Dental software developers must constantly consider how to allocate resources. They must decide whether to develop a new feature "inside" (i.e., integrated within their own products) or to leave it to a third party. The latter option is sometimes, but not always, quicker and requires less development investment.
Here are a few software features that illustrate how additional time and investment by a developer can benefit your practice.
Leverage your network
Software with built-in capabilities and services can have real advantages. Teamwork and productivity are boosted when appropriate business functions are shared. Here are some examples.
The patient experience and staff efficiency
A mobile app such as MacPractice Patient Check In for iPad replaces a sign-in sheet and protects the patient's identity without the "up and down" (i.e., frequent interruptions of work) otherwise required of staff in busy practices. Because of the direct connection from the app to MacPractice DDS, when the patient checks in on the iPad, everyone in the office immediately sees a change in appointment status.
MacPractice Clipboard for iPad works with practice management software to present patients with the information that was entered when staff made their appointments. Patients can add the remaining information themselves, take their own photo, and sign the HIPAA release. No data is stored on the iPad, the data between desktop and iPad is encrypted, and all the data is entered into the patient's account and EHR-without extra staff effort.
Online registration, EHR forms, and scheduling are examples of patient portal features that make it possible for new patients to provide their information online before they arrive. While these services took much longer to develop than it would have taken to create a bridge to a third party (one that might create an image and e-mail it to staff for them to enter patient data), this provides convenience for patients, but equally important, saves staff time.
Integrated network fax and secure messaging
If your software tightly integrates with an online service such as Updox, there's no need to dedicate an employee to getting "up and down" to use the fax machine and to file faxes in paper charts. Staff can fax anything inside (or outside) from within the software. Incoming faxes may easily be assigned to a provider for review and signature and can be filed in the patient record. Everyone is a more efficient team member.
Protecting patient data should be a priority because it's the right thing to do. One unsecure e-mail can cost a dentist a $50,000 HIPAA fine and his or her livelihood, since no one will go to a dentist who isn't vigilant about protecting patient information. Built-in messaging enables users to compose and receive secure e-mails and attachments to and from other providers without fear of unintentionally exposing patient data to hackers. Secure communications of doctors and staff with patients via a patient portal can also be created and responded to from within integrated messaging, and everything can be protected if your software features built-in encryption. Everyone can share secure e-mail and communications through the practice management software, eliminating the need for and use of personal e-mail and web surfing on the practice's computers, which are the primary vehicles for ransomware and other hacking.
While it may seem that all dental software is the same, it's time to take another look. When a dental software developer chooses to build in or tightly integrate capabilities and online services, the users gain ease of use, productivity, efficiency, time savings, and security. Think about it. If all EPHI can be contained in your software, then all EPHI can also be protected by built-in encryption, and your patient and your practice are safer as well as more efficient.
Mark Hollis is the CEO of MacPractice, a practice management and clinical software company for dentists who prefer to use Apple technology. He has been in the dental software business for 30 years and has consulted with more than 650 practices, spoken at hundreds of Apple events, at dental schools and industry tradeshows, and has also written many articles for professional journals. Visit macpractice.com for more information.