Editor's Note: We spoke with Jeffrey Weiss, founder and president of the Dental Integrators Association (DIA) and president of High Tech Innovations, a New Jersey-based dental computer integration firm and DIA member.
DE: Why did you decide to form the Dental Integrators Association (DIA)?
Weiss: Dental practices today are extremely dependent upon – and heavily invested in – their computer networks. We felt the time was right, and in fact overdue, to gather together the country's leading dental IT firms to create a new and higher standard for the integration of dental IT hardware and software.
DE: What have most practices been doing up until now?
Weiss: Most practices either try to manage their IT on their own, or they outsource their IT management to a dental dealer, a local IT firm, or even one of their patients.
DE: In challenging economic times like we're in now, doesn't it make sense for dental practices to try to save money by managing their IT on their own?
Weiss: A lot of doctors feel that way but we believe it can actually be more costly for them to handle their IT internally if they aren't experts in computer networks. If they make just one mistake, the cost – in terms of downtime, damaged equipment or, worst of all, lost data – can be catastrophic and dwarf whatever money they were saving by not paying an outside IT firm.
DE: If a practice does decide to hire an outside firm, isn't it convenient to hire one that's affiliated with whatever dealer they purchase most of their merchandise and equipment from?
Weiss: There's no question that many practices have chosen to embrace the "one-stop shopping" concept and have their IT managed by their primary dealer. However, we believe that the complexity of computer networks demands focused expertise, which is why DIA members do nothing but manage IT for dental practices. Moreover, we represent a much wider array of hardware and software systems than dealers can, and we've been trained and certified by the manufacturers of those systems.
DE: Why should a practice hire a DIA member instead of another locally-based IT firm?
Weiss: Because unlike other local firms, all DIA members do is dental IT. Other IT firms are probably consulting with everything from banks to bakeries, but we work only for dental practices. As we like to say, not only do we not have to read the manual to install or repair a piece of dental IT equipment or software, we could probably write the manual.
DE: Given that your individual firms have had success over the years, why did you decide that you needed to form an association?
Weiss: Because as individual business leaders, we are constantly looking for ways to provide increasingly better service to our customers. At trade shows over the years, many of us have gotten to know each other and we share ideas and insights on an informal basis. It eventually dawned on us that we should formalize the process and form an industry association dedicated to helping each other bring the highest possible standard of technology to America's dental practices.
DE: How often do you get together?
Weiss: We have a meeting of the entire membership twice a year. The wealth of knowledge we are able to share when we are all in one room is really amazing. In addition, all of us are constantly sharing ideas and experiences by e-mail and phone throughout the year.
DE: What is the DIA Standards Statement?
Weiss: We have written a standard of care that clearly spells out the approach our members take in providing the highest quality, most responsive, and most economical service possible for our dental IT clients. If you aren't willing to fully embrace every detail of that statement, you aren't going to be accepted as a DIA member. It's essential that dentists know exactly what they'll be getting when they hire a DIA member. It's published on our Web site (www.dentalintegrators.org) and in our literature for all to see.
DE: How many DIA members are there?
Weiss: We have 22 founding members covering over half the states in the country. Some operate in a single market, while others cover several states. A year from now we hope to have all 50 states covered, but we will gladly miss that goal rather than accept as a member a firm that cannot or will not fully embrace the DIA Standards Statement.
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