5 Steps for Success in Dental Computing
1. Stable, Reliable Infrastructure For networks with more than 5 computers, a dedicated server computer running Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 and using RAID technology for redundant hard drives is recommended. On workstations, use Microsoft Windows 2000 Pro or Windows XP Pro. After the first 30 days, most problems are caused by software, not by hardware. Adding software, including upgrades of existing software, frequently destabilizes dental computers! Evaluate each proposed change carefully.
2. Multiple, Tested, Off-Site, Daily Data Backup In-office, computer-to-computer backups are easy to setup and essentially free but should always be supplemented by an off-site “clone” or “duplicate” computer, usually located in the dentist’s home. The daily data backup is transported to the clone by any one of several very good media (CD, DVD, external hard drive, Internet transfer), then restored and tested at least weekly. Testing is the most critical part of backup!
3. Internal and Internet Security Your patients’ privacy is now your responsibility. The days of no passwords are over. “Strong Passwords” comprised at least 8 alpha-numerical nonsense characters are recommended to protect access to a dental computer system. For Internet protection, you need a firewall, anti-virus protection (perimeter hardware firewall with automatically updated anti-virus is preferred), and anti-spy software. Your staff should be instructed never to open email attachments unless they are expected … and then only with extreme caution.
4. State of the Art Computing An optimally computerized dental office requires software from several different vendors. Making good software choices is tough but can be made easier by visiting dentist-oriented websites such as the Internet Dental Forum (www.internetdentalforum.com) or DentalTown (www.dentaltown.com). Ask questions about the products you are considering and you will probably get some very insightful answers!
5. Training, Training, Training! It is not hard to spend $50,000 to $100,000 on hardware, software, digital radiography, etc., but you will end up with nothing but “shelfware” if no one knows how to use it. Training is the most essential part of your investment. Don’t skimp on either the time or the money involved. You and your staff should take notes and ask for written handouts from your trainers. Human memory fades fast.