Sophisticated digital practice management: Not just for big offices

April 1, 2013
Some dental offices sit on the sidelines instead of going after the latest and greatest technology and trends. Leading the pack with cutting-edge technology is not for every office.

by Jana Berghoff, RDH, FAADOM

Some dental offices sit on the sidelines instead of going after the latest and greatest technology and trends. Leading the pack with cutting-edge technology is not for every office. A practice knows its niche and focuses on what allows it to deliver great care. But one technology area that any practice, large or small, can benefit from is practice management software. The office practice management system needs to be current to meet the needs of patients and governmental regulations, and be robust enough to assist the team rather than hold them back. If your practice management software hasn't offered significant updates for a few years, here are some things to think about:

Software can be an "extra helper" -- In practices where one person is in charge of most of the front-office tasks, the thought of implementing a new software system can be incredibly overwhelming given all the other tasks on that person's plate. But the truth is that the right software can actually work like an extra employee, helping the office manager get things done better, faster, and more efficiently.

Patients' expectations are increasing -- Each year, patients get more technologically savvy, and so does the rest of the world. If a patient can call a hair salon and find out when their last appointment was, who they saw, and what was done, they will certainly expect the same from their dental office. If your software is not meeting your patients' expectations, your practice management system does not pass the test. Patients today want access to information when it's convenient for them, not just during business hours. Having an integrated practice management system and communications suite -- one great option is Eaglesoft 16 and RevenueWell -- gives patients the ability to go to a practice's website at any hour of the day, find their appointment information, pay their bill, and more. Small offices don't have the hours or the staff to do this the old-fashioned way, but technology can do it for them.

The value of the practice is at stake -- Sometimes if a dentist is close to retirement, things like technology upgrades aren't a priority. But in the case of practice management software, implementing a truly robust and organized system can make a real difference in the value of a practice. Dentists must consider the competition they will face if they're looking to sell their practice upon retirement. If a young dentist has a choice between an office that runs a tight digital ship and an office that doesn't have a well-organized, high-tech system, which office will be more attractive? Which one will command a higher price?

One-stop support can make it easy -- Practices that have piecemeal technology systems are usually stuck with piecemeal support. Anyone who has ever been stuck in limbo between two companies will understand the importance of having a single source of technical support and customer service. If you have one company providing your practice management and digital imaging software, your patient communications suite, and your hardware, the issue of support becomes much simpler. With just one call or one live chat, you can reach someone who knows the ins and outs of each of your systems and how they work together. For the technology-shy, this support can be the difference between a great experience and a terrible one.

The fact is, the monetary investment required to implement strong practice management software is low. The real investment is time, but here again, a sophisticated system can help smooth this transition by working intuitively for new users and automating tasks that used to take a high level of personal attention. If you're delaying going paperless or integrating all of your practice management and patient communications services, think about where you'd like your office to be in five years. Will you have even more patient data to transition and more systems to untangle, or would you like to already have your new integrated data management system in place? It's not as difficult as you might fear, and there is no better time to start than now. Figure out where you would like to be in five years and start laying that foundation today.

Jana Berghoff, RDH, FAADOM, has managed a diverse selection of dental offices, including general/family, dental X-ray facilities, TMJ/facial pain clinics, and cosmetic. Seeing the need for experienced clinical staff in computer training, Jana became a trainer for Patterson Dental. After training close to 500 dental offices, she is now the technology marketing manager with Patterson Dental. Reach her at [email protected].

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