The Pros and Cons of Cloud Dentistry
Many dental practice management software providers are developing cloud-based platforms. When making the decision whether or not to move to the cloud, it is important to consider all of the benefits and challenges before making the switch. As with any major change to IT infrastructure, migrating your dental practice to the cloud comes with Pros and Cons.
What are the Benefits to Cloud Dentistry?
Cloud dentistry is becoming more and more desirable, since it can reduce the need for IT costs. One example of a cost-savings is data backup – when a dental practice is entirely run from the cloud, backup of patient data becomes automated. Additionally, time spent on updates to practice management software is also mitigated, as these updates are carried on off-site and do not generally require any user-interaction from employees. One of the biggest benefits to cloud dentistry is seen in multi-location dental practices; cloud computing in this environment eliminates the need for an expensive VPN (virtual private network) which can be slow and costly.
What are the Challenges to Cloud Dentistry?
One of the largest concerns of a dental practice considering migrating to the cloud has to do with reliability, security and speed. For example, a cloud-based dental practice is heavily reliant on their connection to the internet. There is effectively no down-time procedure to accessing records or seeing patients when there is a internet service disruption. Security can also be a concern – while most cloud server banks have redundant data centers with an emphasis on physical security, your patients’ data is no longer in your control. For example, instead of having just an employee or two having access to a dental database, you have a large number of outsourced personnel who may have access to pre-encrypted patient records.
Internet Speed is a Large Concern
Moving to the cloud brings on the need to increase costs for internet speed, especially when image databases are hosted off-site. Images are large files, which need to be uploaded to or downloaded from the cloud every time a chart is reviewed or an xray is taken. Multiply this need over the number of OPs and workstations working concurrently, and the need for a fast reliable internet connection becomes paramount. It is important to work an increased internet speed into your budget if migration to the cloud is your goal.
Do I Still Need a Server?
Although dental practice management and imaging software can be entirely hosted on the cloud, your Windows Server does quite a bit more work than hosting shared files and applications. The most important tasks of a Windows Server include enforcement of HIPAA compliance on your network: password management, audit trails of employee data access, centralized internal document management (Word documents, emails, and other PHI), and office-wide Windows security patching. Additionally, financial data and HR files are often stored on a server, encrypted, and backed up regularly. The hardware required to run a HIPAA compliant network demands a Windows Server, regardless of what data is kept internally or on the cloud.
What Costs are Increased and Decreased After Cloud Migration?
The main cost-savings measures implemented by a cloud conversion are a lessened need for cloud backup space, and less labor involved with updating practice management versions. Increased costs may appear from the dental company hosting your software and increasing your internet speed.
Should I Make the Move to Cloud Dentistry?
After you crunch the numbers for your own dental practice, you may find considerable cost savings by moving to the cloud, especially in multi-location practices. However, as with any new technology, there are risks as well as benefits. Talk it over with our dental technicians and see if a cloud conversion is right for you.
Some further reading from Techrepublic can be found here.