Why All Dental Practices Should Take Advantage of Cloud Technology

Despite its mystical name, “the cloud” is actually quite simple. It is a way of storing information, such as data and apps, on the internet rather than on a physical hard drive. Cloud technology is a vital addition to any dental practice, yet relatively few dentists understand how to integrate. Here are some reasons why all dental practices should take advantage of the cloud.

Enhanced Data Protection

If your patient records and other data are stored on your office computer’s hard drive, what happens if that drive fails? Depending on the specific issue, expensive and time consuming data recovery may be possible. Or you may lose that data forever. Storing data in the cloud makes it impervious to system failures. Think of it as emailing a document to yourself. You can bring up that data on any system, with the proper authentication, rather than relying solely on one piece of hardware. Cloud storage follows HIPAA standards, so you can be sure that your files are secure.

Less Confusion

Files that are stored in the cloud are easy for anyone with the proper credentials to access, and they are automatically saved and synced. That means if your receptionist changes a patient’s appointment time, you will be able to view that change on the computer in your office. Medication records, previous appointment history, and more can be entered once and changed as necessary without redundant conversations between you, your staff, and your patients.

The cloud also helps to minimize downtime. You don’t need to worry about running out of storage on your office computers. If one computer crashes, it is easy to log into another and carry on with the same task. Adopting cloud technology streamlines workflow and helps keep your office running smoothly.

Keeping Up with Technology

As you know, dental technology is evolving at lightning speed. Digital X-rays, 3-D CT scans, even CEREC same-day crowns are revolutionizing dental practices. Yet it is tough to argue that your office is cutting edge if you are still using yesterday’s data storage methods. Many cloud storage systems are extremely inexpensive, making this an easy and affordable way to ensure that your record-keeping technology is as advanced as your patient care technology.

It is fine to start small, testing the cloud with only limited parts of your work and gathering employee feedback. However, it is important to choose tools and features that are designed for medical and dental offices. These tools will ensure a more seamless transition from physical storage to cloud storage.

Anywhere, Anytime Connection

While it is not healthy for anyone to be constantly on call, the reality is that sometimes your staff will need something from you when you are away from the office. Whether you need to look at a patient’s file to determine whether to call in a prescription or you are planning topics to cover at your next team meeting, cloud technology lets you log in from home, the beach, or anywhere you have access to the internet. The only reason you will need to go to the office on your day off is to see a patient whose dental emergency cannot wait—not simply to wade through data files.

Adapting to any technology can be a bit frightening, but cloud technology is largely user friendly and easy to learn. Start small, choose the right tools for the job, and you will soon be taking advantage of the freedom and enhanced workflow that the cloud can provide.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Dental Service Organization Trends for 2019 and Beyond

At one time, most dentists were in private practice, or perhaps a very small group practice with a partner or two. Today, though, dental service organizations (DSOs) have become all the rage. These large corporate chains of dental practices may serve one area, one state, or even multiple states, but either way, the dentists are contracted to provide services rather than owning the practice at which they work. Here is what you should know about the future of DSOs.

Growth Rate

According to a recent report by global investment banking and asset management company William Blair, DSOs are undergoing extraordinarily rapid growth. The firm estimates that the largest DSOs are growing their number of practices by roughly 13 to 14 percent per year. DSOs currently control roughly 16 percent of all dental practices in the United States, and they are on track to reach 30 percent by 2021. Meanwhile, the Health Resources Institute of the American Dental Association (ADA) notes that the number of single-owner private dental practices is shrinking by around 7 percent per year. Clearly, DSOs are not just a fad, but are the wave of the future.

What This Means for Dentists

Although the writing is on the wall, many dentists continue to fight against dental service organizations. They prefer the private practice model, and they are uninterested in developing their practices according to the DSO model. However, dentists who turn their attention to figuring out how to work within the DSO system are realizing major benefits in regard to economy of scale, professional management, soaring asset values, and enhanced negotiating power.

