Web-based solutions are a growing trend in the dental software industry. In part, this is because they reduce the need for any kind of internal IT expertise as the server resides remotely instead of at the practice. However, with a web-based program that is hosted remotely the practice needs to be concerned about the level of service given from the vendor that is hosting the application. Because the database and application does not reside locally but instead resides in the cloud, you do not have as much control over such important factors as uptime and problem resolution.
So, it is critical that you have in your contract what is known as a service level agreement or service level clause. This language specifies metrics surrounding how quick the vendor will respond to various conditions such as the system being down or slow response time. For example, you might specify that if the system is down the vendor will respond to the situation within one hour or there would be a financial penalty. In the case of a non-critical issue you might ask that the vendor respond within two hours or three hours. This is all negotiable. However, the important point is that there are penalties for noncompliance.
Also, because often you are asked to sign a long-term multi-year agreement for hosting your web-based solution, you need to have a mechanism to get out of your contract at no penalty should the vendor not perform as advertised. Therefore, you should have some kind of language that states that if a vendor is chronically noncompliant with the service levels you have specified, then you have the ability to terminate the contract at no cost.
So, the bottom line is that web-based solutions are very nice because they reduce the need for IT. However, there is potentially a price to pay unless you specify a protective service level agreement or clause.
Michael Uretz is a thirty-year healthcare IT veteran and nationally-recognized Electronic Health Records (EHR) and healthcare software expert.