Evaluating Practice Management Software

By now most dentists know that a modern practice management system saves time and paper, and automates functions that previously fell through the cracks. While state-of-the-art systems exist, there are still practices out there using DOS or older Windows based systems. Even those practices that have adopted a modern dental office system typically only use 5% of it.

In this video presentation, Lorne Lavine looks at how to select and implement software that will become more than just a “glorified bookkeeping system.” The right system will increase productivity by catching uncompleted treatments and missed recalls, and it should integrate seamlessly with the new technologies your patients are asking about.

Lavine likes Maxident’s practice management system for its incorporation of many features that require third party software in other systems. Maxident software has been around for 33 years and is a leading software provider in Canada. Although the video focuses specifically on one software, the evaluation tips and methodology provided by Lavine offer benefits for any practice management selection.

First, take a look at system charting. A practice management system should have charting that is “smart” and adapts to the procedures and protocols most commonly used in the practice. Some charting may vary by country, making this is an important feature to examine when purchasing international systems. Voice dictation needs to be a core element, particularly for periodontal charting. Randy McDermott wraps up this video with a demo of the Maxident touchscreen charting module, capable of turning treatment plans into procedural codes for automatic billing. Options are available for written notes or color drawings, and the geometric configuration of the tooth can be varied for periodontal charts. Chairside incorporation of tablet computers and digital signatures helps to facilitate presentation of these treatment plans to patients.

Second, consider how images are handled by the system. The software image module should be interoperable with any sensor, camera, or scanner. Maxident is interoperable with all but Dexis. Having an image module within the practice management software, as opposed to third party, allows images to be stored by tooth number and integrated with the chart. In the case of Maxident, this enables their treatment plans to incorporate images.

Next, look at all the other features. There are aspects of Maxident that often require third party software in other systems include automated backup and automated reminder systems using phone, email, or text message. McDermott and Lavine both caution against considering cloud-based systems at this time due to privacy, security and service interruption concerns.

Finally, begin to plan out your system training and implementation. When implementing a new practice management system, most practices tend to move toward a paperless office too quickly. Lavine and McDermott both recommend a three stage implementation of modules moving from core practice management functions, to digital imaging, to electronic charting.

The presentation concludes with an important discussion highlighting hidden aspects of software evaluation that should be discussed with vendors, including demo options, fees for sample and complete data conversion, training methods and support service availability.

Lessons Learned:

  • The average dental practice uses only 5% of its practice management software capability
  • The right software will increase productivity by catching uncompleted treatments.
  • Look for a practice management system that integrates readily with third party software, but also provides the features you want within core modules.
  • Implement a new system in stages. While online training may suffice for core practice management functions, in-office training is needed to implement chairside paperless charting.
  • When negotiating with vendors, be sure to discuss demo options (webinar, software download, etc.), fees for sample and complete data conversion, training methods, and long term support services.

Lavine, Lorne; McDermot, Randy (2011). Modern Dental practice management software.