Taking Action

Whether you are newly out of dental school or you have been in private practice for years, now is the time to start educating yourself on DSOs and having a serious conversation about how a DSO might work for you. In many cases, it is simply a matter of finding the DSO that fits your values, theories of dentistry, and focus.

A DSO frees you up from the pressures of running your own business. You have the opportunity to give dentistry your full attention, rather than constantly having to worry about staffing, marketing, equipment failures, and other details. You can often set your own salary and hours, and since you do not need to be constantly sidelined by other tasks, you might even be able to make your desired income working part time. If you want to relocate, you can simply move to a different branch of your DSO or to a different DSO, rather than worrying about building a new practice from scratch.

However, it is vital to ensure that the DSO you choose matches the dentistry you want to practice. There is often some level of corporate control over everything from materials to techniques, and each DSO has its own areas of focus. Choosing a DSO that truly fits you as a dentist can be the difference between thriving and chafing at the perceived restrictions.

No one has to join a DSO. Private practices are shrinking, but they are far from dying out. If private practice truly suits you, there is no reason not to pursue that path. For many dentists, though, it is worth giving serious consideration to a DSO. They are strong, stable, well-financed, and unlikely to disappear anytime soon. As a serious force in dentistry, they are well worth consideration.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Tips for Building a Mobile Friendly Dental Website

You are probably already aware of the importance of building a well-designed, user friendly dental website. What you might not realize, though, is in today’s world it is simply not enough. Thanks to the meteoric rise of tablets and smartphones, it is equally important to ensure that your website is mobile friendly. Here are some tips for building a mobile friendly dental website.

Choose Responsive Design

Responsive design allows users to seamlessly move from device to device, easily viewing and interacting with your website from smartphones, laptops, tablets, and desktops. A major advantage for you is that you do not need to design anything extra. Responsive design streamlines the user experience “behind the scenes,” using flexible images and layouts rather than forcing you to build a separate mobile site.

Pay Attention to Sizes

Fonts and buttons should be big enough for mobile users to read and click without squinting or zooming. It’s best to use fonts of at least 14px and buttons of at least 44px by 44bx. Though this may seem large, your users will thank you by staying on your site rather than clicking away.

Choose High-Res, Shareable Images

Word of mouth is the best advertising of all. In today’s social media world, you want to make it as easy as possible for your web visitors to share your content, and images are an increasingly important part of that content. Modern smartphones have high-definition screens, so photos that were “good enough” for a desktop can appear blurry or pixelated. Always choose high-res images and a share button.

Avoid Auto-Zoom

Auto-zoom can confuse your layout, so be sure to remove it. Users will zoom in when they need to, based on the type of device they are using and their own preferences.

Consider YouTube

Videos are an excellent way to take prospects further into your practice, but it can be tough to set them up so that they work consistently across multiple devices. YouTube embeds code into its videos that is already rooted in responsive design. Why reinvent the wheel, when you can use an existing, proven format instead?

Perform Extensive Quality Control Testing

Try out your new responsive website on all sorts of devices, including iPhones, Windows phones, Androids, and a variety of tablets. Don’t forget to test it on multiple laptops and desktops as well. Dig deep and ensure that you test every single page, button, and user action. When you’re confident that your site behaves as it should, ask a few people who were not involved in the design to beta test it. They are in a far better position to test the site as a random user would, as they are not too close to the project.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Dental Lease Inflation: How You Can Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, price rises are a fact of life. No matter how carefully you try to cap your dental practice’s expenses, they will go up year over year. Still, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from costs soaring out of control. For many dental practices, the building lease is among the biggest expenses. It is also one of the expenses that is most vulnerable to dramatic price hikes. Here’s how to protect yourself against dental lease inflation.

Know the Terms

Dental leases, like other commercial leases, can be structured in a few different ways. Some leases require you only to pay the rent and utilities, with a clause that allows rent to be recalculated each year. Others, known as triple net leases (or nnn leases), charge a lower rent price in exchange for the tenant paying not only the utilities, but also the estimated costs for property taxes, maintenance, and building insurance.

