Tips for Hiring an IT Professional for your Dental Practice

In Innovation by Dental Entrepreneur

As the leader of a healthcare technology company providing services that help dental practices communicate information to payers more efficiently and securely—and with many years in the business—I’ve developed a certain knack for understanding the technology needs of the modern practice. Practices seek software solutions to make their business lives easier. Software is designed and sold in similar fashion: to streamline workflows, eliminate needless tasks, enhance security and remove inefficiencies and obsolescence.

Many voices contribute to the conversation about how much and what type of technology a practice needs, not to mention how a practice should use that technology. There are far fewer conversations about the resources—employees—a practice must use to implement, manage and care for the technology. Most dental practices, especially smaller ones, don’t have time or resources to manage IT without some outside guidance because they are primarily focused on the delivery of care. The hiring process for new employees for such roles is often overwhelming and sometimes gets rushed along.

When hiring, you need to keep in mind the basic requirements of the position while also thinking beyond just the basics. Ask questions to test the forward-thinking abilities of the candidate. Anyone who works in IT should have a basic knowledge of information technology terms and protocols, but not everyone has the vision for how what they do can impact the business in which they work. With technology driving so many of the revenue streams in today’s dental practices, it’s critical that your IT team has ideas and experience to help maximize revenue while eliminating old technology and processes holding back the practice.

Ask if the candidate is aware of the trends currently taking place in the dental industry. The candidate should have in-depth knowledge of the relationship between IT and HIPAA compliance and how best to secure your practice’s data. It’s your responsibility to extrapolate that information and make sure the candidate you hire knows not only technology, but also the special requirements of the dental industry. A candidate’s understanding of the laws around data security is something you should discuss in-depth.

Next, make sure that the candidate has people and technical skills. It’s inevitable that IT will be called upon at some point to provide advice and assistance to individuals throughout your practice and that those individuals may have varying levels of technical expertise. Whomever you hire needs to have knowledge, patience and the right personality to work effectively with other team members. They must be able to develop protocols and provide guidance for such issues as a system crash or outages. How will these challenges be addressed?

Another thing to look for in candidates—other than basic credentials such as years of experience, education required and certifications needed—is interest. Do the interviewees show any real interest in the position? Do they seem to understand the landscape and the lingo needed to successfully lead the IT operations of your practice? Demonstrated knowledge means their heads and their hearts are in the game and will be on board with you to do whatever it takes to win.

Finally, dive in. Get into the meat of the interview by providing relevant questions that help extrapolate the candidates’ information and demonstrate how they would handle certain situations, under a deadline, when needed.

Consider having the candidate list or draw out what they’d like to establish in the organization’s IT infrastructure, or even have them submit a proposal prior to a job offer so you can review the information with advisors to determine if the plan, and employee, are up to your expectations. Test the candidate with a real-world example your practice is currently taking on now. Ask for examples of their previous work and what they have done. What do they consider their specialty: security, implementation, maintenance, etc.?

And remember that a friendly personality is just as important for someone who doesn’t work directly with patients as it is for those who are 100-percent patient-facing. Just because your IT service professional won’t be chair-side caring for patients, there’s still a good chance that they’ll interact with patients at some level.

Do not succumb too quickly to the need of filling the vacancy. Don’t rush to add an employee simply to fill a gap; hiring the wrong person will only exacerbate problems in the long-run. If during the interview process you need a little support or assistance, consider bringing in someone from the outside who understands IT terminology and techniques. They can help you objectively identify potential disconnects between a candidate’s resume and his or her actual experience, qualifications and accomplishments.

Lindy Benton is CEO and president of Vyne, a provider of secure healthcare communications, electronic attachment and health information exchange solutions for hospitals and dental practices. Vyne serves more than one million providers in the U.S.