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As a technology integrator, my company is often called upon to help practices install software upgrades.

Dr. Lorne Lavine

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As a technology integrator, my company is often called upon to help practices install software upgrades. Sometimes the installation turns out to be messy, and sometimes it goes without a hitch. But in every case, having to install an upgrade is a hassle, a drain on productivity, a liability to the wallet, and an inefficient way to keep management software up to date.

The funny thing about software upgrades is that neither the dental practice nor the software vendor really like the current way upgrades are distributed.

When an upgrade arrives, the doctor often puts it on a shelf and leaves it to sit there until he or she feels enough time has passed for all of the bugs to be worked out. Months can pass before the doctor and staff reach a certain comfort level to take the plunge and schedule time and dollars to install the software.

Further frustrating the doctor is one of two things — the upgrade may not offer any substantial improvements for the doctors, or the upgrade may provide badly needed procedure code updates or other features but the doctor isn’t comfortable installing the upgrade. Of course, some doctors install the upgrade as soon as they receive it.

For the software vendor, the doctor’s delay in installing the upgrade means bugs in the software that would have been fixed by the upgrade remain unfixed. To further complicate the process, the software vendor must now support two or three different versions of the software because the customers will not immediately install the upgrades.

I have spoken to many doctors who have never installed an upgrade for fear of what it might do to their practice. When a software vendor’s customer base is using multiple versions of the software, it hinders the vendor’s ability to provide timely customer service.

Perhaps the biggest pet peeve for software vendors is the cost to distribute upgrades to their customers. CD-ROM duplication, user guide printing, shipping materials, and shipping costs and services add up to a large part of their expenses. The simple solution for the upgrade blues for both the software vendor and the doctor is web-based dental software. Here’s why:

For the doctor, the hassle and drain on time and money due to upgrades is completely avoided. With web-based dental software, the user never installs software, let alone upgrades. Every time the doctor or staff uses the software, they use the latest version of the software.

So, if a doctor has been waiting for new procedure codes or new features that are particularly useful to his or her practice, he or she will benefit from those additions as soon as they become available. Also, because the software only requires a computer with a browser and Internet access, the practice avoids having to upgrade the hardware to meet the needs of the software.

Because the upgrade happens behind the scenes, the doctor doesn’t have to employ a technology integrator to keep the system operational, as required with traditional software, and this saves money.

The software vendors are not faced with the customer service issues. All of their customers use the exact same version, which simplifies the troubleshooting process. Additionally, the software vendor can suggest bug fixes and other short-term changes to the customer almost instantly. They’ll also avoid the huge distribution costs required to put the upgrade into the customers’ hands.

Most importantly, if the software vendor pushes a new upgrade to customers and then discovers a major problem with a new feature, the vendor can roll all customers back to the previous version. Then, the vendor can fix the error and push the upgrade back to customers with little or no impact.

Because web-based dental software is upgraded behind the scenes, it offers significant benefits to both the doctor and software vendor. The doctor avoids the hassles and expenses that often plague traditional software upgrades. The software vendor is then better able to provide customers with exemplary service and technical support.

Lorne Lavine, DMD, practiced periodontics and implant dentistry for more than 10 years. He is an A+ certified computer technician, as well as Network+ certified. He is the president of Dental Technology Consultants, a company that assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He can be reached at drlavine@thedigitaldentist.com or by phone at (866) 204-3398. Visit his website at www.thedigitaldentist.com.

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