There are several quick and easy technologies available to help you update your office without breaking the bank. Two of my personal favorites are thin clients and dual screens. I believe that the thin client workstation is the most underappreciated and underutilized tool in many people’s IT toolbox. A thin client is a mini-computer about the size of a paperback book that depends on an external server to perform its computations. Most of us are used to working on fat clients, which is simply another name for a personal computer that does all of its own computations. Simply put, if a fat client was to lose its network connection it could still function on its own, but if a thin client loses its network connection, it is dead. Why would you want a mini-computer that can’t function without a network connection? Two words: cost & scalability. Thin clients cost half as much as a traditional computer and due to their size can be placed just about anywhere. Because they take their orders from a central server, they can be swapped out with ease and don’t require reprogramming. Adding workstations becomes easy instead of a chore and allows you to scale your practice upwards as it grows. I personally use Wyse (now owned by Dell) thin clients and link them to my primary server using Microsoft’s Terminal Services. The latest thin clients even contain graphics cards which allow you to support multiple monitors and 3D imaging software. The capabilities of thin clients have slowly blossomed under the radar and should be considered by any orthodontist looking to add workstations.
The idea of dual screens may seem simple but it’s vastly underutilized within orthodontic offices. Though there is a period of adjustment the efficiency and productivity of your team members will increase once they begin using dual monitors at their workstations. Though many offices have placed dual monitors in their doctor’s personal office they sometime underestimate the benefits of equipping their administrative and clinical teams with the same technology. Having the ability to keep imaging software up on one screen and management software up on another is indispensable in my mind. Most computers and thin clients support dual screens and those that don’t can be easily retrofitted to support them using an inexpensive PCI card. There’s also no reason to settle for just two monitors. If two is good, then at some workstations, three or four screens may be even better.