Today’s world of health care is largely cloud-based. The cloud makes it possible to quickly access electronic health records (EHRs) and connect them from one practice to the next. The same is true in dentistry. A dental practice must manage EHRs, which require consistent internet access. When your connectivity goes down, your ability to efficiently serve patients ceases. Internet outages happen, so an internet contingency plan is vital for your dental practice.
Internet outages disrupt dental practice operations
While you’re probably keenly aware of how you use the internet to manage your EHRs, which are a vital part of your daily operations, that’s just one way you use the internet. The Internet of Things (IoT) is part of many practices’ day-to-day operations. For example, your electronic x-ray equipment may rely on the internet to deliver images. You may have refrigerators or connected equipment that fails when the internet goes down.
Some communication lines run through the internet rather than traditional phone lines, leaving you without communication. Even your scheduling requires the internet, so you can’t book new appointments without connectivity. All this leads to lost revenue. In health care, downtime costs $636,000 per hour on average.1 While most internet outages are short-lived, losing even half a day of vital operations can cause a significant loss of income.
Your patients take time out of their day to visit you. They expect a positive, professional experience. You won’t be able to give them that experience when you have an internet outage. This can create frustration and, if it happens consistently, could lead to losing patients. An internet contingency plan ensures you can continue to deliver a quality patient care experience even if technology is not working in your favor.
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Your internet provider may not have your best interests in mind
Your practice pays for internet access, so it’s fair to assume that the service provider will work quickly to restore the internet when it goes down. Unfortunately, this may not be the case. Though every minute of no internet is lost productivity for you, your ISP may not offer a fast resolution. The lack of support is frustrating when you need a reliable internet connection to run your business.
The bottom line is this—for an independent dental practice, loss of internet means loss of income and damage to your reputation. You must have a backup plan in place. You may think using paper records is sufficient until the internet is back. However, this decreases your efficiency even further because once service gets restored, you’re forced to spend extra time transferring records from paper and back to your EHR program.
A better option: an internet contingency plan
Here’s what an internet contingency plan should contain:
1. A backup internet option
The internet is going to go down, and you need to know what to do when it does. Options include cloud-based data storage, using mobile phones, backup generators for internet outages, and a secondary network connection. Contact your ISP to determine if they have a contingency plan or partner with a third-party system that provides internet backup plans.
2. Automatic backup
As you think about where your backup internet will come from, consider whether the backup will start automatically. Ensure you have very few hoops to jump through to keep serving your patients.
3. Communication plan
As part of your internet backup plan, know how you will communicate with your employees and patients if your regular lines of communication quit working. Communicate with your team how internet outages will be handled and what protocol changes will occur.
Evaluate your risk and make a plan
As an independent dental practice, you must deliver quality care to every patient. This requires flawless internet connectivity. Without it, patient care will suffer, you will lose income, and your practice will be less efficient. Take time to evaluate the quality of your internet, the risk to your practice without it, and your options to create a backup plan. Be sure you have the right tools to stay connected.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the October 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.
- Average cost of downtime per industry. Pingdom. January 2023. https://www.pingdom.com/outages/average-cost-of-downtime-per-industry/