Chief Information and Business Solutions Officer
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Dentistry was founded in 1893 in Richmond, Virginia. As the only dental school in the state, it plays a vital role in preserving and improving the oral and general health communities throughout the state. Functioning much like an academic hospital training dentists, dental hygienists and residents specialising in various aspects of dentistry, the school is home to a robust, fully specialised dental practice that treats more than 32,000 patients each year through 100,000 plus appointments.
As dentistry evolves to increasingly rely on advanced technologies for patient care, the information technology team at VCU School of Dentistry is critical to carrying out the school’s mission and serving the oral health needs of Virginia’s communities. Led by Brian Canaday (Chief Information and Business Solutions Officer), Mike Talley, (Director of Application Development, Infrastructure, and Business Intelligence), and Brent Idleman (Director of Clinical and Instructional Technologies), the IT team is quick to point out that the school is a unique environment that blends education with patient care, allowing the flexibility and guardrails needed to let technological innovation thrive.
Prior to his current role, Canaday started out teaching and coaching in public schools. He closely observed the leadership traits and tools used by administration and athletic coaches before deciding he wanted to learn more about information technology. He returned to VCU to get his masters degree, which eventually started him off in a career in IT that led to his current position.
At VCU School of Dentistry, Canaday has pursued a philosophy centred around team building, culture and relationships with stakeholders. He hired Idleman, a former music teacher with a keen interest in technology, to lead efforts supporting the use of instructional technologies in classrooms and clinics. Talley, a former webmaster at the school, was recruited back to an elevated role in charge of the applications and infrastructure the school and its dental practices rely upon.
“One thing you’ll notice is quite a few of us come from teaching backgrounds. This was intentional, because a teacher’s ultimate goal is to master their subject so they can effectively teach it to others,” said Idleman. “Next we began working on our relationships with faculty, staff and students, and inserting ourselves in committees and workgroups where it made sense. They are our clients, and we need to understand each one individually. Sometimes, we also get the opportunity to interact and support our patients to truly appreciate the technology’s impact.”
The team points to projects involving vendors LM Dental, IP Data Systems, Intiveo, Medicorp Imaging and VCU’s central Technology Services unit as examples of successfully merging stakeholder needs with internal and external vendor solutions.
Prior to working with LM Dental to install Planmeca cabinets that students, faculty and staff could use to check out clinical supplies and materials, the school relied upon a complex and resource intensive process of physically checking out and tracking equipment. Now, people can simply swipe their ID badges, grab what they need, and it will automatically be tracked throughout the school, providing valuable information about the equipment’s use and lifespan.
Relationships with IP Data Systems and VCU Technology Services drive the school’s hybrid infrastructure. Talley explains that for the processes that they do well, they kept resources on premise, while they relied on the cloud to facilitate other technologies.
“It was never an all or nothing approach, we carefully considered the needs of the school and built processes that provide the most reliability while facilitating the immense technology and data requirements of a large, complex dental practice.”
The approach paid dividends during the COVID-19 pandemic, where historical investments in virtual infrastructure allowed the flexibility needed for remote work and learning.
As a result of the pandemic’s disruption, the team saw an opportunity to reduce front-office workloads by engaging with Intiveo for a number of patient communications needs, including appointment reminders and scheduling for existing patients.
“It’s about the people and the processes, and also the data created in each area. When you combine the data with relationships built on communications and understanding, you can accomplish incredible things and bring a lot of value to the table,” said Canaday.
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