As dentists, we focus on giving our patients the best experience in healthcare. We choose the finest materials to deliver services that enhance their lives, and our grueling academics taught us how to place margins and seal dentinal tubules. But we probably didn’t learn how to pick practice management software to maximize our operations.
Getting this piece right is critical to practice success.
Today’s market offers many options to help us manage our business with more precision and efficiency than ever. Dental practice management software (PMS) anchors every step of the patient journey, and we need robust tools to match the demands of a growing enterprise. The right software choice ripples across the practice in every direction; so does the wrong one.
At a minimum, we need software that:
- Automates dozens of administrative functions within a single interface.
- Provides comprehensive, secure storage of patient records.
- Integrates with third-party hardware and software or eliminates it.
- Includes patient experience tools for better service.
- Delivers analytics that drives profitability and strategic planning.
- Supports unlimited growth across one or dozens of practices.
We consider details that most patients never notice in a dental restoration. But that attention helps create solutions that look and function well for years. We benefit the same way by applying that mindset to practice management software selection.
It’s not easy to find a program that stands up to the demands of modern dental enterprises. When evaluating PMS performance, ask these eight questions to set your business up for growth, service, and profitability.
How Well Does It Function?
Every app, website, and software tool come down to the user experience. Nearly 80% of users emphasize the usability of a site or app above everything else. Our staff is the first customer, and their daily user experience with our operating system drives every process throughout the business.
Our PMS needs to be able to keep up with us on our busiest days and its features need to be able to adapt to each practice. For example, a periodontist may pay more attention to well-designed perio charting than an endodontist. The software should match the flow of patient care with functions that link together, like digital imaging to insurance claims. Third-party solutions may expand functionality, but the best programs integrate more tools into one platform.
How Much Does It Cost?
Software fees add up in a hurry, and we often lose track of costs for third-party applications. For example, patient relationship management software can add $300 monthly to our tab, and analytics software can double expenses. Then we realize that 80% of patients prefer online scheduling, so we add a module that costs another $250 a month.
Server-based systems require regular maintenance and upgrades along with additional hardware requirements. A server can easily cost $5000 or more every few years, along with other access and security expenditures. A cloud-based PMS that integrates wide-ranging features can save us thousands, eliminate surprise expenses, and protect cash flow.
How Secure Is It?
Healthcare security deserves serious attention in every business. Breaches that exposed patient data surged in 2021, and the number of people affected has tripled since 2018. And patients aren’t the only ones threatened when a breach takes place. Healthcare entities face costly fines and public scrutiny under federal law, and the effects in a local region can be devastating for a healthcare brand. I know a colleague who faced a six-figure penalty and life-changing stress due to a security breach; none of us need that.
Cloud-based PMS systems add security layers that dramatically reduces the risk of a breach. And the larger an organization becomes, the more trouble it may face. DSOs appreciate built-in security across multiple locations, and single-practice owners can insulate against the consequences of security failures, too.
How Difficult Is Implementation?
A software conversion in a busy dental office takes an orchestrated effort, and teams need a game plan that helps them make the shift. The benefits of moving from a complex server-based PMS to the cloud quickly outweigh the challenges. It starts with behind-the-scenes data conversion and set-up, but it doesn’t end when the system goes live.
The best PMS systems include comprehensive support that provides on-site help, video libraries, reference guides, and on-demand phone access to trainers. Consider the team behind the software and how they’ll ensure you’re covered at every step.
How Does It Enhance the Patient Experience?
We know that the patient’s experience doesn’t start and end in the operatory, and consumers bring their expectations to our offices. Patients now rate convenience as their top criteria for choosing a healthcare provider, and they look for it throughout their interactions. Savvy practices recognize this growing pressure, and they integrate tools that match other industries.
An adaptable PMS brand recognizes we need more options inside one platform to offer first-class service. For example, look for online portals that are built in with your PMS so patients can schedule appointments, make payments, and fill out intake forms whenever it fits their lifestyle. Third-party applications work, but multiple vendors can lead to disjointed, expensive “solutions” with new challenges.
How Much Insight Does It Give?
The best brands always know what’s happening below the surface, and we can’t afford to guess in our practices, either. As overhead continues to rise, incremental adjustments produce exponential gains in enterprises of every size.
Look for a PMS that produces dozens of reports that give actionable insights to drive decision-making. Centralized reporting helps multi-location entities keep a pulse on operations, and single practitioners need this critical data to successfully juggle their roles. Practice metrics enhance cash flow now, but clear reports dramatically influence valuations when selling in the future, too.
How Is Imaging Handled?
We rely on reliable data to drive treatment decisions, and radiographic images are critical for clinical, administrative, and referral tasks. Complex challenges arise when x-rays are stored on-site, especially when a growing organization faces hardware, security, and storage demands across multiple locations.
Many innovative organizations are choosing web-based imaging that functions seamlessly with their PMS. Users can access images from anywhere, but files are protected with enhanced security protocols and backup protocols. A new server every few years is expensive in one facility, but costs compound across multiple offices. Dental imagery on the cloud works from the ground up and makes any office better
How Innovative Is the Team Behind It?
Our practice is a critical asset and piece of our legacy, and we can’t afford anything but the best resources on our team. If we’re building one practice, we want it to be a model for more just like it. If we’re managing a DSO, we want every practice to reflect excellence in all locations.
Look for a company with a proven track record in dentistry and a history of adding new features, security protocols, and user experience features. Many dentists have discovered they’re using a PMS that fails to invest in analytics, imaging, patient communications, and other critical tools. Look closer at cloud-based solutions with years of innovation at their back
Choose A Dental PMS Built for Tomorrow
Despite recent challenges, our profession faces unique opportunities. Dental organizations that embrace consumer expectations and develop efficient practices will enjoy a share of the projected $200 billion dental industry. Cloud-based dental practice management software sets the stage for dental organizations to operate at peak efficiency with centralized access to administrative, clinical, imaging, analytical, and patient experience utilities at their fingertips.
To learn more about a PMS that offers reliable answers to your questions, download the ebook The Dental Practice Management Solution Buyer’s Guide: Why Denticon. Learn how the seven core functions of Denticon benefit your dental practice from front to back. Plus, six users share how Denticon elevated their practices with efficiency, functionality, and profitability.