The Need for Speed

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

Twenty-eight years ago, I worked for Florida State University and I remember when the campus IT gurus hooked us up to something called the “backbone” of the internet. I had the fastest internet connection I’d ever seen at 1 Mbps (1 megabit per second or 1,000 Kbps [kilobits per second]). Crazy thing is, there was nothing to do on the internet back in those days. I’d go home and use an old school dial-up modem at a “blazing” 14.4 Kbps speed to look at my five AOL emails. I was jealous of the connection I had at the office. My, how the tables have turned. In 2020, I have a faster internet connection at my home than I do at the office. The internet of things (IoT) means almost everything at my house is connected to the internet. Who knew that my blender would need to be connected to the internet one day? Everything being connected to the internet (a tenet of IoT) requires a lot of speed and bandwidth to work.

This term bandwidth is like asking if the pipe is big enough for your data. In theory, more bandwidth equals more speed. Ever see the buffering delays? Yep, not enough bandwidth either coming or going. The same now applies to your office. Digital transformation has led to all things electronic: phone calls, practice management systems, cloud-based backups, X-rays or cone beam CT scans that need a lot of bandwidth to store, save or use, so you need to make sure your internet speed is sufficient for that need. That’s usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps). At the office, my personal usage is 120 Mbps while at home it’s more than 300 Mbps. How do I know these numbers? I don’t just rely on what my internet provider says I have. Neither should you.

Most internet providers have tiers of bandwidth plans. Whether at home or office, the concepts are the same. I recommend you test out your bandwidth. In a web browser on a computer that is “hardwired” (physically connected) to the internet, go to speedtest.net. Also test it with a device that uses Wi-Fi and see if it’s substantially different. You also can find speed test apps for phones and tablets, and internet providers may have their own incantation of a speed test. At home, my provider is Comcast and they insist I use their version. If the speed is substantially slower than the tier you’re paying for, there’s a problem. For instance, my tier is 300 Mbps. One day, I checked the performance and it consistently was less than 100 Mbps. Not good. I called them, and sure enough, there was an unreported issue and they fixed it.

Two years ago, I went to the Florida Dental Association’s (FDA) Governmental Affairs Office (GAO) and used their computers for a day. Their internet bandwidth was horrible. I investigated it and found that their internet provider was limited by what they could bring into that old downtown location. At one point, the internet cable was run through a gutter! Time for a change. We went to a different type of provider that uses a cable modem, so speed is no longer an issue. Problem solved. I’m sure you seldom think about the speed of your internet connection until you’ve used a faster one. It was that difference that tipped me off that something was wrong at GAO. For them it was “normal”— for me, it was unacceptable.

Here are three takeaways from this:

1. Find out what your internet speed is supposed to be.

Your provider needs to tell you the tier you should expect to be in. You’re looking for a number with Mbps behind it.

2. Test the speed over a series of days.

If you use one day, some providers will say it varies based on usage. Try off-peak times, for example, when the office is closed. If you’re info bytes not getting what you pay for, find out why. It could be the internet provider, your hardware, computer or network. You pay for it, so you deserve an explanation.

3. Buy all the bandwidth you can afford.

The need for bandwidth will keep growing and that growth will likely be exponential. We put a high-speed fiber connection here at the FDA that gives each person at least 120 Mbps, even in heavy usage. Our work is dependent on the internet now and that’s not likely to change. Why put in a two-lane dirt road when you’ll need an eight-lane superhighway soon? Every two years I go back to my home internet provider and they upgrade my bandwidth for free. This year they did it without me asking!

Bottom line: Make sure you’re getting what you pay for when it comes to internet speed.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, March/April 2020. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view Today’s FDA archives.

Cyberattacks: Prevention May be the Cure from Ransomware

By Robert McDermott, President/CEO, iCoreConnect

Just as you wash your hands regularly so you don’t get sick, it’s critical to adopt good habits of “digital hygiene” to prevent cyberattacks on your practice. The “illness” threatening your practice is called malware. Malware is an umbrella term for any malicious software criminals use to steal your or your patients’ data.

