Third Party Software may be the Key to a Paperless Dental Practice

While most practices start out seeking the perfect dental practice management system that will fulfill all their dreams, the reality is that no vendor’s system can meet all the needs of individual users. Third party options can often fill in the gaps. What should dentists consider when evaluating, selecting and purchasing dental software?

First, understand what is most frequently offered. Most modern practice software offers charting, treatment planning, insurance estimates, e-claims, patient scheduling, and recalls. Customized progress notes, electronic signature forms, and image management may not be part of standard practice software, requiring the purchase of additional modules or third party software.

Second, evaluate how software interfaces and interacts to create a user experience.In the case of image management software, the packages tend to integrate best with practice software sold by the same company, such as Dentrix’s Image, Eaglesoft’s Advanced Imaging, and Kodak’s Dental Imaging. This can make including images with e-claims easier. On the other hand, third party imaging programs, such as Ateryx, XRay Vision, XDR, and Tigerview, can offer more viewing options. The author recommends using a Windows 7 operating system with digital imaging, while realizing that image software selection will vary due to image quality, cost, vendor reputation, and sensor warranty and compatibility.

Third, evaluate your users and select hardware that fits with workflow and software needs.Practices should consider the needs of multiple types of users when selecting hardware and configuring individual workstations. Ergonomics and screen placement are as important for hygienists and patients as for desk staff. Many practices have two monitors in the operatory for the dentist and the patient. They may utilize tablets or wireless keyboards. Graphic image capability needs will be greater in the operatory than at the front desk.

Finally, security and backup protocols need to be in place, with online third party backup a good option for those who prefer to automate. The author, a dentist with over 10 years experience consulting on dental technology, finds most practices take 6-18 months to implement paperless systems.

Lessons Learned:

  • Third party software may be needed to fills gaps in practice management software.
  •  While imaging software tends to work best with practice management software sold by the same company, third party imaging systems may provide more features.
  • Many dental practices have two monitors in the operatory, one for the dentist and the other for the patient.
  • A typical dental practice takes 6-18 months to go paperless.
  • When selecting dental software, consider many factors such as common offerings, user experience and hardware needs.

Lavine, Lorne (2010, January 1). Six Steps to a Chartless Practice. Dental Tribune