Cloud Computing at Three Dental Practices

Just as we all vary in the amount of personal business we conduct on the web (shopping, banking, etc.), dental practices adopt cloud computing in a variety of ways. All dental practices using or considering cloud applications need to comply with HIPAA regulations, particularly around email and correspondence with patients and referring dentists. This article contrasts three dental offices using various web-based computing features and different practice management vendors.

Vail Valley Dental Care subscribes to web-based PlanetDDS practice management software from Denticon, paying less than $200 a month. This system allows them to log in from anywhere on any desktop or mobile tablet device. When Dr. Maloley receives an emergency call he can access the patient’s record with an app on his smartphone. The doctor’s wife and business manager was able to work from home during maternity leave. She did this by using Denticon’s Virtual Business Service (VBS) to handle phone calls and schedule appointments. VBS can also maintain continuity of service in the event of an internet connection loss.

Dr. Adrian Huang of Ninth East Dental Clinic in Provo, Utah is using another web-based practice management system from Curve Dental. Using a cloud-based system allowed him to be up and running before his practice doors ever opened.

“’We wanted to be able to access the system from our computers anywhere, anytime,’ he said. ‘Using Curve meant we could start booking patients while our office was still being built and set up all our insurance fee schedules before we even moved in. It’s a huge advantage for a start-up to not be forced to open and burn through capital while waiting for construction to be completed.’”

The cloud is not limited to just the practice management system here either. Ninth East uses Curve Dental’s dental imaging system, as well as other web-based products like Google Docs for correspondence and Quickbooks Online for bookkeeping.

Even vendors with standalone practice management systems are exploring some cloud functions. Dr. Marty Jablow of Green Street Dental in New Jersey, author of Dr.BiCuspid, tested Patterson Eaglesoft’s CAESY patient education module. This cloud-based subscription service allows patients to watch streaming video’s on tablets and smart phones. The information is always up-to-date and requires no local maintenance.

Cloud computing has a major downside in that loss of internet service results in an inability to access patient data or complete transactions. Yet those who have lost data on local systems may feel safer placing their security and privacy concerns in the hands of a cloud-based third party than being responsible for it themselves.

Lessons Learned:

  • A web-based practice management system allows the dental office to conduct business and schedule appointments even if the physical office is closed.
  • Those concerned about local internet outages may want to consider a feature like PlanetDDS’ Virtual Business Center
  • Beyond practice management systems, other web-based products exist for imaging, documents, and accounting.
  • Even practice management vendors with standalone software are exploring some cloud-based features.
  • Despite worries about internet connectivity, HIPAA and relying on a third party for data security, some dentists feel their records are safer in the cloud than in their clinic.

Tynan, Dan (2011, August 8). Is dentistry ready for ‘the cloud’? Health Compliance Team