The ‘Columbus TED Talk’: The most important decision you’ll ever make

Andy Jensen

Certainly, Christopher Columbus was a visionary. If there was a 15th-century version of a TED Talk, you would have seen Columbus strutting the stage, wireless mic on his head, slide clicker in his hand, extolling his round-world hypothesis and claiming China lay just over the western horizon.

Columbus was also an entrepreneur looking for an angel investor. Columbus took what King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain offered: three small ships. Two of those ships, the Niña and the Pinta, were Portuguese caravels, which proved to be the ship of choice for exploring new worlds—though Columbus did not know that at the time. The caravel was fast and had a sail design that allowed the crew to sail the ship much closer into the wind, making it much more versatile and adaptable to any given wind or sea. And the caravel could sail into nearly any river or bay.1

Other explorers learned quickly from Columbus that choosing the right ship was the most important decision they’d make before embarking. Nearly every other decision could be changed—for example, unsuitable supplies could be replaced at the next tropical island. What the explorers could not change after leaving port was the ship.

Doctors starting a new practice can learn from the early explorers. The most important decision you’ll make for your practice is the management system. Here are three reasons why you must put much thought into this decision.

Implementation costs are nonrefundable

The moment you sign on the dotted line, your new software partner will expend a great deal of effort and resources to move your practice from old to new. The process, from your partner’s point of view, is expensive and time consuming. A tremendous amount of planning and coordination is required among the practice, trainers, data conversion specialists, and others.

Once your practice completes the implementation process, which may include data conversion and training for the team, the only way you can recoup that expense is to make the best of the software you chose. If you chose wrong, asking your software partner for a refund on these costs due to a bad choice on your part would seem preposterous. Actually, getting a refund would be improbable.

Training time is permanent

The sooner your team can become proficient with the software, the sooner they can become productive using the software. Unless you have access to a secret government time machine, that training time is gone forever. If you chose wrong, you’re going to repeat the process with more training time—time that should be dedicated to scheduling production and caring for your patients.

Patient information is fickle

Patient contact information, appointments, balances, notes, and other information can be moved from one software to another. But some pieces are fickle. For example, historical transactions tend to be buggers. The $75 credit card payment for a prophy you completed five months ago for Mrs. Martinez is a historical transaction. Historical transactions are difficult to convert because they may have been created in a proprietary manner, making the task extremely difficult and the accuracy of the outcome questionable. Choosing the right software from the get-go avoids this issue altogether.

The most important choice is software

If you’re embarking on a new adventure, you’ll do well to invest time into your decision. But that’s easier said than done. With a new practice, you’re going to be overwhelmed with decisions. All of those decisions need thought, but all of them can also be changed, if need be. The management software, which is the hub of all production-generating activities, keeps your practice connected—and it is painful to replace!

If you’re going to spend a day or two staring at paint chips and carpet samples, don’t you think your management software deserves at least the same attention? Columbus got lucky: nobody knew a caravel would perform better in the waters of the New World. You may not be as fortunate. But if you do your homework, talk to other doctors, and keep in mind that the cloud is the current technology platform, you’ll choose the software best for your new adventure.


1. Scanlon M. Notorious caravel sails again. Newcastle Herald website. Published August 30, 2013.

Andy Jensen has been in the dental software business since 1992. He is vice president and CMO at Curve Dental, a software development house that delivers 100% cloud-based management software for dentists. Andy recently completed a book, How to Build the Killer Practice on the Cloud, that can be downloaded at

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