From my perspective, your software is the most important tool (besides your hand pieces) for running a successful practice. Yet, problems and frustrations with finding the right one for your practice, and it's use once installed remain a top complaint among nearly every client I visit. At last count, there are over 45 software options available to Canadian dentists. So how do you know which one is right for you?
For starters, I always recommend making sure that the software you choose is compliant with the province you are practicing in. Unfortunately this is no easy task as Canadian regulations for developers are sourly lacking. Cyber crimes, identity theft, ransomware, and general hacking are all real threats that NEED to be considered when choosing software. Within your day-to-day business you are storing patient names, dates, birthdates, medical information, school information, employer and benefit information, and even credit cards. If your software does not meet proper encryption standards, every time this information is entered, altered, or even accessed, you are putting your patients privacy at risk. And if something were to happen to this information, simply explaining to your them (and your College) that you thought you were doing everything in your power to keep them safe may be a hard sell, if it turns out that you haven't been compliant with your provincial standards. Do your research, ask direct questions like; can you show me that you are complaint with the guidelines in my province? But in order to really understand the answers you're given, you must start by becoming aware of and fully understanding the guidelines themselves.
Second thing to look for is how user friendly it is. We often have team members with very different levels of computer experience. You want to purchase a software that will be easy to use and to learn for EVERYONE. Look for straight forward communication tools like an easy to access area to put time units in for treatment planning, and/or a spot to put a possible root canal that is easy enough to identify as "do not book." There is nothing worse than calling a patient to say we should get that scheduled for you, and having them tell you that the doctor said only if there are symptoms. I also give strong consideration to the features it offers, in this day and age we should have software that has BUILT IN texting, emailing (encrypted), auto reminders and confirmations, the ability to have a built in to-do list or follow up tracker, a proper built in recall system. You should not have to use third party companies to achieve the basics of running a practice. When you use third party services, you are at a higher risk in the online world, and of course there is no telling what guidelines these third party companies are required to follow.
Last but certainly not least, efficiency is monumental. When your team has to manually add, track, count or compile information, this becomes a lost opportunity for the practice as their time could be better spent helping patients. Look for a ledger that is clear and uncluttered. If your team members cannot determine where a balance is coming from in a few seconds or less, there is a problem. With a glance you should be able to easily identify things that weren’t paid, why they weren’t paid, and any steps that have been taken to re-submit claims or collect from the patient directly. How easy is it to search by side in the treatment planning section and find all the root canals that have been diagnosed in the past year to both make sure the get followed up on and booked, and also to make sure if they needed a crown that one was entered and followed up with? Having a software that allows you to search by various methods means that less treatment will fall through the cracks.
Patients have chosen you as their dentist, it is your responsibility to make sure you have the right tools in order to meet their needs. Choosing software is one of the biggest and most important decisions you can make. Does it have the correct reports? Is the patient ledger easy to read and understand? Can the patients easily understand their statements and invoices? Can we easily scan directly into the patients file? Can we use an iPad to a built in patient registration system? Can we do digital informed consent that are compliant? Do you have control over user rights? Can I make sure certain employees only have access to the parts that they need, without looking at bank deposits and/or production? Can employees delete payments? How do you balance month end? Does your bookkeeper have what they need when it comes to reports?
While there are so many things to consider, one piece of advice I can give is: don't just ask your dentist friends, but ask the people that use the different areas. The software company can often give you names of people to speak with. I often will do consults with different dentists and do a comparison between softwares in terms that they value. As I have worked in private practice in the past, I am happy to answer those types of questions. As with our patients, we want them to make an informed choice, I want that for all dentists. Know what you are purchasing, it truly is one of the most important investments of your career.
Until next time!