Hybrid cloud extracts data from dentists

Local cloud integration firm Breeze has worked with dental clinic group Dental Corporation to implement several Microsoft technologies that can extract financial and patient data from different dental practice management software programs and send it back to headquarters in near real time.

Dental Corporation, which is owned by Bupa and is active here and in New Zealand and Canada, owns 220 individual dental practices in Australia. It has an acquisition model, buying individual practices and managing their financial and administrative needs while the dentists concentrate on their patients.

Before the implementation of the Microsoft solution, financial data for each practice was emailed or faxed back to headquarters every six weeks, where it was manually entered for analysis. According to Dental Corporation's executive manager for group business systems and services, Kellie King, the organisation wanted to streamline this process, but hit the roadblock of multiple practice management systems that dentists were not keen to give up.

“The dentists maintain their own systems, which is part of the complexity that we had to deal with,” Ms King said. “All of the dentists have their own practice management software and there are about 15 types of software out there with many, many versions. They are very attached to their software and have all of their clinical notes in there, so they are very reluctant to change.”

Ms King said Dental Corporation wanted to access the business data to understand more about how each practice worked. Rather than impose its own chosen practice management package, the company wanted to find a way to extract the needed data simply without disrupting the dental practitioners' workflow.

“We could have gone and changed everyone's lives and rolled out a new practice management system but there isn't really an enterprise-wide solution out there,” she said. “It's very much a cottage industry in my mind, so that's how this project came about. How are we going to access all of the data in all of these different software systems?”

Ms King consulted Microsoft-aligned cloud integration firm Breeze, which devised a hybrid cloud-based solution using its Cloud Data Manager product, Microsoft's Azure cloud platform and its BizTalk Server.

Cloud Data Manager has a data-extraction program coded in .NET that sits on each practice's local network. It captures certain data as it is updated, uploads it to Azure and it is then sent to Dental Corporation's systems through BizTalk.

Breeze's CTO Mick Badran said the tools run in the background so it doesn't interfere with the day-to-day management of a practice. “What we have done is identified the right areas to go and fetch data, and we send the changes to that data up to the cloud,” he said.

“It is sent up securely through the cloud and then it arrives at Dental Corp's back office system through BizTalk Server. The reason we decided to do it that way was because all of these practices were operating independently, they all have very different forms of internet connection and there was nothing that was really guaranteed.

“And given the geographical diversity it made sense to use a cloud-type transport. Whether a practice is in Canada or in New Zealand, they are all able to connect to a local cloud entry point and then essentially it is routed back to Dental Corp.”

Adding to the complexity of the different types of practice management software and connectivity was the fact that practices were working on different versions of Windows, including some still on XP. Mr Badran said some types of software were easier than others, but the data collection agent itself can be centrally managed, so if there are updates to the locally installed software, Breeze can access a central portal and do the configuration there.

In the initial stages of the roll-out Dental Corporation is simply interested in the financial data, and according to Mr Badran how each package stores its numbers rarely changes, but in the future there are plans to look more deeply at each practice's workflows and productivity to see what improvements can be made.

“We definitely want to do analytics on productivity, sales and product mixes, and what we get the biggest profit out of,” Ms King said. “We could do peer group comparisons, pricing analysis, are we charging similar prices for fillings across all groups and that sort of thing.

“There is definitely some analytics that we can get out of the data that we collect and I think it will be really powerful for the practices to help them manage their practice better, understand how many patients come through, how many recalls they are getting.

“We won't be looking much at the clinical side because we are not interested in interfering with the patient-doctor information, but certainly around analytics I think we can definitely help them.”

Posted in Allied Health

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