Opening a new office in the Cloud

May 1, 2011
During the past year, we opened a new dental office from scratch. We had no physical facility and no patients or employees. Going from nothing to having an office with patients is very difficult.

Adrian Huang, DMD

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: new dental office, cloud-based software, HIPAA-compliant, Dr. Adrian Huang.

During the past year, we opened a new dental office from scratch. We had no physical facility and no patients or employees. Going from nothing to having an office with patients is very difficult.

First choose your software

In reality, the dental software should be the first thing chosen before starting construction of an office. Dental software drives the design of an office and what needs the facility construction requires to accommodate the technology and software.

Depending on the software and networking needs, the chairs, cabinetry, front office, X-ray units, and media outlets will need to be designed to accommodate the computers and power outlets to work in a seamless and ergonomic way. Software should be the first consideration once it has been decided to build a new dental facility.

Choosing a cloud-based dental management software was integral in our plans to open a new office. Cloud-based software is run over the Internet and the data is stored in the “cloud,” or off-site servers, and accessed over an Internet connection. No dedicated server is needed in the office, and there is no software to install on your computer. All that is needed is a computer with an Internet connection, and the business side of the practice will be ready to get started.

While the contractors were constructing the physical office, I hired staff and we started working on the virtual part of our new office. During construction, my new staff and I met at the local library to receive over-the-Internet training with the software company. There, we learned how to use the cloud-based software on our laptops.

After we knew how to use the software, we started entering practice information such as fee schedules, practice user IDs, passwords, office hours, operatory columns, commonly prescribed medications, and procedure templates. We were able to finish all of it while the office was a dusty construction site.

Practicing for the real thing

Once the data entry was completed and we knew how to use the software, we started running through scenarios that would commonly occur when the office was open. Some of the scenarios included new patient check-ins, checking out patients, scheduling new and existing patients, tracking recall, and billing. It took us a while to become smooth, and practicing hypothetical situations with our software in the city library was valuable. Our goal was for our patients to receive competent and prepared service from day one.

As the office neared completion, we established a phone number and website. The phone was forwarded and we were able to remotely start scheduling patients from home or the library on our laptops through the cloud-based software. It was no different than if we were sitting in our actual office. The schedule and patient data was saved on HIPAA-compliant servers and could be pulled up anywhere. The staff loved it and we felt more confident having patients scheduled before our computers were even installed.

After construction was completed, computers and phones were installed, and from the moment we turned them on, our schedule, patient information, appointments, and fee schedules were ready to go and we could begin answering phones and running management activities.

When the office opened and we started seeing patients, things went smoothly as we had already been through many practice scenarios. Although it takes time to build a practice from scratch, I felt better knowing we had patients on our schedule and entered into the computer before we opened. Start-up practice costs can be daunting, and our cloud-based practice management systems helped minimize them.

It saved time, as we were able to complete our training and data input before the office was finished and rent was still free, and we were up and running and seeing patients earlier. It saved time since I was able to delegate scheduling to an off-site answering service instead of paying employees for full time. It also gave me peace of mind, as I was able to look at the digital schedule and see patients already in place before we opened.

The creative ways you can use cloud-based dental software are up to you. I’m sure someone more industrious and intelligent than me could come up with many more ways to maximize the use of this software. It is nice to have the freedom and flexibility that cloud-based software offers so you can implement more interesting ways to help your bottom line.

Dr. Adrian Huang is a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry in Lexington. He operates a paperless private practice in Provo, Utah, that emphasizes restorative dentistry. Reach him by email at [email protected].

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