Enhance Your Practice Management Software with Integrated Third-party Applications and Services

“Are there other things that dental software should do beyond practice and clinical management?” When asked that question my general response is; “there are other functions available that, with varying degrees of integration, work synergistically with dental practice management software to increase your return on investment – it’s just a matter of deciding what your practice priorities are”.

This blog first reviews several of the most common third-party applications available for dental practices. It then explains the two main integration scenarios for linking third-party applications to practice management software.  

Imaging Software

Most practice management software solutions have a feature for capturing and storing diagnostic images from intra-oral and digital cameras. Some systems also connect to various digital radiography devices such as sensors to capture x-ray images and provide basic tools for enhancing the diagnostic capability of the images.

If you require advanced features, third-party imaging solutions are available that via an integration, can be launched directly from within the practice management software so that the same patient is opened within the imaging software. If choosing this option, make sure that the integration can be preserved if you decide to move to a cloud server-based practice management system.

Integrated Payment Card Processing

This application saves time and reduces errors since payment card transactions entered in the practice management software are automatically fed to the Point of Sale (POS) terminal. Once the transaction is approved it automatically updates the patient ledger. Day end and month end bank reconciliation becomes much easier.

Reputation Management

In today’s marketplace, positive patient reviews are essential for attracting and retaining new patients. Reputation Management applications can help acquire, monitor and manage patient reviews to maximum effectiveness. They have built-in mechanisms to drive patients to leave positive patient reviews on popular review websites sites such as Google, Facebook and RateMDS. And easy, anytime access equips you to respond to unhappy patient reviews in real time, and showcase your best reviews on your website or social channels.

Advanced Reporting & Business Productivity Tools

Are you dissatisfied with the reports your practice management system produces? By using tools such as Microsoft’s Power BI or exporting report data to Excel you can expand your reporting capabilities exponentially depending on the degree of access you have to your dental practice database. Contact your dental software vendor to find out whether they can help.

Remote Backup

Ransomware, natural disasters and the failure or theft of your office’s computer network can be catastrophic for your practice. Your best protection is a remote backup service that automatically backs up your data on secure cloud servers so that you can be back and running quickly with recovered, up to data practice data if disaster strikes. Even if you are currently accessing your dental practice data from the cloud, you may still require remote back up services for any of your files that remain stored on local computers in your office.

Data Security Tools

Virus protection software is essential for catching known viruses and preventing them from causing harm to your dental software and other programs. However, without additional measures, you remain vulnerable to new viruses and malware that can take over your system. Data security applications such as ABELDent Guard block abnormal processes caused by these viruses so that they don’t harm your system before your antivirus software runs an update to eliminate them.

What you should know about the two main types of integrations

  1. Integrations developed by the dental practice management software vendor with the full cooperation of the third-party software vendor are your safest bet.  These types of integrations ensure safe, secure and reliable communication between the two applications.
  2. Unauthorized integrations created solely be third-party application vendors that directly read and update information in the dental practice management software’s database may present a privacy and security risk to your data. The dental practice management software vendor will likely not want to take responsibility for any data breach that may result and may advise users of these types of applications to use them at their own risk. These integrations are also vulnerable to breaking anytime the practice management software is updated to a new version.

Automated Patient Communication

By far the most common unauthorized third-party application available to dental practices today is Automated Patient Communication. These systems save administration time and help boost revenue by sending customized patient messages in a batch via email, text or voice mail. Common messages include appointment notifications, appointment confirmation requests and outstanding treatment notices. Patients can respond from their smartphone or other devices and typically have their e-calendars automatically updated. Benefits include patient convenience, reduced administrative costs, reduced no-shows, increase booking rates and improved patient engagement.

It should be noted that some practice management software systems include many of the features of third-party applications as part of their overall solution with the advantage of having full and safe access to the patient database for retrieving and updating the required information.  This eliminates the risks factors mentioned when using a third-party integration for accessing information from the practice database. Although third-party vendors may offer dedicated, more full-featured solutions, they have limited access to the practice management system’s database without putting it at substantial risk. There are advantages and disadvantages to either approach – which one you choose will depend on your specific needs, your risk averseness and cost.  

Conclusion

There are several third-party applications that can be implemented in conjunction with practice management software to increase productivity, practice growth, savings and data security. The resulting benefit is generally proportional to the degree of integration offered. Finally, ensure that any integrated application you consider is stable, maintains data integrity when updates are applied and provides strong protection against data breaches.

The Art of Acquiring New Patients

No matter where I travel in Canada, the one thing most dental clinics I visit have in common is the desire to expand their service by reaching new patients.