Ransomware, a particularly sinister malware, burrows into your system and begins encrypting all your data so you can’t access it. Then a cybercriminal holds your data for ransom, demanding you pay a hefty sum of money for them to give you access to your own files.

Just like a human virus sometimes can be undetected, malware can be in your computer system long before you realize it. By the time you see symptoms, it’s too late. Cybercriminals are continually developing sophisticated methods for infecting computers and servers without you catching on. There are two primary ways malware gets into your system and holds your practice ransom.

HACKING

Hackers secretly tap into your data by exploiting weaknesses in your IT security. Outdated, unmaintained systems often make smaller, older practices particularly easy targets. Working with a proactive team of IT experts, known as managed IT services providers (MSP), is an important layer of defense against attacks. These folks can save you money, time and headaches over the long run. They detect threats early to eliminate or reduce damage well before it gets out of hand.

A particular vulnerability is how you are using email. Only use Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc. for personal or non-patient specific messages. For anything beyond that, set up a fully HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based email system that protects your information whether it’s sitting in your inbox or sending to another doctor’s inbox. There are big differences between an encryption-only email for general security and a truly HIPAA-compliant email fulfilling every HIPAA security requirement. These requirements range from verifying recipient identity to making sure no email is altered.

PHISHING

Phishing occurs when a criminal tricks any employee into thinking something is a trustworthy source, then convinces them to click a corrupt link or provide sensitive information directly (like a credit card number). The attacker is preying on a lack of awareness on the part of you or a staff member. You must educate your whole team to recognize suspicious messages, links and questions to avoid falling victim. If the sender is unknown or claims to be your IT person, MSP or someone in your office yet asks you to click an unusual link, verify the email first with the actual person on your team.

No one is inherently immune from cyberattacks. Take action now by working with a qualified dental IT services provider to assess, boost and maintain your IT immune system. Work directly with your staff to understand what to look for and how to prevent these types of criminals from getting in the door. Healing from an attack is much more difficult and costly than preventing it in the first place.


iCoreConnect, an FDA Crown Savings merchant, specializes in comprehensive software that speeds up workflow for dentists. The FDA endorses these products from iCoreConnect: iCoreExchange HIPAA-compliant email and iCoreDental cloud-based practice management. FDA members receive substantial discounts on both products. Book a demo at icoreconnect.com/fda or call 888.810.7706.

Your Technological Legacy to Your Children and Grandchildren

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

You might imagine since I am knowledgeable about technology that at least one of my three daughters might share that gift. Sadly, that is not so. It’s not because I didn’t try to make it so. I consistently provided them with above average technology (usually my hand-me-downs, but still). Often referred to as Techno Dad, I was available to answer any and all questions about technology they had. Once again, few questions arose. Perhaps technological ability skips a generation because two of my three granddaughters have picked up technology and have done things with it that I could never have dreamed about when I was 4 or 7 years old.

Every year before school starts, many law enforcement agencies put out a list of 15 or so apps you should be concerned about that your kids might be using. Google it, it’s easy to find that list. I bet you may recognize five of those. The other 10 you’ve probably never heard of at all. The list probably scares you into checking their devices just to see.

The real question is, how much are you paying attention to what your children and grandchildren are doing with the advanced technology they have at their disposal literally from birth? Do they have limits about when, where and how often they can use the technology? I’m no medical doctor, but I hear reputable people talk about the addictive effects this technology has on children. I see it with my own eyes, and I can’t help but wonder what that will mean for them as they grow older. We’ve had the opioid crisis and I’m afraid a techno crisis is coming soon.

I’m convinced I bought my teenage daughters smartphones so they could text me from their rooms 10 feet away. I know technology is not evil unto itself. It’s a tool. But like any tool, it can be misused, so you need to keep tabs on when, how and for what purpose it’s being used. I heard Simon Sinek in a video recently say, “They are children, you can take it away.” Talk about starting World War III. So, as parents or grandparents, what are we to do? Here are three things to consider.

First, set limits when the phone can be used.

There are technological solutions to this (setting up systems that permit use during certain time frames, etc.) or there is the Sinek method and just take the phone away. However, allowing children unfettered access to technology is not the best idea even if it seems to make your life easier now.

Secondly, determine where those devices can be used.

