How to Build the Right Tech Stack for Your Practice or DSO

modern practice podcast

On this episode of The Modern Practice Podcast, host Gary Tiratsuyan welcomes Michelle Dowling, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Rectangle Health, back to the show.

Michelle recently wrote an article called “How to build the right tech stack for your practice or DSO.” In it, Michelle shares five ways to build the best tech stack for your practice.

1. Figure out what you already have — and what you need.

2. Include all stakeholders.

3. Expect a return on investment.

4. Establish a trial protocol.

5. Evaluate outcomes.

During the show, Michelle goes into the common challenges faced by practices and how taking her 5-step approach will solve the challenges of today, and future proof your practice or organization.

Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.

Read parts 1 and 2 of Michelle Dowling’s series on building the right tech stack for your practice or DSO.


Gary Tiratsuyan 00:22

Welcome to the Modern Practice Podcast, everyone. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for all the support this year. And I’m really excited to share that because of all of you, the show has reached new heights faster than we could have ever imagined. So, thank you so much. We’ve got another great episode in store for you today. No stranger to the show, I’m happy to welcome back Michelle Dowling, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Rectangle Health. Michelle, thank you, as always for taking the time. I love when we have a chance to connect and chat.

Michelle Dowling 00:51

So do I, Gary. Thank you. It’s always a pleasure to jump on to the podcast. Thanks for inviting me.

Tools & Technology

Gary Tiratsuyan 00:57

Pleasure’s all mine. Let’s dive in. I want to start by looking into a recent article you wrote on how to build the right tech stack for your practice or DSO. I read it, and read it again. And once more after that, because the perspective and advice you gave on adopting or onboarding software at a practice or DSO really can be applied across all industries. And by the way, for our listeners, I’ll have a link to that article in the episode description for you all to check that out. So, in that article, you mentioned that the choices a provider or larger organization makes regarding which tools and technology to use have significant downstream effects. Can you get into some of them?

Michelle Dowling 01:39

Of course, Gary. And first, I want to mention that it was great to be part of the Women in DSO annual event, Empower and Grow. I had the opportunity to moderate that panel specifically that inspired that article. And companies that were on the panel with me really explained how to build a tech stack. For healthcare organizations in great detail. I learned a lot and realized just how much companies that offer software solutions have in common.

So, as we are talking about adopting technology, at the practice level, there is a significant downstream effect. We’re talking about the practice, but also the staff, providers and patient levels. So, organizations that are challenged today to create a stack that works at each one of these levels, really need to ensure that it’s not burdensome, or underutilized and worse, I think, is not utilized at all. So, underutilization or not utilizing it causes issues. Because, in truth, we’ve invested energy, time and finances in order to find it, implement it and train it. So, we don’t want that to go unused.

And no organization today can thrive without implementing software solutions. I recently read a report from Capterra that said small and midsize businesses are using 73 apps on average, while large organizations are using about 129. So, from back office to front office, from technology needs to operating all sorts of areas of the organization and practice, their needs are great. But determining this mix of tools that actually improve operations and weed out inefficiencies—this is what it means to make up a tech stack.

Common Business Needs for Dental Practices

Gary Tiratsuyan 03:30

That’s a ton of applications, and I’m definitely going to get back to that. But first I want to ask, when vetting out a solution, what are some of the most common business needs a practice or DSO should consider? And I ask because I feel like, and I know you do based on the article you wrote, that you should look at your organization holistically and not silo a single problem or pain point.

Michelle Dowling 03:54

I think this is one of the biggest cliches that we hear when we say, “Look at the whole organization.” Sometimes it’s really hard to do that. But I think creating an effective tech stack is inherent to doing so. You need to consider what types of tools are needed, what processes will benefit from the automation, and will the tools be the right fit in the long run. And most importantly, will they work together?

So most importantly to start, you have to determine what processes need to be automated. And I really think that by observing the staff and looking at day-to-day processes, you can see areas of friction and inefficiencies where processes break down or slow down. Or where there are multiple signoffs, approvals, or handoffs. Among the processes, which ones are too lengthy? Which ones can be simplified? Are there redundancies that don’t add a lot of value to a process and are there bottlenecks?

