When looking to get a new dental management software, there are many factors at play that determine which software is best suited for your office. One major consideration for dentists is where the software is hosted – on-premises or in the cloud.
In recent years, many organizations have migrated from their legacy platform to the cloud, in favour of modernizing their data management system and flexibility. However, since the healthcare industry handles sensitive patient health information, one shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that a modernized solution equates to the best solution. Before making a choice, considering how the patient health information will be protected is of utmost importance. As such, knowing the key differences between on-premises and cloud solutions will help you choose the best solution for your practice.
What’s the difference between on-premises and cloud-based software?
As the name suggests, on-premises software is deployed on a local network in the office. In other words, the system is installed on an in-house server and uses the office’s computer resources to operate. There is usually a larger upfront cost for offices planning to have more than ten workstations, as they will need to purchase a hosting server to handle a centralized database where the computers connect to. Offices with only a few workstations can dedicate one computer as the server rather than purchasing a hosting server. The server allows any changes in the database to be accessible by any workstation within the network. It should be noted that to do so, the computers would need a higher processing capacity compared to offices running a cloud-based system. Depending on the office’s resources, it could take longer to integrate due to the complexity of the system.
While this system is more traditional, it allows the office to have direct control over how the system is configured, as well as have physical access to the data. On-premises dental software often allows for more control over security, as the entire software and database of patients remain on-site and the office has full control over it. However, the strength of security relies heavily on the office’s upkeep of their servers and firewalls – your data is only as secure as the safeguards you put in place. Depending on your expertise, you may need to hire IT support staff to maintain the hardware and to ensure maximum security against data breaches, as well as manage the system backups.
To use on-premises dental software, the office is required to purchase the license to use the software or a copy of the software itself. Depending on the vendor, separate licenses may need to be purchased for each user or computer that will have access to the software. In some cases, there will also be a monthly maintenance fee that allows the office to call in for support when needed. This can include technical difficulties, questions on how to do something, or even comprehensive software training.
Cloud-based software (also known as Software-as-a-service, SaaS) is hosted by a third-party provider and is accessed through a secure connection through a browser. This allows your office to offset the upfront cost of purchasing hardware (such as servers) and maintaining them. With the software being browser-based, you also won’t need to worry about buying computers with advanced specs to handle it. Since your database is stored in the cloud, it allows for scaling up or down, depending on the size of your data, without the need to purchase extra hardware.
Your SaaS provider is responsible for securing the platform and its infrastructures to ensure the software is compliant with PHIPAA. However, you are still responsible for keeping your patient data safe and regulating user access to sensitive information. Some best practices include:
- Monitoring software and accounts – check for any activity discrepancies to identify any suspicious or unauthorized access to your system and compromised accounts. There are tools available to help you audit these activities.
- Regulating data access – one of the best ways to protect your patient data is to limit its accessibility. You can limit each account’s access on a need-to-know basis to maintain patient data security.
- Encrypting patient data – having patient data encrypted is vital to protect it from unauthorized access in the case of data breaches. This is also an example of a technical safeguard provided by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario’s guide to compliance with PHIPA.
- Checking the provider’s security – every third-party provider has a different level of security and it is up to you to find out if it meets industry standards. You should be checking if they are compliant with security and privacy regulations, data encryption policies (is the data encrypted while being stored in the cloud?), level of cybersecurity protection, security practices of their employees, etc.
The system is already set up in the cloud, so deployment time is minimal and is easily integrated without heavily involving an IT specialist. Since the system is hosted in the cloud, it also means that you can access your patient data and appointment book anywhere, anytime.
What about hybrid systems?
If you’re on the fence about which system to choose, you can also consider hybrid systems. This can be seen as the best of both worlds as it consists of the stability of on-premises infrastructures and the accessibility and scalability of cloud-based systems.
This allows you to keep all patient health information and sensitive data on-location as well rather than exclusively with a third-party service provider. Similar to on-premises systems, you may need a dedicated server if you have many computers at the office. Since your database is physically stored in your office, you won’t have to worry about losing access to your data, even if your service provider or internet is down. On the other hand, you also have the added benefit of the database being backed up in the cloud, allowing you to restore your data if the local version gets corrupted.
Your dental management software will sync your on-premises data with their cloud-based services to ensure that all changes are up-to-date. It should be noted that the syncing may be a few minutes delayed, depending on your internet speed. If your computer happens to crash during this time, you may lose a few minutes’ worth of changes.
To get a better picture of how hybrid systems work, the best everyday example would be using Gmail through Outlook desktop. Once you have your Gmail connected, Outlook will save a copy of your emails locally so that you have access to them even when you’re offline. The emails are also stored in the cloud with Google so that you have access to them anywhere, anytime, as long as you have a connection. Since they are in the cloud, you also have the comfort knowing that you can re-download the emails if your computer becomes corrupt or if you get a new computer system.
It should be noted that each hybrid dental management software can work differently depending on the service provider. Ask potential service providers questions about how your database will be stored and safeguarded, as this will help you make an informed decision.
There is no right answer to which type of dental software is the best, as each office has their unique needs and preferences. What’s most important is that you find a solution that has a high standard of integrity and that you are comfortable with using.
Software can look amazing on paper, but the actual ease of use for your staff is even more important. Before making a decision, you should also ask for your staff’s opinion. Many of them have handled different dental software and would be able to give an account of their experience. Take note of those that are the most user-friendly and those that provide impeccable customer service. Once you’ve compiled your top 3 companies, start contacting them to get a final sense of which software would work best for you.
About the Author
Sandro Persia is the Sales Director at Logic Tech Corp, a Canadian dental management software company that has been serving the industry for more than three decades. With over 25 years of experience in the dental field, Sandro has worked with over 1000 dental clinics across Canada to streamline their workflow and increase productivity. To contact Sandro and discuss your dental management needs, email email@example.com.