BY Damon Swenson, DMD
Practice management software is vital to the success of a dental practice. It keeps things moving smoothly in the office with features such as organizing billing, automatically scheduling visits, and maintaining medical histories of patients. The hard part comes when having to choose which software will meet the needs of your practice.
Not all are designed with the same capabilities, and different practices need different features depending on their priorities. I put off the decision to switch from my existing software to my new software, Eaglesoft 17, for years because my staff and I were comfortable with what we had. Even though it was not serving us as well as we wanted it to, the prospect of changing to new software was daunting.
Face the facts
While change can initially be challenging, it can also bring team members together. It helped my staff and me to find out that we would receive dedicated training from Patterson Dental regarding how to best use the software.
The single hardest thing for my office when implementing new practice management software was the fact that this transition needed to become our top priority, which meant shifting our focus away from growing the practice. Once we made the decision, however, the entire staff was glad we did. We were fully integrated after two months and, even though we are constantly learning new features, my office uses the software on a daily basis. Better yet, we were able to function at a normal capacity from day one of transitioning the software due to the extensive on-site training. These factors helped alleviate unwarranted anxiety.
The on-site training was very beneficial throughout the transition. This is truly an invaluable part of the process. Not only did the trainers get us on our feet much quicker than if we had tried to implement the software on our own, but it helped establish trust with the new company right away. Building this relationship with your support team early helps immensely. As you encounter hiccups along the way, you know there is dedicated staff to support and train your team as you develop an understanding of the software.
Decide what matters most
Once you've made the decision to transition, a good thing to consider is what areas of improvement mean the most to you. An important aspect of every dental office is billing and financial reporting. With my previous practice management software, my staff and I found it challenging to estimate claims correctly. We could not clearly tell patients what procedures their payments were going toward. I knew we needed to switch to new practice management software that explained where each portion of patients' payments was being applied. A feature that accomplishes this is line item accounting, which has a powerful ability to explain what patients are being billed for, and this ultimately builds trust between my patients and me.
Another challenge I faced with previous software was inconsistent numbers and reporting when I compared my bank account and the month-end numbers. I often felt there were discrepancies between the two, and I did not understand where the differences were. An important aspect in my decision to change software was the ability to clearly track and show monies deposited each month.
Grow the business
My software has great accounting benefits, which was my top priority when switching practice management systems. But it is important to look at other features, such as integration of your selected software with sensors and other digital products you use, and treatment-planning capabilities.
Using my current software, I have a more powerful ability to plan treatments with my patients. I am able to more clearly show them steps and make changes to treatment plans. With my old software, my staff got to the point where we rarely treatment planned because it became so difficult to implement. Small issues such as a patient missing an appointment became an overly complicated process to fix. Selecting software that allows for simple integration of treatment planning is high on my list of recommendations when you are considering making a software switch.
Ultimately, practice management software helps grow your business, so selecting the best system for your office is something you should strongly consider. I saw my practice grow mainly through the clear treatment planning I'm now able to offer and the ease of explaining to patients exactly where their payments go. Both growth areas can be attributed to my new practice management software.
It can be intimidating to make a switch, but if you feel like your current software is holding you back, it probably is. My best advice is to make the change soon. The difficulty of the transition will last two to three months, but the improvements it brings to your practice far outweigh the effort it takes to implement.
In 1999, Damon Swenson, DMD, graduated from the University of Kentucky and started CrossPointe Dental in Orem, Utah. He has been in solo practice for the last 15 years. He has enjoyed much success as a family practitioner, with an emphasis on comprehensive esthetic dentistry and full-mouth reconstructive dentistry.