Dental IT Support – One Size Does Not Fit All
Dental practices come in all shapes and sizes. Some are run by single, part-time dentists who employ just a few employees; in some cases, a family member or two. Others employ multiple associates, and others might practice in multiple locations. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for dental IT services, and best-practices for IT can vary quite a bit from practice to practice.
Tech Support for the Smallest Dental Practices
If a dental practice employs just one dentist with a staff of around 2 or 3, then dental IT needs will be minimal. An office such as this would likely need just the basics – technicians who are familiar with dental software and hardware, and can install, service, and perform maintenance on the equipment. These smaller offices generally don’t require a lot of PC support, so an ongoing remote support plan could be of little benefit.
There are pro’s and con’s to a minimal service agreement with a dental IT company. No matter how small your practice is, your server and workstation will require periodic maintenance, and trouble can arise unexpectedly. This makes IT more difficult to budget for.
The biggest drawback to going purely break/fix is the need to buy a-la-carte services such as encrypted cloud backup, encrypted email, and antivirus to name a few. A dental IT company can tailor a minimal contract to get you some savings by bundling some of these together. Consider a customized, minimal dental IT support plan for a small dental office, but be prepared to pay hourly rates for unexpected downtime and issues that can occur in any dental office.
Dental IT for a Mid-Sized Dental Practice
A mid-sized dental office can be defined as one that employs 5 or more people, and has at least 3 operatory PCs. In this environment, more controls on data are required such as those to comply with HIPAA. Additionally, more unexpected issues arise from misconfiguration, multiple users on the workstations, and more equipment in the office. In this environment, it is wise to consider a maintenance plan with your server and workstations.
Your Windows Server has the ability to create audit trails of employee activity, as well as push out needed Windows Security Patches on all of the PCs. Windows Server Management is generally part of an entry-level contract, and will come bundled with extra services such as encrypted cloud backup, server maintenance and hardware checks, event-log monitoring, password management, email encryption, and possibly more.
This mid-sized office is the tipping point for remote support contracts. Depending on the level of tech support needed in this environment, a remote support contract with the server management may be desired. Typically, unexpected glitches do happen on any office network – a remote support contract would alleviate any concern of a month with high-usage of tech support.
Dental IT for Large, Single-Office Dental Practices with Multiple Dentists
Some large practices employing 10 employees or so stick with the “break/fix” model with server management. In this scenario, it is much more common for a month’s bill to exceed the cost of a remote support contract, making budgeting extremely difficult. This is why it is strongly recommended at this level to put in place a Dental Support Contract which includes remote support, and discounts onsite services.
More and more, dental practices are taking advantage of remote support contracts. The cost of such a contract is very much lower than the cost of a single, part-time tech-savvy employee, and it is like having an entire dental tech support team on the payroll. This is where the expertise of dental IT specialists really shine, with efficient diagnosis and troubleshooting of dental-specific issues, as well as full compliance with HIPAA’s Security Rule.
Multiple Dentists in Multiple Locations
We have more than a few clients who practice in multiple locations. Our largest practices span 3 locations in different cities, but share a single database. In this environment, dental IT support is an absolute must.
A multi-location practice such as this must have the most experienced techs on call for any issues, and those techs need to be familiar with dental software and hardware such as sensors and intra-oral cameras. The company you choose should have at least a few techs, with one to two being scheduled in-house to take emergency phone-calls. Additionally, a vast knowledge of VPN and remote connections must be utilized to effectively share your databases over the internet. This kind of setup is not commonplace; don’t let yourself unwittingly become a “beta test-site” for connecting multiple locations to a single network.
Dental IT Just for You
Vet your dental IT company carefully – they will need an exhaustive Business Associate Agreement with you, as well as with all of their subcontractors such as encrypted email and encrypted backup. A dental IT company will have a deep familiarity with HIPAA requirements – not only do they advise their clients on a daily basis, but as Business Associates, they have to be just as compliant as you do, with the same level of documentation and policies & procedures.
Call dmi Networking today, and receive a free on-site HIPAA consultation for practices in the Bay Area. Meet our dental techs, and see if we can tailor a dental IT solution for you and your practice.