Solutions for the Unique IT Challenges of Dental Service Organizations
The number of U.S. dentists affiliated with dental service organizations (DSOs) continues to rise, with approximately 1 in 10 dentists (10.4%) now affiliated with a DSO1, a steady uptick from 8.3% in 2016.2 DSOs are growing in size and scope around the country, and mirror the growth of other industries that have seen group practice models succeed. The Dental Care Alliance found that dental group practice members are growing at nearly three times the rate of the dental industry itself.3
Business support is a notable distinction between DSOs and dental group practices with multiple sites. According to the DSO experts at GroupDentistryNow.com, “The easiest way to differentiate between a dental group practice and a DSO is to review the non-clinical or support (service) side of the practices. When support functions are centralized in one location, and the individual offices are relying on this centralized point for non-clinical services, then the dental group practice has made the leap over to becoming a DSO.”4
DSOs have unique needs, including scheduling patients at other locations, sharing PHI between locations, centralizing billing, and streamlining calls. Based on their size, structure, and complexity, DSOs or multi-site practices can more competitively bargain for technologies, including managed IT services. DSOs are tasked with the dual responsibility of securing economies of scale and achieving best-in-class security protocols balanced by operational consistency.
As one dentist and vehement defender of the DSO model stated, “For a growing number of early career dentists burdened with debt, the lack of DSO support would mean having to do without the fundamental technologies that we consider now the standard of care. In order for established solo practitioners to keep up with these necessary technology investments, many are forced to charge much higher fees, which can preclude thousands of working-class families from access to dental care.”5
Source: ADA Health Policy Institute
In 2020, the “standard of care” can include a range of diagnostic imaging technologies, such as digital sensors, intraoral and digital impression scanners, and CBCT. The clinical standard of care is supported by a functional standard of care in IT management. All dental practices, regardless of size and scope, must have a reliable technology stack with the support framework that ensures PHI is secure and that services are consistent. For DSOs especially, an IT framework should be able to grow alongside an organization.
The Greatest IT Needs for DSOs
As discussed in a recent e-book by TechCentral by Henry Schein One and Dental Product Shopper, the 3 hallmarks of a good IT service provider are management tools, security, and support. While these needs also apply to single-site practices, here’s a closer look at some unique challenges of DSO implementation.
A study found that the human element is a major part of security risk, 52%, more so than technology error, 48%. End-user failure to follow policies and procedures was one of the top human error sources.6 Now take the human element and compound it across several, possibly even hundreds, of locations. There are many more humans accessing a network and handling sensitive PHI compared to a single-site practice. Logically, the potential for mismanagement through human error rises.
TechCentral advantage: Your IT service provider should help set up, organize, and maintain your network infrastructure whether onsite in a data center or cloud-based. The way to reduce human error is to provide a “hands-off” experience. TechCentral provides that solution with OmniCore, an all-in-one, network-in-a-box infrastructure solution. To make sure your data is backed up properly, OmniCore includes TechCentral’s Hybrid Backup Service, which uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption while the data is stored locally and in the cloud.
OmniCore not only removes the burden of choosing the right hardware for the organization, but minimizes the financial burden. Technical support, equipment upgrades, and even the replacement of failed hardware are included in one easy-to-budget monthly amount. All network maintenance is done remotely, limiting interruptions to the workday and limiting the amount of foot traffic through your office during an ongoing pandemic.
The bigger the organization, the bigger the potential “payday” for hackers. According to research by WatchGuard, ransomware is now a billion-dollar industry for hackers, and strains of this malware have wreaked havoc across every industry. WatchGuard predicted that ransomware will continue to evolve in order to maximize profits, and would focus specifically on the cloud in 2020.7
TechCentral advantage: TechCentral’s managed IT services, including database maintenance, backup monitoring, and patching, help dental practices mitigate risks. Highly skilled and proactive technicians stand behind these advanced security updates to make sure customers are up-to-date on the latest security measures. OmniCore is also built with WatchGuard’s UTM (Unified Threat Management Firebox), which has its own layers of security to mitigate malware threats. Much like DSOs, TechCentral leverages its size and industry experience to competitively price out these enterprise-level products and services.
Remote server access is a top-of-mind concern for dental practices in the COVID-19 era. TechCentral has the resources to create unique passwords and set up multi-factor authentication to access a network remotely.
DSOs need to make sure that their IT service provider has the resources to fix problems remotely. Regardless of their size, they need the peace of mind that their network firewall and backup solutions are enterprise-grade with an enterprise-level of support.
TechCentral advantage: Amid the ongoing pandemic, TechCentral continues to provide excellent remote IT support to handle IT issues from all over the country through their national field service team. TechCentral takes a project-management approach to each DSO, creating a treatment plan for the network technology and hardware. The assigned project manager oversees both a remote installation team and a field team on site. After completing a remote assessment of the network, TechCentral can deploy a nearby field team to inspect the centralized server infrastructure. This hands-on approach helps to ensure that the solutions are tailored to your organization’s needs.
If you need TechCentral on site in the future, they can get to your office anywhere. They have the resources to help design a technology and support framework that allow practices to ensure that PHI is secure, their support and services are consistent, and that they’re able to grow alongside their offices.
Take the First Step toward Reliable IT Service
Just like other businesses, dental practices want their IT provider to carry safeguards against unforeseen events that can impact their ability to stay in business. These events can include physical theft of computer equipment, ransomware, natural disaster, or even a pandemic. Each individual practice should have confidence in the reliability of their practice network, backup, and security, just as each DSO should expect the same of the company they’ve hired to manage this infrastructure. A reliable IT partner should have the knowledge and manpower to assist complex DSOs through the COVID-19 crisis, and they should be safeguarding their own infrastructure against evolving cyber-attacks.
TechCentral acts as that high-level IT partner, providing guidance that helps DSOs standardize the technology stack across their offices. Moreover, TechCentral is backed by Henry Schein One, which specializes in the technology of dentistry. TechCentral works only with dental practices, which further differentiates them from the general IT services offered by local IT providers.
If you need help evaluating your networks, servers, and firewall, or seek clarity on your unique IT needs, get in touch with TechCentral today.
About Bryan O'Loughlin
Bryan O’Loughlin began his career in dentistry in 2000 when he started a local computer company that focused exclusively on medical and dental clients. Shortly after that, he partnered with a Dentrix reseller in the St. Louis market promoting the sales of Dentrix and other digital technologies. Beginning in 2007, Bryan took on the role of Technology Sales Specialist and then Digital Technology Specialist, selling, consulting, and supporting the many technologies Henry Schein offers. In 2015, Bryan was promoted to the role of TechCentral Sales Specialist to help grow TechCentral sales in the Western Area.
This article is paid for by Henry Schein One, LLC and is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should not act on the basis of any material contained in this article without obtaining proper legal or other professional advice specific to your situation as needed. The views expressed by the writer or other third parties in this article are those of the writer or third-party and not, necessarily, of Henry Schein One, LLC. 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.