Landlords often prefer triple net leases, as they pass the variable costs of property ownership through to the tenant. A triple net lease can also result in a cost savings for the tenant as compared to a traditional lease. However, like traditional leases, triple net leases generally have provisions for rent increases year over year.

It is important to understand what type of lease you are signing, so that you know what to expect. Different types of leases can lead to skyrocketing costs in different ways.

Negotiate Caps

Since dental leases are generally multi-year in duration, typically between 5 and 10 years, a bad lease can leave you stuck for a long time. Negotiate a cap on the amount that your lease payment can rise each year. In a triple net lease, experts suggest capping the increase at 6 percent per year. For a traditional lease, you might settle on a dollar figure instead.

Be Willing to Walk Away

Starting a dental practice is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. It can be tempting to jump on a lease with favorable starting terms, under the assumption that your practice will grow year over year. It can also be tempting to buy an existing practice without consideration for whether the building lease is currently at, above, or below market value, or what the future terms are.

Whether you are buying an existing practice or starting from scratch, though, your building lease can be a significant factor in whether your practice becomes and remains profitable. Negotiate hard, and never be afraid to walk away. The right property for your practice is out there, and it is far better to take the time and energy to find it from the outset than to get locked into a bad lease.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Should you embrace corporate dentistry?

I’ve been a general dentist for over 35 years. Long enough to see the business evolve and change into something that would have been unrecognizable when I started.

In my mind it began with the expansion of third party dental insurance in the early 80s and the promise of more access for patients, more money for procedures.

In the beginning dental insurance wasn’t a huge expense for insurance companies to offer. Today between private and government programs somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of people are now covered under some sort of third party insurance program.

By those numbers alone, you can tell that there are a lot more growth opportunities than at any time in the past.

So it should be no surprise that as of 2016 corporate dentistry has become the fastest growing segment of the industry – growing at almost 40 to 45% each year.

This monolith of corporate dentistry can generally be broken down into two categories; Dental Service Organizations (DSO) and Managed Service Organizations (MSO).

What’s important for dentists understand is the relationship between DSOs, MSOs and venture capitalists or equity type firms. When a venture capital company or equity firm has dollars invested or actual ownership in these corporate entities, there can perhaps be a conflict of interest.This conflict of interest is brought about because in many cases, equity firms have a much shorter lifespan for investment. In general, dealing with the dental profession, the goal is to triple or quadruple their money in a three to seven year timeframe, before selling that business to look for other investment opportunities.

As a patient looking for dental care or as dentist looking to either invest in Dental Service Organizations, sell their practice to a Dental Service Organization or perhaps even join a Dental Service Organization, it’s critical to understand some of the fundamental dimensions that underlay the purpose and function of MSOs and DSOs.

On this point let’s be clear. A venture capitalist provides capital with the goal of turning that capital into profit as quickly as possible.

There are two ways to work with MSOs and DSOs.

The first is similar to a franchise model. In this case the dental office assumes the branding and processes of the the senior entity in the relationship and there are a specific set of guidelines, rules and regulations that must be followed to maintain the relationship.

In this case the public certainly knows who’s involved and understand what to expect from these practices.

The second group is a little bit more of a gray area. It’s the same type of corporate relationship with the dentist. However the branding remains unchanged. Ie Dr. Smith & Jones Dental Office stays the same.

The public doesn’t necessarily know the ownership and operating structure and may think the office locally owned, managed and operated.

In the end you’ll find the same pressures in each instance. Over time more and more efficiencies will be found in order for the corporate interest to maximize its return.

