Enterprise Dental Analytics – The Devil is in the Detail

Ever heard the saying “Data is the new oil”? Although this saying may not be practically accurate, it highlights the importance of data in today’s digital world. We generate data with every digital activity, every day. To put things in perspective, the amount of data in the world at the end of 2020 was 44 Zettabytes (1 Zettabyte = 1012 Gigabytes). Around the globe, 306.4 billion emails are sent every day, while 500 million tweets are created.

Today, every industry generates a vast amount of data each day and relies on the analysis of that data to observe historical trends as well as to forecast and create strategies for the future. The independent practice owners of the Australian dental industry are now starting to incorporate data analytics into their business strategy. At the same time, the rest of the world, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other European countries had long considered dental practice data a valuable business commodity.

However, the Australian corporate dental groups identified the need for analytics years ago and have invested millions in creating bespoke data warehouses to leverage data analytics to create business strategies to become data-driven organisations. The industry data analytics show that various corporate groups achieved success in using data and analytics to various degrees. While data warehouses that aggregate individual practice data have successfully created the big picture, the biggest challenge these organisations face today is the loss of granularity and thus not being able to measure the performance of dental practices as data ecosystems in their own right.

Data aggregation often results in the standardisation of data. Standardised data points can only paint a high-level picture of an individual dental business. A common example of this would be marketing ROI. The example below illustrates how the individual advertising efforts of two dental practices get standardised and lose each business’s granularity and individuality.

Practice A – Advertising efforts in a given period

  • Local community newspaper
  • Advertising at the local carnival
  • Local community service board
  • Sunday market
  • Primary school

Practice B – Advertising efforts in a given period

  • Local radio
  • Local RSL
  • Community business group
  • Real estate agent
  • Local shopping centre

It is not practical to collect data for each advertising medium listed above when aggregating data for over 50 dental practices. Therefore, all the advertising sources would typically get categorised into one or two main categories, such as Advertising or Local Area Marketing. The challenge here is that if one were to delve deep into the effectiveness of all the advertising efforts by one practice and calculate the Return On Investment (ROI), it would not be possible with the level of detail available at the data warehouse level.

How can we get the best of both worlds? The data warehouse driven insights help formulate overall strategies for the enterprise, the level of detail in those insights does not help create practice level business strategies.

There are two ways to gather detailed practice-level insights in this case.

  1. Create data pipelines in the data warehouse that can standardise data for high-level needs while curating data pipelines that carry detailed information with no standardisation.
  2. Deploy a third-party Business Intelligence platform that can provide granular level insights while the standard data warehouse provides the high-level insights.

Each approach has pros and cons, such as development, maintenance and software subscription costs and various complexities in the workflows. A thorough analysis must be conducted to determine the most suitable approach for today and for years to come.

Every dental practice must be considered a self-contained ecosystem, financially, socially, and clinically. True success can only be achieved by analysing each practice at its operational level – the devil is in the detail.


About the Author

Sean Perera has 18 years of experience in the Australian Dental Information System industry and currently works as the Product Manager for Centaur’s flagship products, Dental4Windows and Dental4Web. Sean holds a Bachelor of Applied Science from RMIT University and a Master of Business Administration from Swinburne University. 

Sean is a passionate data analyst who loves everything data. Sean spends most of his time doting on his little daughter Amelia outside work.