And I think that the staff is probably the best to know and inform the decision-makers on where this happens and where we can easily find efficiency. So, one of the most critical aspects to this approach is to identify them, and really look for the high cost of error, and the higher rates of human error due to the complexity or those that depend on documentation. And we can’t underestimate some of the friction comes from legacy systems. The legacy systems are big and sometimes have not updated or have more cloud-based solutions, they become expensive, and they become clunky in the process. So, these are the things that companies and organizations can do, that are holistic, but also make it very specific to find the right places to implement technology.

Gary Tiratsuyan 06:00

I love that. And getting back to that siloed approach, you touched on this again in your article, a common approach is layering technology over technology. And that’s obviously evident in the stats, you shared upwards of 129 applications for a larger organization and 73 for SMBs. We connected offline before this episode, and you had a great analogy referencing phone apps. Can you share what that was, and why it just doesn’t work long term?

Michelle Dowling 06:31

Of course, so we can better understand what it means to build a tech stack when we think about how we use technology in our own personal lives. So, I remember when we first got our iPhones that we used specific features, the phone, text and maybe an internet search. But today, we use it to play music to shop, order groceries, access bank accounts, and so, so much more. I believe healthcare organizations who utilize tech are in a very similar situation, right? They’ve used that legacy practice management system for very specific clinical things, and maybe bolted on things like patient payments. But now they’re using similar technologies and, and bringing in software to order supplies, account for inventory, do accounting and payroll. And like what we do it Rectangle Health—send text communications, offer patient financing, all things to create more efficient processes, but also to make things flow smoothly from an operational administration and financial perspective. So, one of the things that we just want to make sure we avoid is that investment of time and resources to implement technology that isn’t being used and is just wasteful.

The Benefits of Single Sign-On

Gary Tiratsuyan 07:50

I love that and like, I might have to go through my phone and delete some of those apps that I downloaded early on, for sure. I’m just thinking the more systems you have, and given the high employee turnover rate and staffing shortages, it becomes difficult to keep operations running smoothly when a new team member has to learn three, four or five different platforms or 73 129, like you mentioned. I just can’t get over those numbers. I was recently joined by James Swan on the show, and he spoke about a buzzword in healthcare right now—single sign-on. The idea of utilizing one platform to do it all. In the article you published mentioned utilizing a platform that can cover everything from payments to compliance through reminders and scheduling and financing. Can you get into the benefits of going this route beyond not having to learn multiple systems?

Michelle Dowling 08:45

Absolutely. And I think I think the one way I look at it is it’s becoming part of an ecosystem, whereby you have the practice management system, and then you layer on this very compatible, very useful continuation of the software. And what that does for you—and there are a few things to consider—is it should have a level of customization. Software is beautiful that way. It creates this platform to help you ensure that you’re using tools that pertain to your business requirements. And with that, you can scale.

So, as your healthcare practice grows, or your clinic grows in size, as you add on more providers, as you grow into more geographic locations, you absolutely will have more data to manage. So, when you create when you utilize one platform, you can have the ability to scale and accommodate your growing needs. And that leads into integration. So, the tools in your tech stack should facilitate a full integration. It should create a seamless data exchange or flow between the stack and the practice management system, allowing it to flow cohesively. And all of that means a high return on investment. This means productivity and profitability. So, not just looking at it purely from a revenue perspective, but then your staff is working more productively smoothly creating a better experience for your patient.

Must-Follow Steps to Building the Right Technology Stack

Gary Tiratsuyan 10:21

All of that speaks to longevity or adaptability, taking on change, whether it be another economic challenge, or hopefully not another COVID outbreak or something like that. But it speaks to that true longevity, and what a practice or an organization could face in the long term too. So, it’s really important. And I keep going back to the piece you wrote; it really stuck with me. You gave five must-follow steps to building the right technology stack that again, apply to healthcare, but all industries and I have them memorized at this point. But can you share them with our listeners who may not have had a chance to read them yet?

Michelle Dowling 11:05

I’m happy to and I got some great engagement. And so I’ll focus on some of the key points that I heard from some folks when I when we published that article. So, the first one is, really and truly, to think about what you already have and what you need. So, going back to the point about surveying your staff, watching the process flow happen in real time. If you do this, it’s those complex and friction-build areas that you can aggregate and make sure that’s what you’re focused in on. Your staff is going to know the strengths and pain points.