This type of business relationship isn’t for everyone. But if you want to be able to shake the stress of ownership and simply work as an employee these are certainly options to pursue.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

4 Steps to Better Patient Communication Through Technology


Technology is evolving at lightning speed, and your dental practice must change with the times. You’re probably already using new dental technologies, such as 3-D scanning or laser surgery, but are you leveraging new technology to improve your communication with patients? Here are 4 simple steps you can take beyond setting up a website and social media pages.

Online Appointment Scheduling

In general, people are moving from calling or visiting companies to conducting business online. Obviously, there is no such thing as online dentistry. But why force patients to move offline altogether to handle the business aspects of their visit? A stunning 77 percent of patients are looking for the ability to book, change, and cancel their appointments online.

Online appointment scheduling can help increase patient buy-in by giving them a sense of control. It also lets them book at their convenience rather than having to call during office hours. It can even convince a nervous or hesitant patient to go ahead and book, rather than giving her the chance to talk herself out of making the call.

Online scheduling also helps to keep costs down, since your staff is freed from spending extensive time on the phone making, changing, and cancelling appointments. You can still provide a personal touch by sending out confirmation emails, texts, or phone calls. You can also give patients the option to call if desired.

Automated Appointment Reminders

People today are busier than ever, and it is easy to forget about an upcoming dental appointment. Take advantage of technology by sending out automated appointment reminders by text, email, or phone. It is easy to customize these communications to each patient, and even include a link to the page on your website where you explain the procedure the patient will have to follow. Your patients will feel valued, and you will likely see a decrease in no-show rates.

Provide Visuals

Communication is essential inside your office as well. Digital radiography and 3-D scanning technologies have numerous benefits, but one you might not have thought of is the ability to help you educate patients on their diagnosis and treatment options. People learn in different ways, and providing a visual image can not only help visual learners understand their condition, it can also spark a conversation with those whose learning style is more auditory.

Gain Feedback

Your former and current patients are a highly valuable resource that can help you discover what you are doing right and what needs to be tweaked. Sending out surveys by email or text message is an easy way to encourage patients to provide this essential feedback. You can send the exact same survey to every patient, or tailor it according to the patient’s demographics and the procedure(s) that he or she had done.

Technology is revolutionizing modern dentistry, but many dental practices are not yet maximizing its capacity to improve human communication. With a bit of effort, you can deepen two-way communication with your patients to create a better experience for everyone.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Easy Ways for Dental Professionals to Give Back to the Community

As a dentist, you are a caring and compassionate professional. You care for your patients, your team members, and your colleagues. You probably worry about people from time to time, such as a pediatric patient going through tough times at home or a staff member whose spouse is in ill health. You probably also care a great deal about your community, but you might not know how best to show it. Here are 5 easy ways to give back to your community.

Donate to Charity

There are numerous dental charities, each with a slightly different focus. Oral Health America focuses on targeted oral health campaigns. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry Charitable Foundation (AACDCF) rebuilds the smiles of adults who have survived domestic violence. Healthy Smiles Healthy Children provides pediatric dental care to children whose families cannot afford it. Research these and other dental charities, and then make a donation to the one that resonates the most with you.

Conduct a Free Community Dental Day

Whether you hook up with an organization such as Dentistry from the Heart or go it alone, a free community dental day is a wonderful way to directly impact lower-income people in your local area. Decide in advance which services you will offer, such as cleanings, fillings, and oral cancer screenings, and prepare for a crowd. You might also consider making it a day of fun with giveaways, lunch, and other exciting events.

Host a Food Drive

Food pantries are always in need of donations. Consider partnering with a local food bank to collect donations at your office. You can increase participation by giving a small discount or other reward to patients who bring in nonperishable foods.

Educate Schoolchildren

Help set up local children for a lifetime of excellent oral health by taking your message into the local schools. Prepare a short, kid-friendly talk on the basics of dental anatomy and oral hygiene, along with the role of a good diet in maintaining oral health. Bring some small, fun giveaways such as toothbrushes and stickers, as well as refrigerator magnets or other branded items.

