How to Break into the Dental IT and Integration Market

Dental ITFinding a niche for your managed IT services can be tricky – but one Calyptix partner has found great success in the dental IT market.

C.J. Ezell, Founder and CEO of PointClear Networks, has been active in the dental market since at least 2003. Headquartered in Fairhope, AL, his company provides managed IT services, telecommunications services, and cloud solutions throughout the U.S.

Ezell spoke recently at the ASCII Success Summit in Columbus, saying dental integration is a great market for MSPs and VARs to break into. We sat down with him to learn more.

Why focus on dental IT?

Sizeable market

  • The U.S. has more than 200,000 practicing dentists, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. California alone has more than 31,000.

Regular technology refresh cycles

Dental practices update their hardware for several reasons, Ezell said:

  •  Regulations such as HIPAA require all systems to be updated and maintained. So when an operating system reaches end of life (such as Windows XP), dentists have to upgrade to newer versions to stay compliant.
  • This leads us to the second reason: minimum system requirements. New operating systems and software bring new hardware demands, and that often means new machines are needed.

The same goes for when a dentist wants to improve tools such as practice management software, digital imaging software, or other business applications. Oftentimes these solutions have requirements beyond the client's current hardware and new systems need to be purchased.

Healthy cash flow

  • Dentists are not like a mom-and-pop pizza shops. They generate large amounts of money, and a portion of that revenue has to be reinvested in technology to keep the office up to date with the generally accepted standard of care.

Tons of dental technology to integrate

Dental IT

Think dentists don’t have much technology? Think again. The modern dental office is loaded with a growing list of expensive, high-tech equipment.

Here are just a few examples of dental tech:

  • Intra-oral cameras
  • Dental imaging technology
  • Intraoral x-ray devices, digital radiology
  • 3D imaging technology
  • Examination rooms often have multiple monitors and PCs

More often than not, these systems require integration with a PC, the client’s network, or both. Many also need new hardware, such as a server or network storage system, to function.

Advanced devices, such as 3D technology, are becoming more common and are on the cusp of becoming part of the dental industry’s standard of care.

Look for add-on services

Now you’re probably saying, “Is a dentist going to call me to provide a $100,000 3D imaging solution? I don’t think so.” And right you are.

Dentists typically buy these devices from dental dealers but often do not get a complete solution. The device may need additional equipment to function or integrate with the office’s operations-- that's where you jump in!

For example, some 3D imaging solutions have reconstruction software (the system that actually constructs the data into an image) but not the hardware. Ezell will get the manufacturer’s specifications to build a reconstruction system for his clients, he said.

In another example, some solutions are not able to archive the images they create, which is an opportunity for PointClear to provide a storage solution.

Try leasing dental IT tech

Dental ITDental technology can be expensive, so many doctors will finance large purchases and make payments over a number of years.

The problem with this approach, Ezell says, is the machines may need to be replaced before the client has finished paying the bill. That’s why Ezell has transitioned into leasing his equipment.

“We really push leasing with our clients. We say, ‘why should a doctor spend 40 or 50 thousand on computers that in a few years won’t be worth $100 each?’”

Match the lease and warranty

Ezell makes this work by matching the length of the lease to the length of the manufacturer’s hardware warranty.

So if PointClear leases to clients on a three-year term, Ezell ensures the hardware has at least a three-year warranty to keep surprise out-of-pocket expenses to a minimum.

“It works out really well, and we know that every 36 months we’re going to put in a new network at that office. The machine is always under warranty and the doctor doesn’t have to worry.”

Know the dentist’s suppliers

Ezell’s biggest piece of advice to break into dental IT and dental integration is to know the suppliers. The market includes national suppliers, regional, and even smaller-scale suppliers for things like cotton swabs and other consumables.

The consumables reps can be your ticket into the office, said Ezell.

“Those are the guys you need to build a relationship with because they can get you in through the back door instead of the front door.”

Have a trusted rep introduce you to a doctor. This can quickly build trust in your services and shorten the sales cycle.

Finding the right dental suppliers

How do you find these guys? If you have any dental clients, you can ask who their reps are. If you don’t, another approach is to keep your eyes open when you stop by dental offices because reps stop by all the time.

“I would be in offices and I’d see the same sales reps over and over again,” said Ezell.

It’s also important to know the key national dental technology suppliers and the regional ones. You can find them by looking for lists of dealers on manufacturer’s websites. Just search “dental dealers list” in Google.

JS Dental Manufacturing has a great example: dental dealers list.

A few dealers are listed below as examples:

National dental suppliers:

Regional dental suppliers:

Learn the dentist’s lingo

You will of course need to understand the terms related to dental technology. You can go to industry presentations in your area and read online resources. Once you have a few dental clients, they can be your best source of information.

One of Ezell’s clients allowed him to shadow the doctor in the office for a few hours. This helped him better understand the different pieces of technology and see first-hand how they fit the office’s operations.

“It works out for both you and the client because you’re able to see how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together, and by doing that you can give the client better service,” said Ezell.

Related resources

HIPAA Compliance for IT Providers: Top 5 questions

HIPAA 2015: Expect more attacks, enforcement, and lawsuits

Written by Calyptix

 - April 7, 2015

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