Clay Archer, CEO
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Business Intelligence The Next Big Thing in IT
By Clay Archer, CEO of DentalPC

Over the last few years we have heard a lot about the cloud and “big data”. But isn’t all that for big companies like Walmart and Amazon? The short answer is not anymore. Platforms like the cloud are allowing small businesses to look at their data like big companies traditionally have. Third party plugins and applications can look at your practice management data and dissect it in a more approachable way. “That’s great, but how does it affect my dental practice?” In the short term, it will change the way dental practices use their data in three major ways.

1. Dashboards/Score Cards
It’s the old proverb “what gets measured gets managed.” Business Intelligence in its simplest form comes in the shape of gadgets or apps that display simple management numbers. Whether it is number of new patients/month or hygiene production/day, these “widgets” let you quickly see how the practice is doing in certain defined parameters.

Unlike traditional reports, you don’t have to look through lists or dropdowns – the numbers are simply presented in whatever form you want. If you want to go deeper into details, you can click on the widget and the underlying data will be displayed. Score cards are a wonderful tool for positive reinforcement, variable pay (bonuses) and team contests. It’s all about clarity of message and goal attainment. These are great for morning huddles or monthly staff meetings to review where the practice is on specific goals. Then the staff can use them on a constant basis to review progress. We have several offices who display a dashboard of widgets in the staff room so the data is always top of mind.

2. Enforcing Systems/Training
As a simple extension of the “what gets measured gets managed” proverb, the staff now knows what numbers are important. They can more efficiently use their time and effort towards making the appropriate changes or reinforce the things they are doing well. We can use the information to create best practices and training around what best affects the bottom line. When goals are clearly defined, it is much easier to train staff to a system. These types of process-driven training programs have until now been the domain of larger corporate organizations.

3. Benchmarking
Traditionally, dentists have not shared much practice management information and have essentially practiced alone. Because most of these Business Intelligence tools have many users, there is an ability to “benchmark” across the user base. Now not only can you look at the numbers inside the practice, you can see how you stack up against your peers. From customer satisfaction ratings to overhead costs and margins, you can see how your practice is performing against others in your region/specialty/etc. Because the data is looked at in aggregate and individual results are anonymous, there is no reason to worry about competitive forces. This allows smaller individual practices to take advantage of large sample sizes like corporate dentistry does. A few possible examples would be fee optimization, revenue per procedure, frequency of procedures, procedure duration – the list goes on and on.

The reason I stated that these are the main changes in the short term is that Business Intelligence is a rapidly evolving arena. It won’t take long for these technologies to evolve into different aspects of the practice. The next generation of Business Intelligence will actually “learn” and provide information based on data. Think of a recall system that tailors messages based on past interactions. Or a forecasting system that raises goals based on unscheduled treatment or insurance benefits. The next generation will change the way you interact with patients, vendors and employees.

The bottom line is that you have a ton of very valuable information inside your practice management system. These new tools help you mine it for the relevant information to more efficiently manage your practice. There are quite a few of these tools in the marketplace right now and the list is growing. Choosing the right one for your practice will depend on the features you are looking for and the integration with your specific practice management software. 

The first step is to work with a professional IT company. The Dental Integrators Association is an organization dedicated to educating IT professionals. To be sure you have cutting edge knowledge on your side, you can find a professional at the Dental Integrators Association website:

Clay Archer is the CEO and Founder of DentalPC, a dental specific IT solutions provider serving the Southeastern United States since 1995. 

Clay can be reached at

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