Advice Tips

Thinking About Cloud Computing? What questions should you be asking and why. – Part 11

Cloud Computing - Is the Imaging Application any GoodIs the Imaging Application any Good?

Often the decision to change to a Cloud based Practice Management Application (PM App) is made without considering if you will need to change your Imaging Application.   Perhaps you use Dolphin Imaging or Vistadent.  Will your choice in PM App cause you abandon a tool you may like?

Ask if their Cloud PM App includes an Imaging App?   Does it cost extra?   I believe most of the solutions include a Cloud based Imaging App.

Is the Imaging App any good?

If they include one, does it have the same modules and features as what you are using now?   For example, can it do Ceph tracings?  Does it have the analysis(s) you use for your treatment planning?   What about other features like treatment simulations, example libraries or whatever other features you like?  Now is the time to find out before you make the switch.

How are Photo Images uploaded?

PhotosThis presents a challenge that all the Cloud solutions need to deal with.  They have to get the images from your Digital Camera all the way to the Cloud server so you can see them.   The vendors all have solutions, but you should ask how it works so you can learn if you will need to adapt your Records protocol in anyway.  It’s usually pretty simple.

How are X-Rays uploaded?

TWAINThe challenge is similar to the Photos process.   If your X-Ray system is Digital and supports the universal TWAIN standard most vendors will use this process and capture the X-Rays directly.   If you have a non-TWAIN compatible device or prefer to Capture your Digital x-rays using the native software, you can just export and upload the x-ray image as a JPEG same as a Digital Photo.   The same processes would hold if you have a non-digital x-ray system and you use a flatbed scanner.

Will an Imaging Data conversion be necessary?

Data ConvesionIf you are going to have to change Imaging Apps, it may be necessary to go through a data conversion if you plan to move your existing Imaging to the Cloud.  You probably have a few options here:

  • Start fresh with no patient images in the Cloud.   Don’t convert your old images to the Cloud, and continue to use your existing local Imaging App as an ‘Archive’ of old patient data.  This might require you to keep the software under support, may need a server and might negate many of the advantages that compelled you to move to the Cloud.  I’m not fond of this approach since it leads to your data being spread out everywhere and increases the complexity of your network.  Your staff won’t like this approach either since they will be looking in two places for information.
  • Have the Vendor convert your existing images to the Cloud.  There are a few things you need to check though:
    • Do they actually have the ability to convert from your existing Imaging program?  Most of the major vendors can convert from most of the other major vendors, but you should confirm they can do yours.
    • Will their conversion convert all of the information?  All of them can get the simple photo and 2D x-rays, but what about the more difficult information like:
      • Ceph Tracings (many can’t)
      • 3D CBCT Images (many can’t)
      • Treatment Simulations (many can’t)
    • You may be forced to leave this valuable information behind in the conversion, so this is something to consider.
    • Is there a charge for the conversion?   This is not always included and may represent an additional cost.

Several Vendors that have a traditional PM App solution and a Cloud based PM App solution might be able to merely move your existing Imaging data to the Cloud and you have little or no change to go through with learning a new program.  This might be a significant benefit to you and is something to weigh into the decision for a PM App if you are considering several options.

A final question you could ask is if the Cloud based PM App can just integrate with your existing traditional local Imaging Application and spare you any change in this area.    A few of them can in certain circumstances, so it’s worth asking if you situation would be one of them.

3D Cone Beam CT (CBCT) Data

IMAGING PORTFOLIO_Page_04If you use CBCT data as part of your treatment planning process, this might be an additional wrinkle in the Cloud based Imaging App discussion.   If you don’t have a CBCT, might you in the next five years?  Ask the vendor if they can support CBCT data in their Cloud based Imaging App.

This is VERY challenging for them since CBCT files can be 100 times larger than a Pan or Photo, so data uploads to the Cloud take much longer.  Those that can support it will have a protocol for you to follow, ask about it.

If they have a solution and you plan to convert your existing Imaging data, will the 3D data convert?

If they don’t offer a complete solution that includes 3D support, this may require you to purchase and maintain a Server and fancy workstations to be able to work with the 3D data, negating much of the cost savings for a Cloud solution.

I think the Imaging App is a critical part of most Practices workflow, so you should put as much effort into evaluating it as the PM App component.  Hopefully the questions above will be useful in that process.

In this multi-part series I am trying to help educate you to the issues surrounding the issues of Cloud based solutions offered by Dental Practice Management software companies. By arming you with the questions to ask and the context behind them you should be empowered to better evaluate the products and how they would benefit your Practice. You can find a link to all the Parts of the Series back on the Index in Part 1.

Up Next in Part 12 of the Series I will be asking What about Patient Education Applications?

MME TechnicianIf you need a little help with your Practice, this is what MME Consulting does. Just give us a call at 866-419-1102 or check us out online at

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By Steve McEvoy

Car Guy, Nerd, Canadian hiding in California