So, talking to them, and including them as a stakeholder. That’s number two. When I think about when we interact with practices and organizations, we have users of the software, and then we have decision-makers. So, both need to be included. The office managers and staff see a very different side of the business than the practitioners. And as users of the tech stack, staff is the most familiar with workflow and process. So, we want to make sure that the tech is making their jobs easier and more efficient. So, finding out from them where they run into trouble—that’s an important point. We’ve heard specifically, and you can read some of our case studies, when the dentist or doctors turn to their staff and say, “I hear you, I’m going to help,” that just brings a very different level of staff morale to the practice. And the benefits are definitely felt throughout not only the practice, but to the patient level.

I also think number three, if you’re trying to reduce friction, that means that you’re going to see operational flow. If you’re looking to reduce balances in AR, you will see and should see an increase in cash flow. So, the investments that you’re making should have a payoff. And each software that you choose should align with an important business outcome. Once again, the practice managers are invaluable resources to uncovering what’s possible from a return-on-investment period.

Gary Tiratsuyan 13:16

I think including all stakeholders is right at the top of my priority list.

Michelle Dowling 13:28

Yeah, the one that I found most interesting that people thought about when we published the article was establishing a trial protocol—the fourth one. And to me, that was the most surprising. Because when we think about rolling out new tools, you often think that you’ve got to train everybody in the staff. And they’re expected to do that immediately and put it into place for it to work well. And I believe that if you think about maybe a trial run, so that you actually train people who can train others, then you can see what’s working and what doesn’t. So, you can ferret out some of those pain points potentially or are fixed processes before you roll it out office wide. I think that was an important key factor. That was number four, and that one I think people picked up on.

And the last one was to truly to evaluate the outcomes. I think one of the things that we underestimate is when we put things into place to make improvements, we don’t often go back to the original goal and say, “Yes, we’ve solved it.” We don’t look back on the data inputs and say, “Wow, it’s really changed the business to go from here to there.” And I often think about one of our case studies that said it’s just better. And it was great to hear that because I want people to feel like when you implement technology that things become better. But I think it’s also really important and responsible to think about how it’s done that and if it’s done its job. So, I’m excited about those five key things, too. I hope they’re helpful to the audience and to people who are thinking about implementing new technology.

Gary Tiratsuyan 15:08

Yeah, absolutely. Great insights again. And just a reminder, check out part one of Michelle’s two-part series, “How to Build the Right Tech Stack for Your Practice or DSO.” If you haven’t had a chance, it’s brilliant, with easy to follow steps to make sure you’re onboarding the right tech based on your needs, and the needs of your staff. Also, just a reminder, part two is coming out soon. Sneak peek there, but be sure to subscribe so you can receive an alert when it’s officially out. Michelle, before we wrap up, what else you have going on in the near future? And how can listeners connect with you?

Michelle Dowling 15:45

Thank you, Gary. As we develop our platform here at Rectangle Health, we want to continue to educate healthcare professionals and make sure they understand how to ensure these tools make sense for their practices. And organizations such as Women in DSO, they also serve to educate the industry. So, you’ll find me working to create partnerships and relationships that support these initiatives, ultimately, helping providers and their staff focus and spend time with patients not chasing paperwork, or working overtime, on manual processes.

As a sneak peek to what’s coming, I have the pleasure of incorporating some of the panelists’ point of view into the next article, including what’s motivated them to change and create technology so that it is focused on what clients and the industry needs. The article is focused though on what to look for in a partnership as you consider implementing new technology to ensure a good long-term fit. So, if any of the listeners have questions, or just want to chat about their tech stack, I’m happy to do so. Let’s connect on LinkedIn. And you can message me at anytime.

Gary Tiratsuyan 16:49

Amazing, I can’t wait for that second half of that article. Michelle, thank you so much. I’ll be sure to include a link to your profile in the episode description as well. And the link to the Women in DSO site. They’re doing a ton of great work there. Michelle is heavily involved with them. And I encourage you all to listen. Learn more about that awesome organization as well. Thank you again so much for taking the time to join me. Looking forward to doing this again real soon, Michelle.

Michelle Dowling 17:17

Absolutely, Gary. Thank you. Supporting organizations to select the right technology truly can be the difference between empowering teams to move through their day with ease, rather than bogging them down with tools that don’t support them. So, we’re happy to help.

Gary Tiratsuyan 17:30

Thanks again, Michelle, for listeners tuning in. If you enjoyed today’s episode, like, subscribe, leave us a review on Spotify, and let us know how we’re doing and what you’d like to hear covered on future episodes of the Modern Practice Podcast. Your feedback is always appreciated. Until next time, everybody.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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