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Remote Access or Virtual Private Network: What’s Better for Your Dental Practice?

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Remote Access or Virtual Private Network: What’s Better for Your Dental Practice?

by David Broom 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a marked shift in dentistry. Just over a year ago, the ADA recommended that dental practices postpone elective dental procedures and provide emergency-only dental care in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus disease.1 Under this guidance, over 198,000 dental professionals were effectively shut down,2 resulting in extraordinary revenue declines across the sector. The drastic measure led many dental practices to reconsider the way they operate.

Working Remote on a laptopHere at TechCentral by Henry Schein One, we’ve worked with numerous dental practices that have provided flexible work accommodations,3 like staggering the number of patients and employees present in the office and allowing administrative staff, including office managers, to work from home. While it’s been the safe option for social distancing, remote work comes with an onslaught of cybersecurity concerns. Dental offices must take preemptive measures in order to ensure they’re protecting their practice and patient data.

One question that is frequently asked: What does my dental practice actually need in order for employees to work remotely while still observing HIPAA rules and regulations?

To help prevent security breaches and disruption in business operations, dental practices can set up remote work access to help safeguard sensitive patient health information and keep their practices HIPAA-compliant. In this article, we’ll explain what exactly remote access is, how it differs from a virtual private network (VPN), and why remote access may be a better option for your dental practice.

What Is Remote Access?

Remote access, also referred to as “remote control access,” is a tool that allows access to a device (like a workstation) from another device, from anywhere and at any time. Remote access enables dental employees to effortlessly access their work computers, and all of the applications and files stored on them, from their personal device. The employee’s location does not matter. As long as they have a web browser on a PC, they will be able to access their office computers via a secure remote access process.

Remote Access Benefits for Dental Practices

With remote access, dental practices don’t have to worry about a special setup, modifying their firewalls, or altering any of their connections. Remote access provides numerous benefits for dental practices, including:

Promoting better workflow – Administrative staff can efficiently fulfill their work obligations outside of the office, including billing, payroll, scheduling, and other aspects of the practice management software. Additionally, if a question arises in the patient chart, clinical staff can remotely access patient images if needed.

Boosting security – The best remote access processes have mandatory multi-factor authentication (MFA) that employees must complete in order to access their workstations, providing better security by default. MFA is a security enhancement that requires the user to present two pieces of evidence (credentials) when logging in to an account.

Securely Streamlining Network Access – TechCentral’s remote access avoids additional per-user fees by typically setting up two profiles, one for the dentist (or office manager) and one for employees. While the dentist’s profile normally allows them to access all network data, employee profiles are usually limited to a small set of computers or workstations.

A two-tiered access control system is important, especially when practices don’t want former employees to continue to have access to records. The employee profile can be shut down immediately, if needed.

Improving work-life balance – The pandemic has been an eye-opening reminder that time is limited and precious. It’s a lesson that’s bound to stay with employees post-pandemic. With easy access to their work files from home, some of your staff members may be able to avoid long commutes to the dental office Monday-Friday, and enjoy some more time with their families. That’s a nice perk to provide employees!

Remote Access vs. VPN

Girl Working RemoteMany dental practices have been using virtual private networks (VPN) for years. There are differences between VPNs and remote access, including security, levels of control, and flexibility. While VPNs are typically preferred among dentists who have multiple practices that want to communicate from office to office, remote access may provide advantages for a single dental office that is having employees work from home.

A VPN creates a small, private network on top of a larger public one (the internet). Once an employee logs into the VPN, they have access to resources shared on the network. Employees can also access the VPN without using MFA depending on how the VPN is set up; however, it’s always best to have mandatory MFA with a VPN.

A VPN usually runs site-to-site. For instance, dental office A may want to communicate with the computers at dental office B and vice versa. To do this, a VPN is installed on the practice workstations, providing a tunnel between the two practices. This allows for communication from one network to the other via the internet, and employees can access PCs from one location to another.

In contrast to a VPN, remote access can be set up and managed remotely. Remote access is also device-agnostic, whereas a VPN setup may not be well-suited for connecting an older device to a newer device, considering that device security standards evolve over time

At TechCentral, we frequently recommend that single-location practices seeking more flexibility and easier setup for their remote workers should opt for remote access.

How Can a Dental Practice Get Remote Access?

TechCentral makes it easy to get remote access. In fact, it’s now available from us in the following 3 ways:

• a standalone service as Remote Access
• with Endpoint Protection service
• included with Omnicore Lite, Omnicore Standard, or Omnicore HD

You may already be familiar with TechCentral’s Omnicore, an all-in-one dental office network that includes hardware and long-term maintenance. At no additional cost, the latest release of Omnicore offerings includes employee secure remote access and workstation (endpoint) protection for all workstations installed at the practice.

Ideal for practices that already have a practice network setup other than Omnicore, remote access is also available as a standalone service and as part of TechCentral’s workstation (endpoint) protection service.

With remote work quickly becoming the new norm, it’s more important than ever to ensure your practice staff and patients are protected from cybersecurity attacks and reduce the friction between network and device communication.

As we approach a post-pandemic era, it’s also more important than ever for dental practices to focus on ramping up business and doing what they do best — treating their patients. Leave cybersecurity and IT to TechCentral so you can focus on providing top-notch patient care.

Contact TechCentral today for a free on-site technology assessment.

Sources
1. https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2020-archive/march/ada-recommending-dentists-postpone-elective-procedures
2. https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primer/covid-19-and-dentistry-challenges-and-opportunities-providing-safe-care

3. https://www.cda.org/Home/News-and-Events/Newsroom/Article-Details/tips-for-reducing-tension-among-dental-staff-members-who-are-uncomfortable-working-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

About David Broom

David Broom is Senior Director of Product and Business Development. David has a master’s degree in Information Technology (IT) from the University of Texas in Dallas and has more than 35 years of experience from many global companies such as Hitachi Vantara, Methode Electronics, and Keane Inc. In his current role, he is responsible for all aspects of the product management and field service teams at TechCentral by Henry Schein One, which identifies the ideal advanced technologies to meet the unique needs of the dental market and ensure that dental offices are using the right IT to be more efficient and effective.

This article is paid for by Henry Schein TechCentral. Certain components of the products or services described above are provided by third parties. Henry Schein One LLC and its affiliates are not responsible for, and expressly disclaim, all liability for damages of any kind arising out of the use of those third-party products or services.

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