George Welsh delves into the world of IT, considers why there often seems to be a problem with it and how to avoid such pitfalls for improved workflow and reduced stress levels.
Data suggests that, as of 2023, there are 11,879 dental practice businesses in the UK, the vast of majority of which are using some kind of IT. In fact, any practice that isn’t is a rarity. That’s a lot of IT!
The extent to which IT is integrated into the practice can vary significantly, encompassing a number of important areas, including, but not limited to, patient records, imaging including x-rays, 3D scans and photos, and general files.
It is clear, therefore, that these are widespread and integral aspects of keeping the practice in business and providing the best possible patient care.
To lose any aspect could spell disaster – possibly even in the long term.
Managing the infrastructure
Because of this, all areas of a practice’s infrastructure should be managed. Every component of your IT set-up plays a key role within your practice.
There is, for example, your server, which is essentially the heartbeat of your IT system. It is needed even if you are cloud-based, as cloud-based imaging hasn’t arrived yet, although it is anticipated to be with us in the not-too-distant future. Plus, computers in the surgeries, offices and reception, your acquisition device for your X-rays and so on. They all require constant TLC.
Without the right management in place, these systems are potentially very vulnerable. Extremely common issues that are completely avoidable include outdated hardware (we see too many servers on very old operating systems), Windows not being regularly updated, thereby missing vital security updates, and incorrect data uploaded instead of the correct, necessary data.
The solution is simple
The solution comes in the form of what we at Dental Dynamix call MSP (Managed Service Provider), which is more proactive and forward-thinking than simple ‘support’. The latter is more reactive and essentially waits for the onset of a problem, and then attempts to resolve it quickly.
A reputable, dentistry-focused third-party MSP, on the other hand, is all-encompassing and looks after cloud and local data backups, disaster recovery, Windows updates (including patch management out of hours), server and desktop maintenance, network and data security, digital imaging support, and so on. All of this is carried out behind the scenes, without any disruption to the practice.
These actions must be implemented with proper communication with the dental team. The best MSPs out there send daily email confirmation, letting you know, for instance, if the data backup was successful and, if it wasn’t, a dedicated team of technicians will look into the issue, and resolve and monitor it until they can be confident your data is uploading to the cloud successfully again.
Quarterly reports are also important, sharing the overall health and performance of each device, in an easy-to-understand manner.
Last, but by no means list, a good MSP organises an annual on-site review with a representative, providing the opportunity to see if the practice environment and needs have changed, a face-to-face meeting to discuss any concerns or future developments, and if there are any changes that need to be made to the infrastructure like replacement computers or servers.
Safe and secure with remote access
You might wonder how we keep everything up and running between annual visits, should something go wrong with your IT.
The answer is provided by remote support, which is superb because of the speed with which those staffing the helpdesk can react and resolve any problem being experienced in the practice. In fact, when you are on a remote support plan, an engineer can dial-in right away to provide help. All our technicians and engineers are trained in both IT and digital imaging, our one helpdesk policy means whomever you speak to will be able to assist with whatever the issue is.
Different companies work in different ways, of course, but at Dental Dynamix, when our engineers triage a call, it often starts with a remote session to understand the problem fully. Attempts are made to fix this remotely, but we quickly recognise if this requires on-site assistance. An engineer would then be dispatched as soon as possible, so everything happens as quickly as the circumstances allow. That started, the reality is that most issues are resolved remotely, making in-person assistance an uncommon eventuality.
As a brief but important aside, even though we have access to a practice’s system, patient data remains protected. We actually have no access to that data, because that is stored in the practice management software. To add another layer of security, we collect full audit trials of when and why an engineer accesses a device, to ensure we are always being responsible with our clients’ data.
Meanwhile, the data we backup for our clients is encrypted and stored in several data centres within the country, which means, in the unlikely event somebody got their hands on that data, they would not be able to access the files. It would require the Dental Dynamix backup software and encryption key to unlock the data. The same goes for local backups on external hard drives.
A healthy and workable balance
We appreciate that looking for new, third-party IT management can seem like a daunting task, but the reality is simple – you need an affordable and reliable provider.
You will probably wonder if there will need to be any significant changes to the infrastructure, whether these changes will be beneficial to the business, and if the changes might be overkill for your size of dental practice. Even more importantly, could the transition result in downtime?
At Dental Dynamix, we offer a free site survey to see if you need an MSP. Then, when we adopt an infrastructure, it is routine practice for us to gather an understanding of the hardware and software used, to discover if any hardware requires replacement or upgrades, which we call “bringing to a healthy and workable balance”.
If you have any doubts about your infrastructure, please do get in touch. We would be happy to help you understand your IT infrastructure fully and consider if MSP would benefit you, your business, and your patients.