According to Statistics Canada, only 75% of Canadians visited a dentist at some point in 2018 – which means that at least 25% of Canadians either don’t have a regular dentist, or don’t see their dentist annually.

While this might seem like a significant pool of potential patients for dental clinics to draw on, the same study reported that 22% of Canadians said they didn’t go to the dentist because of the cost (many Canadians are without insurance due to part-time employment, self employment or retirement.

In practical terms, this means that clinics are either competing for that narrow percentage of Canadians who can afford regular dental care but who don’t have a regular provider, or are trying to make the case that they can provide better care than their competitors. No wonder dental clinics are working so hard to attract new patients!

Patient acquisition under these circumstances can be difficult, and requires a strategic, targeted approach based on patient satisfaction and playing on your strengths. If you want to grow your clinic, here are four of the most effective ways you can distinguish yourself from the competition.

Patient Reviews

In the age of Yelp, patient reviews – and reputation management more generally – are the most essential tool a dental clinic has for attracting new patients.

In 2019, the vast majority of new patients used dental reviews as one of their primary ways of deciding which clinic to visit, and according to at least one study, for nearly a third of these people the star rating was the most important aspect of the review.

Here are just a few of the main benefits of growing your reputation:

  • Increased Revenue: Companies with a higher rating and better reviews will attract more business
  • Higher Trust: People trust brands and services (especially those in medicine and dentistry) that have the best reputations
  • Better Talent: Dental clinics with strong, positive reputations attract better staff

Clinics that take the time to develop and manage a strong reputation are trusted more because people tend to follow crowds. The more they see others leaning toward one option, the more likely they are to do the same.

You can call it the herd mentality or the “broken window” theory of customer choice. The fact is that 83% of people automatically trust brand recommendations that come from friends or loved ones, and almost 70% of people put more stock in the opinions of fellow consumers than traditional advertising campaigns.

A well-managed reputation enables your clinic to dictate the first impression it sets for prospective patients. It also highlights the strengths of your business and can counter any negative impressions. Finally, a solid online reputation solidifies your business as a thought leader and a go-to source for problem-solving within your industry, elevating you above the competition.

If you want to acquire new patients, you need to make sure that your practice is being reviewed positively online.

Social Media

Social media should be a core component of any modern advertising campaign, but using social media effectively is about more than just starting up a corporate Instagram account and Facebook page – social media is a ubiquitous part of people’s lives and leveraging it for maximal impact requires creativity.

If there are particular demographics you want to tap into – new parents, college students, or seniors, for example – you should consider using targeted advertising tools to make sure your ads reach the patients you want to impress.

Improved Follow-Through

One of the biggest challenges that any clinic faces is turning first-time and occasional visitors into loyal patients. Many Canadians in their twenties and thirties don’t book regular, annual appointments, but only visit the dentist when they notice a problem.

It is difficult to form a strong relationship with patients that you see less than once a year.  The longer any patient is away from your practice, the more likely it is that they will try another dental clinic when they need care.

For this reason, improving follow-through using modern dental software that helps you keep track of the people who come through your clinic is key if you want to turn these one-time visitors into long-term valued patients. Contact management tools available in dental software can also help you stay in touch with patients using their preferred methods.

Expanded Hours

Sometimes, to reach new people you need to change the way you operate. In the twenty-first century, when a growing number of people (and especially young people) are working irregular hours, healthcare providers who want to attract younger patients may need to adjust when they provide care.

For example, offering appointments in the early morning, evening, or weekend may be all you need to do in order to appeal to a new demographic of workers who don’t have the freedom to take time during for a dental appointment during the day.  

It is no secret that dentistry in Canada is an increasingly competitive marketplace. If you want to grow your clinic’s patient base or reach new demographics, you will need to be strategic about your approach to patient acquisition.

In my experience, the clinics best able to do this are the ones that utilize a number of different strategies.

A coordinated campaign that advertises the quality of care you provide and emphasizes the value you can offer patients will usually yield the strongest results. That’s why you should use a mix of digital strategy, cutting-edge software, reputation management, and accommodate the real-world needs of the patients you want to attract.   

Can Human-Focused Technology Change How Your Clinic Operates?

People are at the centre of any healthcare business – both as patients, and as a team of providers delivering care.

While technical concerns are common at a time when the dental industry is undergoing massive changes due to improvements in software and technology, one question I’m frequently asked is about the human side of things: “How can I make sure I have a good team who can provide sterling care, and how should I go about assessing my team’s effectiveness?”.

There are no quick technological fixes to improve how your team operates or to build a better clinic culture but technology can help you confront these problems. One of the best tech solutions available for unlocking the full potential of your team is Human-Focused Technology, or HFT.

