As a company that pioneered software for the healthcare profession – yes, we are talking the 70’s – we’ve seen a number of paradigm shifts over the decades in response to an increasingly complex and competitive environment. Let’s quickly review what’s become the standard in dental practice management and look at the next big advances that you can use to your advantage.
First – a bit of history
When we started serving dental offices, our software solution focused on maintaining accurate patient records and reducing the drudgery of billing and financial record keeping – essentially, it eliminated the need for time consuming, manual systems such as One-Write pegboard. Fortunately, dental practices were able to transition from these manual systems relatively quickly and pain free.
Next came the focus on recall and treatment plan management so patients didn’t fall through the cracks and electronic submission of insurance claims to save time and reduce errors. These paradigm shifts were reasonably easy to develop and implement.
The next big paradigm shift was electronic scheduling which proved to be much more challenging. Early versions looked too foreign for most users, had limited functionality and were cumbersome to use due to technical constraints at the time. However, as computer technology advanced, so did electronic appointment books to the point where manual scheduling systems have become completely impractical.
What did we learn that is helpful going forward?
The lesson learned was that, if the rational for a paradigm shift is sound, the benefits will far outweigh any temporary discomfort.
Unfortunately, many practices are still learning this and have not yet capitalized on more recent paradigm shifts in practice automation. One example of this is hesitancy to move to a fully paperless practice by replacing the paper patient chart with an electronic version. This delay is likely due to a number of misconceptions about the costs, benefits and difficulty.
What are other paradigm shifts that can benefit your practice?
How about automated appointment management that’s proven to reduce no shows and boost practice productivity?
There is also increased awareness of the need to track and make use of objective practice metrics for practice monitoring, and better decision making. The best practice management systems produce key performance indicators (KPIs) which quantitatively measure your practice performance in various areas against established targets.
What are the takeaways?
- If you haven’t gone paperless there’s no reason to delay any longer – the technology has been validated and the benefits are numerous.
- Automated patient communication tools and practice metric tracking are important things to consider – they boost practice success.
- Whatever the next dental practice management paradigm shift proves to be, implement it. If you don’t, sooner or later your competition will.