5 benefits of the cloud

By Mary Beth White, DrBicuspid.com contributing writer

September 2, 2021 -- The cloud isn't necessarily new to the healthcare industry, but it's becoming more prevalent in the world of oral healthcare as technology continues to transform the way we operate. You likely know that the cloud can better streamline your services, but there are a few key advantages to switching to the cloud that you may have overlooked in the past.

Moving to a hosted or cloud platform can be intimidating for many, especially if your current system is providing you with the resources needed to manage your practice and streamline your operations. However, knowing the benefits and being armed with specific questions to ask a software provider can give you more confidence as you move forward with your decision to switch to a cloud platform. Taking small steps toward cloud integration can set your practice up for success as technology continues to transform the world of dentistry.

Here are some of the core benefits of moving to the cloud, along with questions to ask your service provider to make sure you're unlocking all the hidden features of a cloud platform that can help your practice.

1. Convenience and accessibility

Mary Beth White.
Mary Beth White.

You probably use cloud computing more than you realize. Accessing personal photos from iCloud or Dropbox or checking email on your laptop or phone utilize the same concept as a cloud-based practice management solution.

Cloud computing in dentistry is a cutting-edge technology that's quickly becoming part of the everyday practice workflow, but where it really shines is in unexpected emergency situations, so you and your team can provide a solution for patients at any time. That might mean accessing the schedule from home to reschedule patients if the office were suddenly closed -- whether due to inclement weather or, as many experienced last year, sudden shutdowns.

What to ask your provider

You've probably already heard about the convenience and accessibility of cloud-based or "hosted" software, but perhaps you're still not ready to make the switch. If your practice management software is currently on-premise (based on a desktop computer in your office) and your provider also offers a cloud platform, ask if you can access a "hybrid cloud" solution. This will give you a taste of what the cloud is all about. It's the first step to transferring to the cloud.

2. Security

The internet is often scrutinized for the massive amount of sensitive data constantly in circulation, with concerns that the cloud will put patients in jeopardy of having their private information subject to data breaches. However, the cloud is a safe place to store data thanks to HIPAA regulations providing an extra layer of security over regular internet exposure.

Plus, being on the cloud means having access to a professionally managed team that's constantly looking after your data. Don't be the practice that ends up in the news due to a stolen or lost laptop. With on-premise software, there's simply no way to duplicate this layer of security.

What to ask your provider

When you ask your software or cloud provider how it protects your data, listen for some of the following terms. "Zero-trust" tools or a "zero-trust" solution is a framework that automatically blocks unauthorized users, even if it's an internal user. If they haven't been authenticated, authorized, and validated, they won't have access.

In addition to HIPAA, there are other guidelines that govern data security, such as Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards (think of how many credit card transactions your practice processes a day and the sensitive data associated with them). Also, being International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001-compliant means the company follows a set of recognized requirements for security management. Knowing some of these terms can give you confidence when discussing the cloud with a potential service provider.

3. Cost savings

When it comes to cost savings, the cloud is equipped with plenty of service bundling opportunities, so you can reap the benefits of various additional features while only paying a flat-rate fee. With these features and benefits comes the added benefit of reducing the need for software and IT maintenance requirements, which could lead to lower fees.

What to ask your provider

If you're using on-premise practice management software, you may also work with other vendors to handle things like patient engagement or hosting patient forms online. This amounts to different bills from different companies. The flexibility of cloud computing makes it easier to add on services through the same provider that's hosting your cloud platform.

So, when considering a new cloud vendor, ask which e-services or add-on modules they also offer. This could allow you to part ways with your other vendors and work directly with one company, reducing hassle and consolidating fees.

4. Backup offers peace of mind

With on-premise software, you're responsible for backing up the system and downloading updates on a regular basis to ensure your program is as up-to-date as possible. The cloud offers autoupdates and backup with various disaster recovery options. Instead of worrying about losing vital information from office equipment failure, you can rely on the cloud to save everything you will ever need to keep your practice up and running.

What to ask your provider

If you're already on the cloud or speaking with representatives to make the switch, ask the provider how often your data will be backed up. The website TrustRadius reports midsized companies back up data every 24 hours, with incremental backup every six hours. Now, think about the last time you backed up your desktop. With the cloud, you don't need to think about backing up important data because it's handled for you; however, it's still good to know how often that backup is. If there's a power outage, will you lose a day's worth of work or only a few hours?

5. Expansion support and location growth

What does the future of your dental practice look like? Is there an opportunity for expansion, or will you continue to work inside the means of your comfort zone? The cloud opens up the potential to "go big," giving you the tools you need to access all essential data in different locations so you can expand your practice into the future.

What to ask your provider

Cloud computing makes it easy to add new users; no additional software licenses are required. However, how well does your practice management solution manage multiple practices? Does it offer high-level key performance indicators, plus the ability to drill down to look at certain locations?

If you're considering the cloud because of the ease of using it across offices, then be sure it's designed for business. Business analytics shouldn't be an add-on service. Look for a cloud platform that has these features built in.

Mary Beth White has more than 25 years of experience in the dental industry. She has been a software specialist with Carestream Dental for 17 years, with a special focus on consulting with clients who are transitioning from on-premise software to cloud solutions.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


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