10 keys to successful technology implementation

May 12, 2010

By David Hanning
CEO, Dental TI

1) Purchase all PC hardware at the same time. This simplifies configuration, compatibility, and warranty issues.

2) If going with a PC manufacturer, use business class PCs with a professional version of the operating system. Home versions of Windows operating systems are often purposefully handicapped by Microsoft. The features they remove from the operating system make it impossible to join the computer to a domain network, as well as limit its file-sharing abilities and other features that the professional versions have. This means it is usually a bad idea to purchase cheap computers at retail stores because they often have the less expensive home versions of the operating systems.

3) Keep all software discs with license numbers in a locked cabinet.
In case of system failure or system upgrade, the most common cause for delays and added costs to getting your system up and running is when IT professionals are unable to find your software media and the license information that came with it, specifically, items such as Windows media and serial numbers and practice management disks and licenses.

4) Have a backup protocol in place that utilizes portable hard drives to take home and an onsite hard drive for backup archival. Off-site Internet backup solutions are great for the peace of mind in knowing that a company out there is protecting the data you upload to them; but when it comes to actually restoring data, the preferred method is either tape or external hard drive. Downloading data from the Internet for restoration could set back the restore process by hours if not days. For example, an office without digital X-ray or camera images still has about 6GB of data they back up between their practice management, documents, and accounting files. It would take more than nine hours on a T1 connection to download this data to your computer before you could even start actually restoring the data. With digital X-ray and camera images, the download could literally take a week.

5) Have a routine in place for verifying successful backups. Backups are not fire-and-forget systems; they are complicated systems that have many points of failure. The only way to be sure you have a backup is to look at a report or the actual backup data and, at minimum, be sure the amount of data backed up is adequate to the amount you need to be backing up.

6) Utilize a network share from the server with a shortcut for access to office documents. This ensures that all documents are backed up when the server’s files are backed up. Dental TI servers are always installed with mirrored RAID 1 drive systems and then a backup solution, ensuring that all data on the server is retrievable. Front desk and operatory computers are not given this same level of data security, so if you save documents to that PC and it fails, those documents are lost.

7) If space permits, consider utilizing dual monitors at the front desk. This allows for multitasking (e.g., schedule open on one screen while a Word document is being edited on the second screen). Monitors have come down significantly in price; the ability to have two applications opened full screen and be able to interact between the two screens makes the cost of the technology minimal.

8) Utilize a dual tray printer (one tray for better quality photo prints and a second for high volume text printing). Many offices have too many printers. If you actually track the cost of operating multiple laser or inkjet printers of small size, you’ll see that the purchase of one large color laser printer will save you money in the cost of toner alone, not to mention the time savings of being able to print full color pages in a few seconds at the cost of 18 cents a page.

9) Have the staff trained to enter all of the patients’ information chairside. Many offices are convinced that technology has not made them more efficient. This is often because they are recording data in the same manner as always with paper and pencil, and then adding the step of entering it into the computer later. Increase staff efficiency by recording data once, directly into the patients’ electronic records. Use your practice management’s charting program for entry of all existing conditions and treatment plans. The initial entry chair-side eliminates redundant entry for scheduling and billing.

10) Utilize technology training for your staff. Offices waste literally weeks of time every year when only a couple of staff members are proficient with the computer systems in the office.

David Hanning is chief executive officer of Dental Technology Integrators Inc. He can be reached through his Web site at www.dentalti.com or by e-mail at [email protected].