Enabling different health service providers to seamlessly share patient data is one of the great IT challenges of today. Dental Corporation has pioneered a low-cost, minimal-disruption approach.
By using a hybrid, cloud-based integration tool, Dental Corp allows its 220 practices to keep their preferred information and management systems, while extracting all the data it needs to develop smart services. With minimal intervention, the firm is building proactive, firm-wide, patient-focused healthcare.
Having grown rapidly, Sydney-based Dental Corporation struggled to consolidate finance and patient information from its 220 individual practices. Executives wanted seamless access to practice data to improve financial control and develop better patient services. Each practice used its own health records and finance system, however, and imposing a standard system on each practice would create enormous disruption.
They wanted to build an electronic picture of every patient’s dental health and habits: where they went; what they had done; how regularly they visited a dentist. If we could build more comprehensive patient health records, we could deliver better healthcare, but we could also turn from being a reactive to a proactive service provider.”
“It proved very easy to roll out and achieved exactly what we wanted” says King. “At the dentists’ level, there was absolutely no pain, and therefore no resistance. And with the integration layer hosted by Windows Azure in the cloud, we can scale up without costly, large-scale IT projects–we are bringing practices in at a rate of 10 per month.”
Other practical needs were immediately fulfilled. The first was consolidated financial reporting. With MOQdigital’s service drawing financial data from each practice, Dental Corporation can generate profit and loss accounts for each practice and consolidate hem into firm-wide, month-end financial reports. “The solution gives us far greater financial transparency,” says King. Now, we can see what is happening in each of the businesses we acquired. Once we get all the data into our own enterprise resource planning system, we will have a single source for all business reporting–exactly as if we had put our own systems into each and every practice.”
King’s preference was for each dental practice to use one standard, networked application. Experience told her this was unrealistic. “Our dentists are very much attached to their own practice systems,” she says. “They usually adapted them for scheduling and staffing, as well as for finance and patient management. They liked their own systems, which worked efficiently. So I was facing a lot of backlash unless I found a way of getting the data I needed while leaving existing systems alone.” King contacted Microsoft Partner Network member, MOQdigital, a leading digital company that specialises in using the cloud to solve complex challenges. “Kellie has a reputation for visionary thinking and her approach was unorthodox,” says Nicki Page, Chief Executive Officer at MOQdigital. “She didn’t want to define the solution at the outset; her goal was to create possibilities.”
King had a clear vision of how data should flow, rather than an actual solution. “I wanted something that could take data from existing practices without disruption, and then turn it into standard formats that could be understood by our databases.”
With help from MOQdigital, King eventually resolved on a hybrid cloud model to enable Dental Corporation to extract essential data from each practice without altering their existing systems. MOQdigital would install Cloud Data Manager on each practice network. This product contained a data-extraction program coded in .NET that allows the appliance to identify activity on the practice network, replicate changes, and forward them via a URL to a service bus, hosted in the cloud with Windows Azure.
The service bus consists of a data-processing engine, powered by Microsoft BizTalk Server 2013 that integrates all the practice data. Then the data is staged, cleansed, and consolidated before being formatted into standard reports and sent from Windows Azure to a database at the Dental Corporation head office.
Because all the data integration occurs in the cloud, the solution is easy to expand. “The point is that our solution is cookie-cutter,” says King. “We put our energy into mastering the basic principle involved: an integration layer that is so flexible we can bolt it into any practice. Now, we can go into each dental practice and install one small appliance that the professionals don’t even notice. It means we can search for and extract all the data we need to run a multi-practice health business—including patient records.”