Dont forget the hidden costs

When planning a computerized office, there are a number of extra hidden costs for which you will need to be aware. One extra cost is not a major expense but, added together, these hidden costs total a significant amount you need to plan for. These are extra costs beyond the basic cost of software, hardware, training, and support.

Larry Emmott, DDS

When planning a computerized office, there are a number of extra hidden costs for which you will need to be aware. One extra cost is not a major expense but, added together, these hidden costs total a significant amount you need to plan for. These are extra costs beyond the basic cost of software, hardware, training, and support.

The first hidden cost will be a battery back-up or UPS (uninterrupted power supply) for the server. This is a device that will control power surges to the server and, more importantly, provide emergency power in the event of a power failure. The UPS will allow you to shut down the computer properly and avoid lost or damaged data due to power fluctuations. Having a UPS on the server is a must and will cost between $300 and $600.

The second hidden cost is for surge protectors. Some experts suggest you install a UPS on all computers to protect against damage from power surges. However, most offices can get by with a UPS only on the server and surge protectors on the workstation computers. Surge protectors will cost between $15 and $40 (depending on quality) for each computer.

Don`t forget about network cards and a network hub. The price of these items has dropped significantly in recent years, but they will still add to the overall expense.

A network card is a connection that allows the computer to transmit data over a network. This is essential for effective use of computers in dentistry, but it is routinely not included in basic computers. A network card will cost about $40.

A network hub is the central connection for the computer network. An eight-port hub will cost around $250. Larger networks will need a hub with more ports, so the cost will be higher.

Another essential item for a network is the wiring or "drops." Computer network wiring is not a simple matter of stringing wires, so it should be completed by an expert. Network wiring will run from $100 to $150 per drop.

Another surprisingly expensive item is back-up media. For most offices this will be high-speed data tapes. These tapes can be as high as $50 each or more. Most offices will need five tapes and will need to replace them once a year.

A big hidden cost will be the carts or supports for the computer components in the treatment rooms. Sometimes these carts or support arms cost more than the computers. Plan on spending between $300 and $700 or more per treatment room for carts or supports.

And, finally, don`t forget the mouse pads! It is ridiculous what they charge for those bits of rubber. Plan on $7 each.

What is the total? Let`s price out a typical dental office with six computers, a server, and five workstations (with three in the treatment rooms):

Item Cost

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Battery back-up, UPS (1).....$500

Surge protectors (5 @ $25)...$125

Network cards (6 @ $40)......$240

Hub (1)......................$250

Wiring (6 @ $130)............$780

Back-up media (5 @ $40)......$200

Carts (3 @ $400)...........$1,200

Mouse pads (6 @ $7)...........$42

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TOTAL $3,337

Advanced computer technology will pay for itself in efficiency and time-savings. However, there are costs involved and some of them can be hidden, so be prepared.

The future is coming and it will be amazing!

Dr. Larry Emmott is a practicing general dentist in Phoenix, Ariz. He also is an entertaining, award-winning professional speaker. He has addressed hundreds of professional groups. He is a featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute, and is a member of AADPA. He has written many articles for national magazines on dentistry, computer use, and management. He produces a monthly newsletter on management and computer use in the dental office. He has developed and maintains a Web site at www.drlarryemmott.com; his e-mail address is emmott@primenet.com.

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