The next three years…
I’m in independent dental practice and I’m lucky enough to have a facility and a team in that sphere who are completely brilliant.
Two years ago we opened a new practice (facility) and we got to work laying the foundations for the future of our business.
Through the brilliant work of Carl Dunstan who works with us at the practice now, we identified that our ‘tech stack’ was going to be one of the most important things that we could develop over the coming years to set us apart as a business (not just a dental business).
A tech stack (or technology stack) is also called solution stack. It’s a term that covers your technology infrastructure in your business and how you select and develop and implement that in order to make the most out of technology which can make your business better.
And so, I thought I’d take a few minutes for anyone who might be interested here to explain what our tech stack is, in the hope that it might help other independent practice owners develop further their own technology solutions.
The first thing you might want to realise (unless you have someone in your family who’s big into IT) is that you have to understand SaaS software solutions. SaaS stands for ‘Software as a service’.
And many, many software solutions on the market are now SaaS.
Mostly SaaS software solutions are offered with a ‘low value barrier to entry’ it’s cheap to get in and then it’s really expensive to have to change later.
The careful selection of your SaaS software solutions is critical to reduce heartache and problems later on when you’ve just gone for a cheap solution.
SaaS software solutions are always cloud based, new technology stack is always cloud based.
If you’re running technology in your practice which is not cloud based then you must move to cloud based.
The exception in dentistry to this is imaging software because at the present time if you’re running CBCT the infrastructure is just not fast enough to run that cloud based (but it will be in a minute).
So, let me explain our tech stack to you so that you may be able to pick this up and drop it into your own world as we’ve done a lot of the hard yards over the last 2 years figuring this out to the best of our ability for our environment.
- Data storage and file management - Onedrive (part of Microsoft 365)
I’m not a Microsoft fan but we need to have Microsoft in the practice for the last remanence of our server solution (almost everything is cloud based) and it’s free and it has a lot of functionality and it’s SaaS.
We can use SharePoint, PowerPoint, excel, word etc etc etc through our office 365. We pay for it anyway and Microsoft are not going anywhere soon so it’s safe. It forms the first component of our tech stack.
2) Clinical system
Clearly this is absolutely fundamental in any dental practice but particularly in an independent dental practice where we don’t have the infrastructure of a corporate behind us.
So, three years ago we selected Dentally (surprise, surprise it’s a SaaS software system) and it’s cloud based. The thing about Dentally is you really need to train your staff how to use it.
We realised early on that all this software systems training is generally absolutely terrible and we invented our own. Carl Dunstan set up (using our own learning management system -LMS) a 20 module training platform for Dentally so that our team could train at any time, day or night on Dentally and we don’t have to shut the practice to train. We can add on to that module so whenever anything changes in Dentally or when we advance.
I would expect that we are one of the most advanced users of Dentally around because we’ve been in so early on and we’ve trained our staff so hard to make it work.
As an example with two clicks of a button I can see a really, really accurate turnover prediction for the next 6 weeks due to what finance is in my appointment book.
This only works if you’ve trained people on Dentally properly.
3) Back office project management
Most dental practice probably wouldn’t have this or certainly not yet but this is absolutely critical and fundamental if you want your practice to move on to the next 5 and 10 years. We use Asana (yep it’s SaaS).
Asana talks to Dentally and to Onedrive and it’s expensive and it’s completely brilliant and it’s based around OKR’s (Objectives and Key results) which is a fundamental strategic planning tool that we’ve used to outline the next three years of our business and the three years beyond that.
As an example for you from day-to-day work, all our absence forms are on Asana, all our holiday requests, all our projects for individual admin members of staff and we’ll soon be launching our LMS training modules on Asana so that everybody in the practice can work it.
It allows us to implement things called scrim teams (small teams of people who can work on individual projects) and it’s cloud based and you can work from anywhere.
4) Slack (yep it is SaaS!)
Slack is an online communication platform. Think closed social media for your team.
I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that it kept our business together during the first lockdown and it works as an extraordinary communication tool allowing us to post videos and documents and posts and comments and work in teams and groups and do any number of other projects and work.
We run this deep through our Academy and have done since 2016 and if you’ve ever been on one of our courses before you’ll know we’ve been running Slack groups for a long time which aid our education platform enormously.
Not too much to say about this except for it’s a SaaS software system and it links with everything else. We use Zoom for patient consultations (it will automatically transcribe conversations), we use it as classrooms in the Academy and I can go and work in another country and have my senior management meeting using Zoom, recorded or unrecorded.
6) Xero - We have just implemented Xero as the last major component of our tech stack.
Xero is online cloud based and SaaS based finance. It’s an extraordinarily powerful tool, links directly to Dentally so gives us a live balance at the end of every single day and a daily PnL if necessary. Once setup it runs your account management absolutely incredibly and links on further to other SaaS software systems which give you the analysis of your finances, visually, in any way you like.
And Finally, DenGro is our CRM system (customer relation management) which is a SaaS system which plugs into Dentally and collects all our leads, all our perspective patients and our patient management journey into the clinical phase.
Hubspot is our website provider and our inbound marketing material. We’ve used Hubspot for many years in the Academy process and the inbound marketing skills and tools related to Hubspot are extraordinary.
It’s obviously a SaaS software system, it links to DenGro and links to Dentally, it runs our website and allows us to manage our website in-house as much as possible which reduces overall cost.
It’s extraordinarily powerful and allows us to run sales pipelines through the marketing process which are all automated.
The last thing that we can use along the lines of these is something called Zapier. We’re not quite yet ready to implement Zapier but what it allows us to do is get more and more clever (and technical) in how our software speaks to each other.
If I give you an example, we’ll be able to open a ‘Zap’ in Dentally which will allow us to talk directly to Asana, that means in surgery we can add on to a project which someone else is working with in Asana without any conversation being required and we can set a date and a person to complete the project and it will happen automatically.
It takes three years to implement this stuff into your clinic from a standing start, we were able to go faster than most due to the infrastructure, talent and motivation that we had, also together with the amount of time we worked at it through lockdown.
It’s been two years since we started it and we’re almost finished, if you haven’t done it yet you might want to start now because three years from now you’ll wish you had.
Blog Post Number - 2974