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OLAP + OLTP: Turning Dental Analytics Into Action

March 2, 2023 | 3 min read

You understand the power of data analytics and are ready to incorporate it into your dental practice to improve cost-efficiency, profitability, and patient experience.

But choosing the right tools for the job can be challenging, especially if you have to decipher technical terms outside of the dental profession — such as online analytical processing (OLAP) and online transaction processing (OLTP). 

These two systems often work together to solve data problems. Here’s what they are and how you can leverage them to turn operational data into insights and use them to improve your processes.

What is OLAP?

OLAP supports multidimensional analysis using vast amounts of data to generate valuable insights. It’s ideal for data mining and complex analytics calculations. It can also support business intelligence (BI) and reporting functions such as financial analysis and budgeting.

The data typically comes from a centralized storage location (e.g., a data warehouse) that collects and standardizes information from disparate sources.

The OLAP cube is the core of an OLAP database. It's a three-dimensional model that allows users to query, analyze, and generate reports using multidimensional data. It extends the two-dimensional row-by-column format of a relational database schema to include additional data dimensions.

As such, you can understand the relationships among multiple elements in a dataset, such as location, month, patient production, and treatment type, so you can drill down to gain granular insights.

What is OLTP?

OLTP makes it possible to execute numerous database transactions requested by many users in real time over the internet. It uses a relational database, which organizes information into rows and columns, to process relatively simple financial and non-financial transactions. These include appointment scheduling, credit card payments, password changes, and automated text messages.

The purely operational function provides indexed datasets for searching, retrieving, and querying at lightning speed (i.e., in milliseconds.) OLTP allows multiple users to access the same information simultaneously without compromising data integrity. It can operate around the clock while performing constant incremental backups.

OLAP vs. OLTP: What Are the Differences?

OLAP is optimized for analytical processing, while OLTP supports transactional activities.

Data scientists, business analysts, and knowledge workers use OLAP to gain data insights. They often implement it alongside BI and data mining tools to support reporting and decision-making. On the other hand, frontline workers (e.g., front desk, hygienist) or self-service applications (e.g., online scheduling and payment) use OLTP to process and update patient information in real time.

OLAP systems extract data for complex analytics to answer queries that often involve numerous records. Meanwhile, OLTP performs simple updates, insertions, or deletions in one or a few entries. The read-intensive workloads that involve enormous datasets mean OLAP works much slower than OLTP, which carries out simple read-and-write operations using SQL.

OLAP requires data-modeling expertise and collaboration across business units. OLTP systems conduct business-critical activities, and uptime is of utmost importance. Since OLAP systems don’t modify data in real time, backup can occur less often. On the other hand, OLTP updates data frequently, so concurrent backup is ideal for maintaining data integrity. 

OLAP vs. OLTP: Which One Should You Use?

OLAP and OLTP perform different functions and have different use cases. While OLAP helps you unlock insights from vast amounts of patient and operational data, OLTP manages day-to-day transactions and database updates.

So which one should you use for your dental practice?

The answer is “both.” A practice management platform, supported by a robust data warehouse, can help you implement OLAP and OLTP to generate data insights, then turn them into efficient business processes. For example, OLTP can collect patient data to inform data analytics using OLAP. The insights can then be used to inform tactical decisions and improve business workflows through OLTP.

tab32’s Open Data Warehouse™ (ODW) works seamlessly with our trusted cloud dental software to turn operational data into insights and data-driven insights into action. 

The data warehouse collects and standardizes data from disparate sources (including our patient communication module, billing module, and EHR.) It supports machine learning models and popular BI software to generate real-time insights. You can then automate workflows like sending out incomplete treatment reminders to streamline processes and optimize revenue.

Learn more and request a demo to see ODW in action.

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