If it’s not “business as usual” in your dental practice this summer because of COVID-19, you are not alone. Data from the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) revealed that 97% of dental practices reopened as of June 15, but 63% were experiencing lower patient volume than usual.1 ADA HPI data updated July 9 revealed that patient volume has recovered to an average of 70% of pre-COVID-19 levels, but there are signs the rebound is slowing. The poll of more than 4,300 dentists across the U.S. found that in the 27 states that have been open for elective care for at least 9 weeks, patient volume continues to increase, but at much lower rates than in previous weeks.2 Meanwhile, an ADA HPI research brief found that dental spending among Americans is expected to decline in 2020 before making a comeback in 2021.3
COVID-19 remains at the top of the 24-hour news cycle as an evolving public health crisis. The U.S. reported more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases for the week ended July 12, as deaths linked to coronavirus disease rose nationally the week prior for the first time since mid-April.4 Many states have paused the reopening of their economies, while other states have ordered some businesses to close. Some health experts are debating whether schools should reopen and are concerned about a resurgence of coronavirus disease in the fall and winter that would coincide with flu season.
“I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 and 2021 are going to be probably one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a recent webinar.5
Dentists and dental practices are likely to remain in a challenging position for the remainder of the year. As a dentist, you must balance your vigilance over the coronavirus threat, while also being proactive about your business operations. When faced with uncertainty, focus on what you can control and what you can do to “future-proof” your practice. One of the best things you can do right now is to make sure you have the latest updates to your practice network and information technology (IT) infrastructure.
Why Focus on IT?
Dental practices are becoming more complex as the technology and equipment they use are integrated into practice management systems. The dental IT infrastructure is something that’s easily taken for granted. It operates silently in the background to support practice management and imaging software for clinical-financial workflows. But IT systems are not immune to crisis—they require both maintenance and support.
Coronavirus put dental practices on defense because an unthinkable health crisis came to fruition. Meanwhile, unimaginable security breaches in the healthcare industry have been reported at an alarming rate over the past decade. Between 2009 and 2019 there have been more than 3,000 healthcare data breaches involving more than 500 records, according to HIPAA Journal.6 Those breaches resulted in the loss, theft, exposure, or impermissible disclosure of more than 230 million healthcare records, which equates to nearly 70% of the U.S. population. In 2019, healthcare data breaches were reported at a rate of 1.4 per day.
Just imagine if your patient health information was breached at a time when you’re trying to stabilize patient volume; it would be financially devastating.
Choosing a Dental-Only IT Provider
Managing network security often falls to external IT vendors, but not all vendors are specialized in the unique needs of dental practices. That’s why thousands of practices have found it beneficial to work with a company that specializes in dental only. It’s why many have chosen the dental IT experts at TechCentral by Henry Schein One.
TechCentral strives to be an “IT partner” for dental practices, which is evident in the vast number of resources they’ve created for dentists and their teams. Most recently, they hosted an IT-focused webinar: “5 Things Every Dentist Needs from Their IT Service Provider.”
The 5 topics covered in this webinar include:
• Why it’s important to protect your entire network, and how to do it
• Questions you should ask your IT service provider about their security practices
• What multi-factor authentication is and why it is a “must” to protect your valuable patient data
• What redundant backup means and why it’s the foundation of good IT data security
• Why it’s important to test patches before installing them on your network
As a bonus, each attendee of the webinar received a copy of TechCentral’s new e-book, Managing IT Services in the Modern Dental Practice, co-authored by Dental Product Shopper.
TechCentral’s core message is straightforward: As a dentist, you didn’t go to school to become an IT manager, but in an increasingly digital world, maintaining your IT infrastructure is critical to the success of your practice. You should therefore know some basics about your IT system, so you know the right questions to ask vendors.
Use your time wisely in the coming weeks, and take some basic steps to self-educate and become IT-aware. Learn more and watch a replay of the webinar.
TechCentral also offers a complimentary assessment of your current IT network, you can sign up for one here.
This article is paid for by Henry Schein TechCentral. Certain components of the products or services described above are provided by third parties. Henry Schein One LLC and its affiliates are not responsible for, and expressly disclaim, all liability for damages of any kind arising out of the use of those third-party products or services.