When evaluating Dental Practice Management Software for your practice, the pressure is on. It’s a decision that will affect your practice and your patients in both the short- and long-term. When you adopt a practice management solution for your practice, it’s not just about the software. The support you get after you sign up is just as important. Here at Open Dental Software, we believe in being transparent in all we do, so we’re going to tell you right up front that we’ll share a little bit about us at each step. But primarily, we want to help you on your journey to finding the best fit for you – whether or not that ends with us. Let’s examine the critical things to look for in a practice management solution.
Access to your data
Know who will hold the keys to your data. You may assume that would of course be your practice – it’s YOUR patient data, after all, but many Dental Practice Management Software (DPMS) providers, especially those who are hosting your data online in a cloud-based platform, will lock down your data and the access to it.
Access to ALL your data also means more flexibility when running reports. Your software will always have a standard list of reports, but your software vendor should also have ways you can get customized reports that will give you just what you need to manage and grow your business. When you have Open Dental, your data is always yours.
A preview of your data, and a great conversion process.
When you’re looking to switch your practice management software, you want to be able to see your own data in the software you’re considering. Make sure the new software vendor you’re considering will do a free trial conversion. Seeing is believing, and being able to see and manipulate your own data in the new platform will help you evaluate how things will look and feel once you complete the switch. Ask about the conversion team, their process, and the cost. They should be able to tell you exactly what information will transfer over from your current software to the new one. You should get tools and resources during the transition to help you evaluate the test conversion and check for issues, for a smooth and complete final conversion with the desired result. Here’s a 3-minute overview of the process when you convert to Open Dental.
Your practice management software is a tool to help you be HIPAA Compliant and as such, should follow HIPAA guidelines and standards for security and privacy, and have physical and electronic safeguards in place, including encryption. The software should allow display customization (think schedule view for your staff vs. somewhere the patients may be able to see it), and security settings for each of the users in your practice with access to PHI.
Think long-term, and think big: Make sure your software will grow with you.
You may start off as a single practice, but your practice management software should be scalable to handle additional practices as their own entity (for customization and reporting needs, etc.), while still maintaining visibility and access to the organization as a whole. As you grow, your software should grow with you, and you shouldn’t have to upgrade to an enterprise version to do that. Open Dental is fully scalable with robust and flexible features that grow with you. And wouldn’t it be nice if you got a discount when you have more than a few practices? Ask to see if these are offered – you’ll see savings for all of your locations.
The features you need
Evaluate how you really want your practice to function. See how the software will help you be a paperless practice. It should boost efficiency with tools to chart multiple procedures with a single click, streamline procedure notes, handle billing and automated recurring payments for your patients, and integrate with the clearinghouse of your choice for benefits eligibility, electronic claims and attachments, and ERAs.
Consider how you communicate with your patients. Will the software offer a patient portal for secure, HIPAA-compliant communication and online payment options? In this very mobile age, it should have options for 2-way texting, automated recall, appointment reminders and confirmations, online scheduling, and methods that allow your patients to complete paperwork online. We call these eServices, and our customers love them!
How does your location operate? If you have several locations, they may operate differently. Look for customization options in your software to accommodate these differences. This is especially important if you’re acquiring another practice that has been using a different practice management software. You’ll likely want to have them under the same practice management software “umbrella.” A highly customizable software will translate into faster ramp-up times, minimal loss of productivity, and better function overall for all of your practices.
Freedom of choice
Many practice management software vendors also offer imaging solutions, dental supplies, electronic claims, or patient billing. If they offer these, you may become subject to “vendor lock.” They may require that you use their products, or buy your consumables from their vendor. This can mean you’re using an inferior product or service, paying higher prices, or getting fewer options for your practice as you grow and your needs change.
Those eight syllables are a fancy way to say “plays well with other software.” This ties in with choice and is all about how you operate, and the things you may want to connect to your practice management software to operate and grow your practice your way.
Imaging software, clearinghouses for e-claims, attachments, benefits eligibility, automated backup services, credit card processing services, patient reviews, and reporting dashboards are all examples of other software or services you may want to tie in with your practice management software. Choosing software with excellent interoperability means you’ll experience more seamless third-party integrations to the software you already know and love.
What is the total investment? Some software vendors will charge a hefty purchase price for their software (often per user!) plus an additional monthly maintenance fee. Be sure to ask them if software updates are included or if you will be required to pay for updates. Watch out for surprises and hidden fees. You won’t have to worry about this with Open Dental – our fees are all published right here. If you’re switching from another software vendor, you’ll pay a conversion fee, then a monthly support fee. If you’re starting up a new practice, your start-up cost for the software is just the first month’s support fee – which may be less than you paid for cable TV this month. If you are selecting add-ons that come at an additional cost (like eServices, for example), those will be clearly spelled out.
A couple more things to consider:
How often is the software updated? What if there’s a bug in the software?
Open Dental releases software updates about 4 times each year, introducing a host of new features – many of them requested by our users. Any software you use will have bugs from time to time. We’re dedicated to fixing identified bugs quickly – and by that, we mean days or weeks, not months or years.
Great support and resources
You deserve great customer service. When considering a new practice management software vendor, ask for references, and check out their online reviews. Ask about their technical support process and response time. Make sure you are maximizing the customer support that’s available. If you have an urgent issue that needs troubleshooting or have a patient in the chair and a question about something in your software, time is of the essence. The right vendor will be one that shares that urgency and works with you to resolve your issue promptly.
Training and learning resources
The vendor should help set up the software to fit the way your practice works, customizing the defaults and settings that will get you started on the right foot, improve ramp-up time for your staff as they learn the new software, and prevent costly mistakes you’ll have to fix later. When you convert from another software to Open Dental, we take you through a 2-hour conversion setup session to do just that.
Your software vendor should offer a variety of training and learning resources. They likely won’t all be free (though there should be free training options), but training is an investment that will pay off in productivity, efficiency, and reduced errors, allowing you and your staff to focus on your top priority: patient care. The Open Dental User Manual is completely online, our YouTube channel is chock full of great training videos, there’s a blog with tips & tricks and software release highlights, and we have active online communities and forums you can participate in – just use the tools that fit you best!
Open Dental Software was designed by a dentist who was committed to providing powerful, highly customizable software that was within reach of EVERY dentist. With a team of developers who share that mission, Open Dental’s practice management software is continuously evolving to meet industry needs and user requests, providing all the functionality that today’s practices demand. If you are considering a new practice management software solution, take a look at what we offer, and give us a call. A demo of the software and a test conversion (so you can see your own data in Open Dental) are both FREE. When you contact us, you’ll be speaking with one of our friendly support technicians. We don’t have salespeople because our focus is on helping our customers succeed, and helping practices find the software that’s the right fit for them.