Another win for the cloud. Another win for dentistry: Continuous delivery

Aug. 21, 2013
Software developers have adopted the cloud as the de facto standard platform from which most new applications are built.

by Andy Jensen, CMO of Curve Dental, Inc.

Software developers have adopted the cloud as the de facto standard platform from which most new applications are built. And businesses of every size and shape are moving to the cloud in droves. According to a survey by Bain, of those companies that label themselves as middle-of-the-road in terms of how soon they adopt new technology, more than 26% will have moved to the cloud by the end of 2013 (50% for the early adopter segment and 10% for the late adopter segment).1

The advantages of cloud computing, both for the developer and the end user, are many and quite significant. For example, for the developer, being able to deliver software to the end user in an instant significantly reduces delivery costs, eliminating the stamping, packaging, and shipping of CDs to customers around the country and relying upon those customers to install an upgrade. With cloud computing, the developer can update the software on the fly, benefitting every customer instantaneously.

Cloud computing provides the software developer the opportunity to change the way they deliver software. Specific to dental software today, the more dominant applications are not cloud based and are developed and released in packaged updates containing a set of features. Their upgrade cycle requires many months or up to a year or more to complete.

Cloud computing, on the other hand, allows the developer to develop and deliver new code and new features continuously, in a process aptly called continuous delivery. Instead of packaging a feature set into a release, new features are incorporated into the software as they are completed and tested. More importantly, these features are deployed without disruption to the end user. For the developer, the advantage of continuous delivery is increased efficiency and speed; more new features can be brought to market in less time with better use of resources.

For the end user, there are two main advantages to continuous delivery and cloud computing. First and foremost is being freed from installing upgrades.

"With my prior software, upgrades were major events at my practice," says Mark Hyman, DDS, who recently moved his practice to the cloud. "We had to plan for upgrades. It usually involved the assistance of my IT vendor. If it went well, we were able to limp along until all the bugs had been worked out. If it went bad, we'd lose production. Now that we're on the cloud, we see additions and changes to the software quite often, which don't interfere with the operations of my practice."

Secondly, continuous delivery keeps the doctor and team supplied with the very latest tools to help them manage the practice. Legislation requirements, new integrations, and procedure code updates can be incorporated into the application as they become available independent of end user action and free of disruption to the practice. As an example, one minute the practice may be using one set of codes; the next minute the latest set of codes suddenly becomes available.

Cloud computing within the medical community is growing at a quick pace and developers have rushed to sell their software to this market. The dental community has been slower to move their practices to the cloud. Recent advances in cloud computing, such as Curve Dental's ability to capture digital images directly to the cloud, are helping to charge the market for accelerated growth.

Additionally, the dental market's acceptance of the cloud is spurred organically, or independent of cloud-based developers such as Curve Dental.

"Newer doctors are most likely surprised by how little the cloud is utilized in their practices," says Bryan Currier, CEO of Advantage Tech, a dental integrations company, and president of the Dental Integrators Association. "To suddenly be entirely dependent upon a local network and server is foreign to them. Most recognize that there is a balance between in-office and cloud. When these doctors have control over their own practices, you will see more individual components of their IT naturally moving to the cloud."

References available upon request.

Andy Jensen is the chief marketing officer for Curve Dental, Inc., a developer of cloud-based dental software based in Orem, Utah. He has 20 years of experience in the dental software market. You can reach Mr. Jensen at [email protected].

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