri, meet Carie

What’s on your wish list?

I invite you to share your top picks with me.

Going Cloud: Three Common Myths Busted

The more I discuss cloud computing with dental practitioners, the more I recognize that there’s as much dis-information floating around as there are facts you can count on.

Moving to a cloud-hosted model is a big decision. Most companies choose it for business agility and cost savings. But there are drawbacks to consider. That’s why ABELDent now features a hybrid solution: Our practice management software users can enjoy all the advantages while minimizing the risk.

To help you separate fact from fiction and support any level of migration to the cloud, I thought it might be helpful to share the truth about the most common myths:

  1. If our data moves to the cloud, our business will no longer have control over our technology.

    Not so!  You still have total control over technology, but your IT department won’t have to worry about constant updates. The time they’re now spending on maintenance and software upgrades will be significantly reduced, allowing them to focus on advancing your organization’s technology and business operations.

    Instead of spending your capital budget on servers, you can think strategically about reinvesting those funds into growth initiatives. (Hmm… what else could I do with those savings?)

  2. Keeping our data on premise is safer than in the cloud.

    Not so!  It’s becoming increasingly clear that companies are routinely hacked without ever knowing it. Your practice may have a security expert, or use the services of a third-party professional. However, most companies can rarely assemble a team large enough to uncover and protect against the hundreds of possible alerts that come through each day.

    Cloud data centres like Microsoft Azure – our proven choice – are singularly focused on security and built with scale in mind. A dedicated team maintains security at the pinnacle of industry standards, using a wide range of processes and regulatory compliance expertise, to prevent, detect and mitigate breaches.

  3. Corporate spies, cyber thieves and governments will have access to my data if it is in the cloud.

    Not so!  This is a top fear about the cloud among many businesses, but it is unfounded. It’s your data, not anyone else’s. You determine access and options, rights and privacy restrictions. Strict controls and design elements prevent your data from mingling with that of other organizations. Physical access to data centres is secured and monitored continuously, and all data centre staff must follow stringent data access protocols.

    A respected provider like MS Azure guarantees that your data will not be mined for advertising or for any purpose other than providing services you have paid for. If you choose to leave the service, you take your data with you.

The more I learn, the more the benefits of cloud computing make solid business sense, especially within the context of our hybrid solution for dental practitioners. As always, we’ve dedicated our development resources to making sure we address the needs, concerns and real-world priorities of our users. Read more about our Best of Both Worlds solution. And please share this with any colleagues who need help separating fact from fiction when it comes to the cloud. It’s good to be on the same page: You’ll save time by not having to argue about these myths.

Your dental practice hardware can make – or break – your day

I work in the software development industry. I’m surrounded by early adopters.

The shiny baubles that were mentioned in a recent post… the latest toys… the tiniest and most powerful gadgets… they want it all. And they’re willing to stake a place in an overnight line-up just to be the first to get their hands on it, whatever the cost.

I also love technology and how it makes my life easier. But I’m not an “if it isn’t broken, then break it” kind of person. I like things that work, day in and day out; things I can count on.

So I was not at all surprised last week when my old trusted home PC crashed one final time. What did surprise me was how inconvenient it was to get a new one up to speed! I’m vigilant about data back-up and system security at work; not so much at home. And even though I now use cloud technology, my cell phone and laptop are my lifelines.

There are lessons to be learned from this: good reasons to upgrade your operating system and practice hardware even when, on the surface, things appear to be working just fine.

When an old Operating System is retired, the developer will stop supporting it with updates, bug fixes and security patches. Your system and practice data including, of course, private patient information, are left vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated security threats, viruses and malicious software attacks. Each new operating system builds in ongoing advancements in defensive technology.

Patient Service and Satisfaction
How often do you or a team member comment that “the system is slow today” – usually as small talk while a patient on the phone or at reception waits for data to be retrieved? If this happens frequently, you should be looking for an opportunity to improve performance with hardware upgrades. Today’s consumers are far less ‘patient’ than we once were.

Current i5 processors can be 10 times more powerful than a computer produced as recently as 5 years ago. Software is designed with that capability in mind. Newer Operating Systems rely on it.