Take a Mission Trip

There are numerous organisations, both religiously affiliated and secular, that provide health care including dentistry in remote regions. Seek out a group that fits your practice’s vision, and then take your skills to a foreign country for a few days.

Of course, these are just a few ways to give back. Don’t forget to tap into your own personal interests, as well as those of your team members. You might choose to build sets for (or even star in!) a play at the local community theater, donate time or money to a local homeless shelter, or sponsor a kids’ baseball team. Whatever you choose, make sure it feels authentic to you and fits with your practice’s mission, vision, and values.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

Interviewing Potential Dental Staff: What You MUST Know About the Legalities

A personal interview is an essential part of the hiring process, but conducting interviews is not as easy as it seems. It is vital to ask open-ended questions, such as, “tell me about your favorite part of your previous job,” rather than closed-ended questions, such as, “did you enjoy your previous work?” It is also important to set candidates at ease and encourage them to open up. Yet it is all too easy to stray into illegal territory in a job interview, even when you think you are simply being friendly. Here is what you need to know.

Protected Classes

You are probably already aware that you must follow fair, non-discriminatory hiring practices. In fact, you should note in your job ads that you are an equal opportunity employer (EOE). This means that you do not discriminate on the basis of marital status, age, gender, national origin, religion, ethnicity, disability, or other protected class. This includes avoiding questions on these topics during the interview.

Innocent Questions Gone Awry

Unfortunately, innocent “getting to know you” questions can lead to big trouble if they reveal information about a candidate’s protected class. For example, you should never ask where the candidate was born, his or her birthday, names of the candidate’s spouse or children, or even the origin of an unusual first or last name.

Instead, stick to questions that are genuinely related to the job. For example, it is fine to ask if the candidate can provide proof of the right to work in the United States. If fluency in multiple languages is an asset in the position, it is acceptable to ask about other languages. Asking whether the candidate is able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation, is fine. If the job requires extensive travel or weekend work, feel free to state that and ask whether the candidate is able to fulfill those duties.

The goal of hiring laws is not to prevent you from gathering enough information to determine whether the candidate is the right fit for the position. The goal is to keep employers from discriminating against employees or applicants. Keep this basic tenet in mind at all times, and how to phrase questions during the interview should become clear. Another key way to protect yourself against claims of employment discrimination is to ask each and every candidate the exact same questions in the exact same way.

Other Potential Pitfalls

How you conduct the interview matters as well. Avoid taking any photographs of candidates unless there is a specific job-related need (and then be sure to photograph ALL applicants). Do not take notes that refer to any physical characteristics or other personal details. Focus on the knowledge, skills, and abilities of each candidate as they relate to the specific job opening, and maintain equal professionalism with all.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

8 SEO Tips All Dentists Must Follow

SEO, or search engine optimization, is absolutely vital to ensuring your website’s visibility. No matter how well-designed your site may be, it does you no good as a marketing tool if no one can find it. SEO boosts your search rankings, ensuring that people who are looking for a dentist in your area can find you. Here are some quick and easy SEO tips that all dentists should follow.

Keep It Fresh

One of the easiest ways to boost your SEO is to regularly update your content. Start a blog and add new posts at least once a month. Also review your various web pages now and then to make sure the information is accurate, relevant, and up to date.

Do Your Homework

Research keywords to see what people are searching for. Develop a list of potential keyword phrases, and then run them through Google’s Keyword Planner at https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/. You will need to create a free account, but this helpful tool provides you with quite a few insights to help you decide where to focus your attention.

Write Naturally

Long gone are the days of “keyword stuffing,” or trying to shove your keyword phrases in as many times as possible. Write high-quality, authoritative content that sprinkles in your chosen keyword phrase as it naturally fits. Choose one keyword phrase per page.

Use Title Tags and Meta-Descriptions

Your keyword phrase should appear in the title tag for the relevant web page. Also write a short meta-description for each page that quickly summarizes the main content and includes the keyword phrase.

