For any practice, foundational technology is a key factor for the operation. But how do you determine those needs? First and foremost, notes Jon Northway, co-founder and Senior Technology Consultant at Integrity Systems & Solutions (ISS), defining requirements starts with the type of practice you will have. Are you a general dentist, or do you specialize in a particular area, like endodontics, pediatric dentistry, orthodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, etc.? Understanding practice direction informs workflow and technology criteria.
“It’s like figuring out the pieces of an interactive software puzzle,” notes Northway. “You need to understand everything from your operational workflow—including processes, procedures, and even the way you delegate—and your desire to be digital, e.g., being a 3D-based practice, to the ways you want to communicate and interface with customers, employees, and suppliers, and more.”
Taking the Mystery Out of Practice Tech
Certainly, there are foundational technology tools that every practice requires, such as practice management software, imaging software, and cybersecurity. “Beyond that, we look at every practice individually when making any recommendations,” says Northway. “From that standpoint, we’re sort of ‘technology-agnostic’—it’s about whatever best gets the job done. If you’re looking to be paperless, for example, our goal is to find proven solutions and that’s true across the board, for any function.”
A piece of hardware or software might look cool and promise all sorts of great results, but you need to know if the technology tool you choose will truly contribute to and forward the practice and your workflow. And, he adds, there are plenty of tried-and-true solutions from which to choose.
Most often, Northway says, practice operators, especially new ones, are faced with the difficulty of making choices based on what they’ve heard.
“We find that they’ve spoken with (other) providers and wind up with any number of swirling ideas—sometimes completely false—about what the technology can do,” he says. “They’ll get recommendations for technology components that don’t speak to or work with each other. They don’t have a big picture perspective on their needs. Because we’re not beholden to any hardware or software supplier, we’re completely objective. Our goal is to offer realistic, holistic technology recommendations designed to fit the operator’s vision of what the practice will be, now and going forward.”
Benefits of IT Support
While making technology choices might be challenging, maintaining what you’ve built doesn’t have to be. For new practitioners, just focusing on the operational and business needs requires a great deal of focus.
“You started your practice to do dentistry,” says Northway. “But the reality is that you’re also a business owner. You have to think about managing payroll and HR-related activities, but that’s not why you went to school. Given its complexity, IT is definitely something worth taking off your plate. When you have a trusted advisor, you gain peace of mind and the freedom you need to focus on your business, not the underlying technology.”
If Integrity is there from the start, offering valued guidance on technology selection, it can pay dividends in the long run.
“If we’re able to help develop right-sized, practice-specific technology solutions from the start and help implement them, we know we can really help new practitioners—and those looking to upgrade their technology—move the needle on efficiency, productivity, and ultimately ROI,” Northway asserts. “Because we worked to develop those solutions, we have the expertise to support them for the long term.”