Dental4U is a general dental practice with locations in Geelong and Yarraville in Melbourne. It was established 5 years ago and offers the gamut of general dental procedures. It started as a single location practice in Geelong and later expanded to the fast growing area close to the Melbourne's Docklands.
"Once we established the second location in Melbourne, we immediately came across a problem of co-ordinating work between the two practices," said Dental4U principal Dr Laura Latis. "Firstly, we had doctors and staff working at both locations who would need to access their resources and records regardless of where they work on a particular day. Secondly, we had patients who might be treated at both locations, so their records also needed to be shared. Lastly, we needed some practice management tools that would allow us to see the whole picture of the business' operations. The last bit was very important; we needed to manage finances - accounts, bills, revenue, etc - with the data from both locations viewed as a single business.
"At that stage, we started looking for software and hardware solutions to the problem. The analysis revealed that the traditional software packages were not capable of delivering what we needed at a reasonable cost. Connecting the practices by a custom laid or leased 80 km (distance between the two practices) network cable would be an incredibly expensive option. Using peer-to-peer connection like VPN was very restricting: slow, complex, unreliable and with very limited functionality. With the VPN we could only establish a single computer to another single computer connection. Sharing was virtually impossible. That did not help. There was also an option of establishing our own server, but that raised more problems than solved: expensive IT setup and management, and security of the server and data. The costs would also be very high.
"The Internet appeared to be the best possible option. We thought, why we can manage our banking on the internet and cannot do the same with our business. We starting looking for someone who could provide us with an internet-based solution.
"So that's where our work with Praktika started. Praktika is an Australian online dental management software which had affordable answers to the problems we had.
"First of all, we can access both locations by a simple click within a single screen. It means that the two receptions can support each other and fill in if a need arises. In fact with a single reception, we can book patients at both locations if needed. As we can access our practice from anywhere and anytime, we can easily make all appointments even after hours, be it from the premises, home or even on the road.
"It is very important for the doctors to be able to access the data at both locations at the same time.It allows the doctor to see all their appointments no matter where they are. It greatly assists in planning and treatment preparation. The doctor can also see and edit all the relevant data at both locations: treatment and appointment histories, clinical notes, charts and even financial details. If a patient visits both our locations, the dentist can access their whole treatment history with an indication of where the treatment was done.
"There is no need any more to transfer records and make redundant copies. All the patient's data can be shared between any number of locations and staff members at locations are accessing a single file, rather than multiple copies. It helps preserve the data integrity at the highest level. We can now easily do the preparation and assessment at one location and finalise treatment at another. Some of our patients live in Geelong and work in Melbourne. We can provide continuous uninterrupted treatment for such patients by sharing their data.
"It is also great that access permissions can be set for each individual user: a user can have access only to a single location data or both. Access to financial data, reports, etc. also can be configured for each staff member individually. In fact, managing two locations with Praktika is like managing just one. Very easy.
"I would also have to mention the IT part of it. It is no secret that dentists do not have much time and expertise to deal with the computer issues in our practices. Generally, the more complex is the business set up, the more complex the IT arrangement becomes and maintenance it requires: hardware and software setups, maintenance, backups just to mention a few issues. Restoring operations if a computer dies on you is a serious and expensive downtime exercise. With the internet-based software, there are no issues like that - our data is kept at a secure location where it is constantly backed up. We do not need any IT support at all. Any computer from the box is ready to run Praktika. We do not need servers, installations, backup systems, etc.
"Last but still very important issue is the cost of it all. This is where the online systems cannot be beaten. First of all there are no upfront costs and you can spend your money on something that generates revenue for you instead of freezing the funds in software, which has no resale value. Praktika is charged by a low monthly subscription, very much like a mobile phone. Being a service it is completely tax deductable straight away. There are no licences so you can run it on any number of computers still paying the same fee.
"In conclusion I can point out that the online based practice management software like Praktika have revolutionised the way we can manage our practices. It is very helpful in situation like ours, where our business is located in various places with the need to share data. It gives us flexibility and peace of mind that our data is secure and is available to us 24/7 wherever we are."