Don’t Change Domains

Choose a domain name that you like, and don’t change it when you update your website. Domain age and the reputation that your domain builds over time can boost your SEO.

Keep It Local

Claim your Google My Business page and make sure it is complete. Also list your site on Yelp and similar directories. Ask for patient reviews. Make sure you have a local phone number, not just an 800 number, and be certain that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are identical across all listings.

Gather Backlinks

You can create your own backlinks by linking to your website from your Twitter, Facebook, and other social media pages. To really boost your SEO, though, you will also need backlinks (sometimes known as citations) from other websites. These websites should be well established and credible, and trusted by Google. You can gather backlinks by reaching out to other sites and offering to trade links, as well as by providing guest blogs to them.

Build a Sitemap

Create a sitemap, which is simply a detailed list of all the pages on your website. If you are unsure how to do this yourself, reach out to your webmaster for help.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.

How to Hire Dental Employees You Want to Keep

Starting a dental practice can feel daunting, as you try to work your way through a mountain of paperwork and order just the right equipment and furnishings. In an effort to save time and trouble, some dentists rush through the process of hiring office personnel. Yet your people are absolutely vital to the success of your practice, and hiring sub-par employees could be an expensive mistake. Here are some tips for hiring dental employees you will want to keep for the long haul.

Take Your Time

Whether you are starting a new practice or your most experienced hygienist just moved out of state, the pressure is always on whenever a position is open. Still, it is crucial to slow down, conduct a lot of interviews, and think through how different candidates would fit into your practice.

Write a Complete Job Description

Step back and take a critical look at the open position. What technical skills are required? What about soft skills such as communication and compassion? How is the position classified? What are the essential functions that the employee will provide? What are some secondary functions that occasionally need to be performed? The more information you provide, the easier it will be for both you and the candidate to assess that person’s fit.

Advertise the Position

Write a compelling ad that explains not only what the position is, but why your practice is an excellent workplace. Place ads on your website and social media pages, and also reach out to your network. Your patients, staff members, or colleagues might know someone who would be a perfect fit.

Customize the Cover Letter and Interview Process

Ask for a cover letter with each application. This allows you to assess each candidate’s writing and communication skills and get a sense of his or her personality. Ask for a few specifics, such as a short paragraph on why the candidate wants to work for you and what he or she brings to the table.

Develop a list of interview questions in advance, and ask each candidate the same things. Remember to keep it professional, sticking only to topics that affect the workplace and steering clear of such personal matters as hobbies, religion, politics, or family. Focus on the person’s career progression and how the position fits into it. Also consider asking some hypothetical scenario-based questions. Pay close attention not only to the answers candidates give, but also their behavior and body language.

Consider calling back finalists for an hour or two of job shadowing. This allows candidates to get to know your practice and your existing staff, and it allows your existing staff members to act as additional eyes and ears in assessing the candidates. Be careful not to have prospects perform any actual work, though, or you could be on the hook to pay them.

Check References and Validate Credentials

Attach a release form to each application that gives permission for you to check references and credentials. In a dental practice, you can’t afford to hire someone who was fired for negligence or whose professional license was revoked. Though the majority of applicants are truthful, your business could be on the line if something slips through.

Onboarding

Your new staff member is part of a team, so it is essential that your current staff members are comfortable with your hiring decision. It is also vital that you provide full onboarding support to help the new staff member make a successful transition.

Provide essential forms ahead of time to avoid bogging down your new employee in paperwork. Set up a well-defined training schedule that includes time to get to know both the staff and the systems. Clear your own schedule as much as possible to give you time to check in throughout the first days and weeks rather than leaving the new employee feeling stranded. No matter how skilled a new staff member may be, the first few days at a new practice are always stressful, and feeling supported can help your new employee start down the road to success.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are interested in learning how to take your dental practice to the next level, please contact Ascent Dental Solutions today at (800) 983-4126 to learn how Dr. Coughlin can help.