At the dinner table? Never. School? Limited usage. In their rooms overnight? NO. Teach your children and grandchildren proper use etiquette, but realize you’ll have to adhere to that, too. No “do as I say not as I do” with this stuff.

Lastly, see what they are doing on their devices.

The best way I could do that was have all the devices funneled through one account. If my kids or grandkids wanted some app, they had to ask me to get it for them. Did I track their website usage? You bet I did. I knew when and where they went on the web. I know all the bad stuff out there. I know the horror stories of people trying to get to our kids through technology. Occasionally, I physically inspect all their devices. I pay for it, so I can have access at any time. They knew this when I entrusted them with it. I’m the parent and I have the responsibility to do my best to protect them.

Our children are too precious to imagine that Google, Facebook, Snapchat or whatever is next will look out for their best interests. That’s our job, and it’s time we start doing it.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, Jan/Feb 2021. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view Today’s FDA archives.

The Complete Guide to Starting a Dental Blog

Dog Looking at Laptop Screen

By Aimee Laurence

Nearly every business is creating a blog these days to engage with current customers and try to get new clients. How can your dental practice create a blog with content that will be SEO-friendly, engaging to clients and relevant? Read on for a full guide on getting started.

Change Your Mindset

To start, you have to change your mindset of thinking of communicating via posts, tweets and other messages as self-promotion that will annoy people or bore them. Instead, consider that you have years of experience and training and you can give people valuable information about oral health care and dental tips. This should be in the back of your mind as you start creating content.

Think of Patient Pain Points

Your ideas for content topics should come from your day-to-day experiences. Take note of the questions that patients ask frequently and the answers — all of this is material for blog posts. Any questions or concerns that are unusual also can make for interesting reading, although you need to be sure that it’s general enough to protect patient privacy. Speak with the rest of your team to get their ideas and the questions they frequently receive. Don’t worry about writing on a topic that’s already covered online; yours will have a unique perspective.

Tips for Writing the Content

At the end of the day, you do need to come up with the actual words for the content. This is the part that most people struggle with, because it’s hard to write well. Some tips are to start the introduction to the post by stating the problem. Describe the topic, problem or concern as briefly as possible. Then, give some steps that readers can take to address the problem in clear, actionable ways. Start with the best tip so that they are interested to keep reading. For help writing and editing the content, consult Boomessays and Academized.

Presenting the Content

It’s been proven many times over that a blog post, tweet or any content will get a lot more traffic when it comes with images. To get some good, relevant images for your dental blog, look at getting stock photos from a site like Unsplash. You also should be thinking outside the box to come up with creative and fun ways to showcase what you’re writing about, like animals smiling.

You also can create an infographic to show data or information in a more eye-catching and visual way. These tend to get liked and shared up to three times more than written content. You can use some easy sites to create your own infographics. As per Martin Ford, a dental blogger at Assignment Writers and Research Papers, “You can even take your own photos of your office, staff and exam rooms of the actual dental practice. This gives readers a real insight into the practice. Make sure you have signed consent from staff members before you use them in an image.”

Be SEO-friendly

Your content needs to be SEO-friendly so that it can rank higher on search results. That includes the optimal length for a title, meta descriptions and tags, and more. Laura Fields, a tech writer at Revieweal and Big Assignments, says to “Know the keywords you want and use them, by thinking about the keywords that your patients would be searching for. Include links to other websites, which will help Google rank you higher. Link within your own website as well.”

Share it

Once all of this is done, it’s time to release it and share it. You can schedule posts, so they’re released at certain times where they are more likely to be seen and read. You should be trying to get people to engage with it and share the content, so to do that, include a call to action. This can be as simple as asking people to share what they’ve read or ask for their thoughts. It’s especially helpful to end the post with a question.

Following these tips makes it easy to create a dental practice blog. Don’t forget to be consistent with your content creation so your audience knows what to expect. Happy blogging!

Aimee Laurence is a tutor who loves writing about content creation and blogging. She works for Elite Assignment Help and Essay Writing Services, where she shares with readers her top tips and tricks for SEO and boosting audience size. In her free time, she is a freelance editor at Top assignment writing.