07 Jan Clouds and dentistry
It’s cloudy out there again
We’ve recently attended a few dentistry exhibitions. We obviously paid great attention to the IT and software businesses exhibiting, and we made a few observations. While it looks like the panic over GDPR has died down, we were frankly astonished by the number of people who were instead talking about ‘The Cloud’. We were even more astonished by how few of those people seemed to have a good understanding of it. You may recall that we wrote on the topic in June. That article outlined what ‘The Cloud’ is, so this article is going to explain in more detail how Pearl Dental Software makes use of cloud technology and concepts.
Just remind me – what is ‘The Cloud’?
Essentially ‘The Cloud’ is a way to allow you to do some form of computing ‘elsewhere’. It enables you to (for example) hold data on one computer, and to allow it to be accessed from others -located (physically) anywhere you want.
You might think this is just a network, and yes, it can be just a network. But it’s the way the network works that differentiates ‘The Cloud’ from ‘client-server’ based networks.
‘The Cloud’ means that you don’t have to own the server to store your data. Instead, you rent space on someone else’s computer – usually, along with thousands of others.
The result is reduced infrastructure investment and simpler computer operations. For example, back-ups and data security are largely managed by the organisation that owns the computer (often referred to as a server farm or data-centre) upon which your data is physically stored.
So, why is The Cloud of even vague interest to dentists?
There are two essential benefits of cloud computing that dentists and dental businesses should care about; Flexibility and Data Security.
Because cloud software is deployed using the internet (as opposed to a closed network) it can be used to provide distributed access to data. That data can represent (for example) patient records, customer details, accounting transactions or management reports. This means that it can potentially allow you to access a patient’s records at more than one practice address, or share X-ray images with a hospital, your lab or a referral centre.
It also means that you could centralise accounting across several branch addresses of a small chain, or review management reports and performance information from home. And it enables you to implement applications such as our PearlPad tablet mode to improve patient privacy and operational efficiency within reception.
At the simplest level, a cloud-based system will allow you to secure your data. By storing data or backing up data to a data centre hosting your applications, you’ve automatically complied with several technical issues demanded by GDPR and Data Protect Regulations.
And because most cloud-based practice management systems (such as Pearl Dental Software) encrypt data, you can manage exactly who can see data, when they can see it and track when it was accessed and by whom.
What The Cloud doesn’t do
Change the basic rules of cross-infection and practice.
For example, we saw several applications that suggest a dentist could use a tablet computer for charting. Maybe that’s possible, but we think this overlooks two issues;
- You have to keep the tablet sterile to avoid cross-infection risks – touch-responsive tech and gloved hands aren’t the best of communicators.
- You need four hands – two for the examination itself, and two to operate the tablet.
You might find it easier to do something the ‘good old way’ like call out your exam results to a nurse who enters them in via a keyboard to an ‘old fashioned’ computer. After all, your nurse would otherwise have to stand there with arms folded (while acting as chaperone/patient advocate), and couldn’t be expected to check for anomalies or charting errors. So you had just as well keep the nurse occupied.
We’re not against cloud-enabled innovations – we create our own. It’s just that some of them ignore the practices and rules governing their application. Our development team is based in the UK and focuses on dentistry within the UK. There do seem to be systems from developers with little experience or understanding of the UK or European dental practice regulations.
We feel that it is important you should choose a software system that supports the way you work, or supports improvements that you want to make to your practice and procedures. But they must support GDC best practice, CQC rules for cross-infection control, and NHS reporting requirements.
How does Pearl use The Cloud?
The lasted product of the Pearl family, Pearl Dental Software, makes extensive use of cloud-based technologies.
- We install, update, upgrade and support your software across the internet using cloud technologies.
- We also use cloud technologies to securely store your data, including secure back-ups.
- The PearlPad tablet mode feature uses cloud technologies to gather, update and manage patient details and health questionnaires, etc., helping make your reception and admin function more accurate and efficient.
- Pearl also allows you to access a range of financial and management information remotely, helping you to run several practices as a single business.
- And remote access to access to patient records means that they can be shared with referral centres, other dentists within your business, and laboratories. It also puts an end to dentists stuck at their desk two hours after the last patient leaves while checking notes and writing referral letters as this can be done from home at a time that suits.
In conclusion …
‘The Cloud’ is not an all-powerful technology and doesn’t possess any sort of magical power. It is an enabling technology that allows applications software to be deployed to make your business more flexible. It can help you work more responsively only if you use it to help change the way you work – it won’t do it for you. However, carefully designed practice management software, based on cloud technologies and integrated with other software applications (imaging system, data capture systems, accounting systems, etc), can deliver huge business improvements.
If you would like to discuss how Pearl Dental Software could help you improve the efficiency of your dental practice and business management, please contact us by calling 0116 275 9995 or email firstname.lastname@example.org