Whether you’re choosing dental practice management software for the first time or looking to replace your current system, it may seem like a daunting task. There are many choices and at the end of the process how do you know you’ve made the right choice until well after implementation? And, if you’re tempted to skip the necessary due diligence, be aware that:
- It is one of the most important practice decisions you will make
- It has a huge impact on the ability to run an efficient and profitable practice
- The cost of a bad decision can be substantial in more than just the cash outlay
- It is more than just a purchase – it is about establishing a long-term and trusting relationship with a vendor
- There is no one best system for every practice – the key is to find the system that best meets your goals, objectives and future growth plans
Let’s keep it simple to start. By looking at just four main decision criteria, you will be well on your way to narrowing your choices and significantly increasing the probability of finding the best solution for your practice. Consider these important factors:
- Track Record/Years in business: A vendor’s length of time in business tells you a lot about their stability, customer loyalty and ability to adapt to changes in technology to meet customer expectations over an extended period.
- Integrity – track record of trustworthiness: Check with colleagues about their experiences dealing with their dental software vendor and ask whether expectations are meet in a timely fashion.
- Scope of resources: Vendors with a large staff have the resources for new product development and comprehensive customer support whereas smaller vendors are typically spread thin in these areas.
- Number of customers: Software vendors with large customer bases have the financial resources to invest in product development and the capacity to gather a wide range of user feedback that informs development decisions. Smaller/newer vendors are more likely to spend their limited resources attracting new customers.
- Customer retention rate/satisfaction rating: A vendor’s customer retention rate is a good reflection of overall customer satisfaction. Contact multiple practices to get an overall feel of their level of satisfaction of the software they are using.
- Positive reviews and number of referrals: Check out dental software reviews but be wary that many reviews are “sponsored” or “planted” and therefore are not likely to be completely objective.
- Scope (breadth) and Quality (depth) of features: It is easy to get caught in the feature comparison trap and simply conclude that the solution with the most features is the best for your office. It is wise to focus on the features you need and evaluate how well they actually work.
- Ease of Use and Workflows: For high priority functions, determine how many steps each takes, whether the workflows are intuitive and whether the net results meet your expectations.
- Degree of Integrations offered: Dental software vendors typically offer a number of third-party applications that have varying degrees of integration that can contribute to increased administrative and clinical efficiency. They include imaging software, accounting software, payment card processing, reputation (review) management, and advanced reporting/productivity tools. Determine which ones are important to you and how well they integrate with the dental software.
- Consistency and quality of upgrades: Updates should consist of improvements to existing features as well as new functionality rather than simply “bug” fixes.
- Training: Look for a vendor that has the resources to offer a variety of training methods including onsite, classroom and webinar based, and what training materials are available such as tutorials and videos. The number and experience level of trainers on staff is also a good indication of the quality of training your team will receive.
- Customer support: Ask for audited customer support statistics and determine whether the support department is sufficiently staffed with enough qualified people to support the size of the customer base. Check out the type of support plans offered and the scope of service hours (24/7/365 is ideal) to see whether they meet your requirements.
- Customer engagement/Patient Portal: Review the vendor’s customer newsletters, blogs, eBooks, training materials, etc. to gauge how informed they will keep you if you become a customer. Ask whether they offer a customer portal.
- System platform: Most dental practice management systems are local server based where the dental practice management software and patient data both reside on site at the dental practice. However, due to data security advantages, cloud-based dental systems are starting to appear on the market. For these systems, practice data resides on cloud servers where it is kept protected from cyberattacks, break-ins and natural disasters. Vendors who provide platform choices give you the most flexibility.
- Cloud backup services: If you choose a local server solution, be sure that they offer a cloud-based backup service so backups are not stored on-site and subject to undue risk.
- Role based data/function access: For added security look for dental software that can enable data and function restrictions based on user-defined roles.
- Audit Trails/Privacy Compliance: The dental software should also include the functionality to report on changes in data including edited or deleted financial records as well as comply with regulatory body requirements such as CASL.
- Make a software short list and see each one in “live” action
- Evaluate features based on ease of use, intuitiveness, workflow adaptability and functional depth
- Compare long-term costs – not just up-front costs when evaluating return on investment
- Don’t underestimate the importance of vendor track record and customer support
- Choose a software vendor with the intent of developing a long-term relationship
- Remember – lack of due diligence during the process of making an original software purchase is the main reason that dental offices wind up unsatisfied – and then have to go looking for new solutions