The physical component that is most vulnerable to wear and tear is the hard drive that holds your data. Solid State technology has no moving parts, but an older hard drive can be wholly reliable right up until the day the spinning disc fails. This will happen invariably at the least convenient time.

Of course, with the mainstream adoption of cloud technology, the cost and upkeep of a server is minimized. But there are still desktop and tablets that require maintenance. At the office, our IT team is proactive in constantly upgrading and replacing our hardware. And I have learned a valuable lesson from them. Still, I can’t say I don’t miss my old faithful. Its slow performance gave me time to ponder the universe… and grab a snack.

Choosing the Right Dental Software

When it comes to dental software, there are many options on the market today. And so many features and functions to consider! The solution you ultimately select can have a dramatic impact on the success of your business – not just today but for the life of your practice. Here’s some food for thought: Choosing the Right Dental Software for Your Practice

Ransomware is Creepy. Save Yourself from the Ugly Tentacles of this Data Security Threat.

Today’s blog is penned for the benefit of any practice owner or manager who has not read the recently published horror story in CDA Oasis. A dental office was down for 3 days after an employee opened an innocent-looking email.

The email contained Ransomware that immediately infected and encrypted all files – despite the significant backup and anti-virus precautions that the practice had in place. The fraudsters demanded cash to hand over the decryption key.

The stress, expense and loss of revenue are one thing. Pile on patient safety, potential breach exposure, government fines, tarnished reputations and collegial reprimands… the risk is immense. Yet often avoidable!

Here’s the link if you want to read about the Dentist’s horror story. In today’s limited space, I’d prefer to focus on prevention.

What can you do to avoid such a nasty trick?

1. Use a reputable email service provider with both anti-virus and anti-malware security built in. A good email product has layers of filtering to block, quarantine or eliminate bad files from ever reaching the desktop

2. Secure a personalized domain for your practice (name@PracticeName.com)

3. Train yourself and your staff to recognize the warning signs of non-legitimate emails:

    – the sender name is not recognized
    – there are obvious spelling, grammar and language mistakes
    – a legitimate company logo is mimicked – it appears warped, blurred, stretched or otherwise off
    – a different url appears when you hover your mouse over the address or link
    – the subject does not make sense in the context of your business/practice

4. Never follow unknown or suspicious links

5. Don’t open attachments from an unknown sender, or if any aspect of the email seems strange. Examine zip files carefully; do not open .exe files. When in doubt, verify with the sender

6. Be wary about websites visited – ensure all users stay on legitimate business sites and not be lured by ads, sponsored banners and pop-ups

7. Have at least 2 backups. Rotate daily and weekly backup files. One must go offsite so that you are protected from fire, theft, or flood. They MUST be encrypted and you MUST safeguard the encryption key (password to decrypt)

8. Have the backup data verified quarterly. This is like simulating a disaster; restoring your data from the backup to make sure that it works!

Note: Simply checking the backup notification is NOT DATA VERIFICATION.

We all take this issue very seriously; it’s alarming that in the first quarter of 2015, the security company McAfee reported a 165% increase in ransomware attacks.

Scary. Even when you are diligent and think you’re protected, malware can strike. One of our clients relates his experience:

“We had been backing up our servers locally to external drives using a service that wasn’t very reliable when needed. Just 2 days after switching to ABEL’s online backup service, one of our servers was compromised by ransomware that encrypted and deleted all our vital data. The local backup drive had also been erased and encrypted. The ransomware demanded $3000 to restore the data.

We contacted ABEL for assistance and, once we were able to get the server running, they logged in, restored our ABEL data and configured the software. Within less than 24 hours, we were back up and running. Had it not been for ABEL’s amazing support and their reliable backup service, we would have lost over 3 months’ worth of data.”

If you haven’t already, please talk to us about protection, backup, data verification and recovery. Click here and take action right away. Malware is everywhere and does not limit its ghoulish behaviour to one day in October.

Thanks to our friend Anne Genge, CIPP/C at Healthcare Compliance Network, for her insights on this topic.