Dental service organizations (DSOs) in many ways represent the future of dentistry. Before exploring their unique IT needs, it’s important to understand the changing business/demographic landscape that has given rise to the multi-site dental practice.
DSOs, defined as “large dental establishments with more than 500 employees”, have grown at a 12% annual growth rate from 2002-2015, while small establishments have been more stagnant. Change is happening quickly. In 2016, 8.3% of U.S. dentists were affiliated with dental service organizations, a noteworthy jump from 7.4% of dentists the prior year.1 Consolidation is happening in some of the fastest-growing regions of the U.S. With Arizona, Nevada, and Texas showing the highest percentage of DSOs, at 19%, 17% and 16%, respectively. Notably, these states are in the top 5 fastest-growing U.S. states by population.2 It would seem that where there’s demand, DSOs are a popular business model.
Of course, the current scale of DSO growth wasn’t possible at one time, in the absence of Internet and cloud-based services. While the Internet has allowed for unparalleled growth, it has also allowed for unprecedented attacks on security, putting patient health information (PHI) at significant risk. For DSOs weighing IT services, there’s now a delicate balance in securing economies of scale, best-in-class security protocols, and consistency across all locations.
Based on my experience at TechCentral by Henry Schein One, I would argue that not all DSO organizations are on equal footing for growth because of their IT service providers. As a recent example, TechCentral recently worked with a large DSO based in the Midwest that ran into some issues because they hadn’t standardized their technology stack across their offices. They called TechCentral to help design a technology and support framework that allows them to ensure that PHI is secure, that their support and services are consistent, and that they’re able to grow alongside their offices.
Here’s a closer look at 3 things every DSO needs from their IT service provider:
Compared to single-site practices, DSOs have unique needs, including scheduling patients at other locations, sharing PHI between locations, centralizing billing, and streamlining calls. Your IT service provider needs to help set up, organize, and maintain the cloud-based network infrastructure.
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, we 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.
Consider these stats cited in TechCentral’s recently published e-book, “Mitigating the Malware Threat in Your Dental Practice”:
The last cited statistic means that more a third of all malware was from a previously unknown virus without a signature, or malware that attackers obfuscated to avoid signature-based detection. In other words, if your DSO is relying just on signature-based, anti-malware solutions, you’re potentially missing one third of all malware that’s out there.
Multiple-site organizations in healthcare, like DSOs, are attractive targets to cyber criminals and stand a higher risk of being infected by ransomware. PHI is the heartbeat of your practice, so why not protect it with the best solutions available? Regardless of whether a practice has a few locations or hundreds of locations, dental practice firewall and backup solutions (that securely store redundant copies of data) should be enterprise-grade.
Of course, enterprise-grade solutions are only as effective as the infrastructure to support, monitor, maintain, and configure them.
DSOs can’t afford to have a problem at a remote location that their IT service provider can’t resolve. What happens when your main office is in a major city, but a remote dental practice is a thousand miles away? DSOs need support regardless of where their offices are, and they need to know that the level of support is consistent. These are two critical priorities in choosing an IT service provider.
TechCentral is a remote IT support organization that handles IT issues from all over the country, and manages a national field service team that responds onsite. We can get to your office anywhere you have a problem, if it is required to do so. Our team members also specialize in the technology of dentistry. We only work with dental practices, which differentiates us from the general IT services offered by local IT providers.
TechCentral takes a multilayered approach to network security, and to streamline its offerings, packages these services up in Omnicore, an all-in-one network infrastructure solution. Omnicore not only removes the burden of choosing the right hardware for the organization, but minimizes the financial burden because technical support, hardware and software management, equipment upgrades, and even the replacement of failed hardware is included in one easy-to-budget monthly amount.
TechCentral also has industry leverage to competitively price out products and services, and uses their expertise to ensure that these products and services are up to enterprise-level tasks. For instance, Omnicore is built with WatchGuard’s UTM (Unified Threat Management) Firebox, which has its own layers of security to mitigate the threat of ransomware.
Omnicore also includes TechCentral’s Hybrid Backup Service, which uses Advanced Encryption Standard 256-bit encryption while the data is stored locally and in the cloud.
In closing, there are really two questions that every DSO’s chief technology officer must ask:
If the answer to one or both of these questions is “no” or uncertain, get in touch with TechCentral to schedule a free technology assessment. We will evaluate your networks, servers, firewall, and more, and provide clarity on your unique IT needs. Visit us to schedule your assessment today.
3 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report. https://enterprise.verizon.com/resources/reports/dbir/
4 Poneman 2018 Cost of a Data Breach Study, sponsored by IBM. https://newsroom.ibm.com/2018-07-10-IBM-Study-Hidden-Costs-of-Data-Breaches-Increase-Expenses-for-Businesses
This article originally appeared in Dental Product Shopper
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.