Integration for General Practitioners
Scott Benjamin, DDS
Integrating digital radiography in general practice is important for practice advancement, but there are several key steps to properly install and fully incorporate a digital system. Luckily, this process is not as overwhelming as it once was, as advancements in computer technology, data storage, and networking have all simplified it. Before you begin this installation and integration process, make sure that your practice is equipped with an appropriate location for the equipment, networking system, internet access, security, a routine workflow, and a plan for who will install and maintain the system.
Computer Network System
If a dentist wants to have access to digital files at multiple workstations throughout the practice, it is important to have a server within the office. Proper design and installation is imperative for the system to function properly and to avoid network problems.
To install and maintain a network, clinicians should establish a relationship with a qualified information technology (IT) technician or company that is trustworthy and can provide ongoing support as you further integrate your practice system with digital radiography. It is also important to form a plan in the event that there is a disruption in the network.
Make sure the system is dependable and consistent by installing a wired Ethernet connection rather than keeping the system wireless, as it is more secure and reliable. Consider using a gigabit network and get as much memory on each computer as reasonably possible.
Preventing HIPAA Violations
To protect patients and yourself when storing and sharing data, you must follow HIPAA regulations regarding data acquisition and storage, especially with digital radiographs. When an image is taken and saved, it must be stored in multiple locations to prevent potential data loss.
The server should have multiple drivers with a Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) configuration, which saves data on multiple disks to protect it. This will not work in the event of a fire, flood, or software corruption, but it will protect the data from being compromised. In the event of one of these losses, there should be a secure off-line and off-site copy of all data, with either a cloud-based option or an external hard drive that is taken out of the office every day.
Space and Workflow
While digital intraoral systems typically fit in the operatories in the same way as film-based systems, there is the additional consideration of one sensor being used in multiple operatories. In this case, there must be an easy way to connect and disconnect to move the sensor to a different operatory and store the sensor when not in use for convenient access.
An indirect system using computed radiology and phosphor storage plates will have a similar workflow to film, but the digital scanner that takes the image must be attached to a computer, often in the same location as where the chemical processor was placed.
Images obtained with both direct-wired and indirect systems are typically viewed and used on workstations besides the one where the image was taken. All images should be stored in a central location, which can be configured as part of the initial image processing and saving.
Location of monitors to view digital images in the operatories is an important consideration for the best use of the system. Think about how and when images will be viewed and used for best placement. Larger monitors are easiest to view, however the use of a high-quality monitor is also an important factor.
Panoramic and cone-beam (CBCT) will need a dedicated area to control the device. If there is no desire to add CBCT at the present time but this is something that you might consider later, it will be helpful to have the space and wiring ready for future installation.