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How to design a custom security system for your dental practice


Although you can follow all the mandated HIPAA standards, leaving one small crack in your dental practice's physical security can open the door for a cyber security breach.

Customization is key when it comes to security systems. If a security vendor offers a plan without conducting a comprehensive walk-through of every room of your dental practice, show him or her the door.

Yes, every business needs a security system, but no two have the same requirements, even within the same field. Jewelers are concerned about their valuable inventory. Banks have cash vaults and safe deposit boxes to worry about, but dental practices answer to a higher authority: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which mandates the protection of patients’ medical information.

Physical security and data breaches

Although you can follow all the mandated HIPAA standards, leaving one small crack in your office's physical security can open the door for a cyber security breach. According to the California Attorney General's “2016 California Data Breach Report,” half of the data breaches in health care settings, including dental practices, stem from physical breaches in which computers are stolen. It is significant to note that this is true only in the health care world. While data breaches are rampant in other industries, such as retail and finance, only 17 percent involve physical removal of the device storing the data.

With this in mind, it is wise to consider the recommendations put forth by one of the report’s contributors:

Use metal cables to lock computers and storage devices to heavy furniture.

Use metal plates to bolt them to underlying surfaces.

Keep computers containing sensitive data in cages or lock boxes.

RELATED: Dental practices targeted by cyber ransom attacks

Consider the special needs of a dentist's office

Before calling any security company representatives, make a list of areas that require extra protection. If you use nitrous oxide, the tanks can attract thieves in search of a recreational high, as can the more obvious - painkillers and needles in your inventory. Therefore, all storage and treatment rooms will need special attention, as will your reception area and back office where your computer and electronic medical records are stored.

Security wish list

There are some pretty amazing security systems available, if your budget permits. Some comprehensive systems control lighting as well as manage heat, air conditioning, and ventilation. Plus, they can be programmed to power down office equipment according to your schedule. Some even monitor equipment access.

Thanks to advances in technology, you now have many new and exciting options when it comes to fitting cabinets and files with electronic keyless locks. Access can be limited to authorized staff, each with his or her unique means of identity verification, be it password, RFID or magnetic strip device, fingerprint, or even new biometric identification technology such as retinal scanning. These systems also connect to your computer network and record the date, time of entry, and length of time the lock was disengaged.

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Selecting a partner in your security

Now that you have a list of the needs particular to your facility, select at least three reputable security service providers in your area. It may be helpful to ask other dental practices for recommendations. Include your business manager in the presentation, since he or she will need to know about fees, installation costs, warranties, and possible penalties incurred for false alarms. Basics to be discussed should include:

Crime made up a lot of our top news stories of 2015. Check them out here.

Video surveillance with remote smartphone access

In addition to immediate notification of designated staff, this will allow determination of whether the system was tripped by an intruder or an employee who forgot something or came in early to catch up on work.

Connection of the in-office security system to the company's central monitoring station

Make sure the vendor does not intend to use your phone line, since one of the first things burglars do is cut all land lines. A cellular connection is a better option since it cannot be cut. Broadband is also preferable and can send a notification four times faster than a landline, but it is not as reliable as cellular.

Smoke and heat sensors

While necessary in any building, commercial or residential, these are of paramount importance in a dental practice where tanks of oxygen and nitrous oxygen can explode and destroy not only your building, but even the whole block. Make sure the system includes a sensor in every room, all connected to the monitoring system, so the fire department can be summoned immediately

Password management

Make sure the system allows for easy additions when new staff is hired, and deletions when staff leaves.


When selecting a company, make sure one of its reps will conduct a training session.

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Make sure all staff attends, even if it means blocking time on the appointment calendar. It is of prime importance that everyone feels confident in their ability to arm and disarm the system. After all, a disarmed security system is the same as no security system at all.

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