Do you gaze upwards after sinning?
E. J. Neiburger, DDS
When the system crashes, and you boot up with a prayer, try to remember which of these seven sins you committed.
Most dental offices use computers. The ease and low cost of dental computers, combined with future requirements for utilizing electronic claims-processing for insurance billing, soon will force the 20 percent of practices that are not computerized to make the move.
Most offices - even if they have well-functioning computer systems - will be buying new hardware and software as technology advances. An example of this phenomenon can be seen with the new hardware and software upgrades stimulated by the Windows 95 program.
A recent Dental Computer Newsletter survey found that most dental offices keep their systems only three to five years. They then upgrade to a more advanced and modern system. But whether you are computerizing for the first time or have upgraded several times, you must avoid the seven deadly sins of computerization. If you do not avoid these sins, you can be assured of leaving your blood on the cutting edge of technology.
What are these seven sins?
Sin No. 1
Trust the vendor.
It is foolish to blindly trust any vendor, whether the vendor is selling computers or used cars. Do not believe promises (termed "vaporware"). You actually must see and touch the equipment, watch the programs run in a real office (not just a demo) and check references (i.e., people who are using the system).
Sin No. 2
Develop your own system.
The big problem with computers is that they always have bugs (errors). The most expensive part of developing dental software is in the debugging of the last 10 percent of the programs. There is no advantage in experiencing the disasters inherent in debugging a complex computer system. Buy a system which is already debugged.
Sin No. 3
Buy hardware, then software.
This disaster awaits many cost-conscious dentists. Computer systems (hardware plus software) have an infinite number of quality, configuration, set-up and hardware quirks, especially when networked (linked) together. You must match your hardware to the software, not the reverse.
Sin No. 4
Do not back up your data.
The biggest cause of computer disasters involves lazy dentists and staff members who do not back up data daily. The question is not will you need a back-up tape or disk ... but when!
Sin No. 5
Train only some members.
Many offices make the critical mistake of training only one or two staff members to operate the computer. This leaves the doctor in a vulnerable position when the "queen bee" in charge of the computer quits, gets sick or asks for a big raise.
Sin No. 6
Don`t bother upgrading.
You won`t need a new computer system. Don`t count on it! After a few years, software vendors will stop supporting your present system. Instead, they will support later versions and your hardware manufacturer will no longer service, repair or make parts for your old computer.
Sin No. 7
Go for the lowest price.
This mistake is the largest cause of incompatibility problems, frequently leaving the dentist with a malfunctioning system in which hardware and software vendors blame each other for freeze-ups and serial glitches. Buy or upgrade to exactly the specifications required by your software vendor. Cheap systems often use slower chips and less accurate hard drives, which can cause program errors.
If you can avoid these seven deadly sins, your computer experience will be a positive one. If you fall into committing one or more of these sins, you can expect problems of unimaginable proportions.
Dr. Ellis J. (Skip) Neiburger is a general practitioner in Waukegan, Illinois, and editor of the Dental Computer Newsletter.