Human-Focused Technology is a new approach to quickly gathering information about how and why people behave the way they do. It can help employers better understand their workforce and realize its full potential. 

If you want to optimize your team to better serve your patients’ needs, keep reading to find out how HFT can help.    

What is Human-Focused Technology?

If you pay attention to the latest news about workplace software, you’re probably familiar with the term “human-centred design” to describe approaches to software design that take the needs of human users into account from beginning to end. 

While Human-Focused Technology is similar, its uses are much more specifically geared toward helping employers optimize the skills and capacities of employees to create the best and most effective possible workplace – including dental clinics. 

This technology is based on a few fundamental insights, namely that: 

  • All humans have developed certain innate behavioural styles that govern how they do what they do
  • Behavioural styles arise from core motivators that determine why they do what they do
  • Traditional hiring methods use unreliable tools like resumes and interviews that don’t yield  information about styles and motivators and therefore cannot deliver optimal candidate selection results 
  • Technology can play a role in helping us determine every individual’s behavioural style and core motivators

Using a few basic tests, Human-Focused Technology can save companies huge amounts of time by providing high-level information about the styles and motivators of everyone on their team, thereby making it easier to understand core dynamics in your workplace culture. 

The Role of HFT in the Hiring Process

Unsurprisingly, the first applications of Human-Focused Technology have been in the hiring process. Because HFT provides more reliable information about how a potential employee will actually operate in the workplace, it makes it a lot easier for to find the right people the first time around. 

Rather than relying on traditional hiring techniques such as lengthy interviews and over-hyped resumes to find the best candidates for your dental clinic, using human-focused hiring techniques allow you to identify employees to join your team long-term.

Human-focused personality tests can help you to help cut through facades and biases, showing clearly whether an applicant possesses the personality traits essential to helping you run your clinic by identifying soft skills that can’t necessarily be trained, including:

  • Flexibility – this is an extremely valuable asset to any dental clinic. People who are able to adapt to any situation are going to be dependable and able to perform no matter what’s thrown their way.
  • Creative thinking – being able to develop unique solutions to problems as they arise is an invaluable tool, as it drives innovation while increasing efficiency.
  • Feedback acceptance – a major key to fostering growth in any workplace requires the ability to not only accept feedback gracefully but also to apply that feedback going forward.

Because of their effectiveness, HFT tests are an increasingly standard part of the hiring process in a variety of industries and may join other basic technologies like cloud storage and reputation management software as essential tools every dental clinic needs. 

According to one recent report, employee turnover rates are one of the top concerns for employers across the healthcare industry. Turnover costs clinics and hospitals countless hours and millions of dollars in lost revenue every year, and bringing turnover rates down requires addressing the root problems in your workplace culture. 

Fortunately, Human-Focused Technology is perfectly designed to help you improve retention rates by hiring the right candidates and reaching a better understanding of the deep needs and underlying dynamics of your current employees.   

How HFT Helps You Understand Your Team

HFT can help you understand the personalities, needs and habits your current employees bring to the workplace. 

Most workplace conflict happens due to misunderstandings between people with different behavioural styles and different core motivators. Unfortunately, the root causes of these disagreements are often obscured by the day-to-day conflicts around which they play out. 

As an example, it may seem as though your hygienist and your receptionist disagree over how to handle last-minute cancellations. One may consider building relationships most important and so takes a more social approach with patients while the other is task-focused and insists on a more direct approach. In reality, both are motivated to keep the chairs full and both inform the patient that a cancellation fee may apply so the seeming “conflict” is actually a difference in communication styles. 

In summary, HFT helps make deep motivations and behaviour patterns legible, it can help you map out the true dynamics of your workplace, and help your team find better ways of communicating and working together.

3 New Year’s Resolutions Every Dental Clinic Should Make

With 2019 almost over, many of us are looking back on the past year and thinking about what we are proud of – and what we wish we had done differently. 

I always find the end of year holidays a perfect time for reflection. With everything slowing down, and with time away from work giving much-needed perspective, it’s easier to gain a sense of perspective on the triumphs and challenges that have come and gone. Inevitably, these thoughts of what has passed lead to thoughts about the year to come. 

A person standing in a room

Description automatically generated

New Year’s resolutions are a great way to explore goals and aspirations for the coming year, and this applies just as much to business life as it does to personal life, so if you want to start 2020 on the right foot, here are a few dental-clinic related resolutions to consider making.  

1. Streamline Your Communications

Communication – whether with patients, prospects, or between team members – has always been part of the essential everyday work of dental clinics around the world, and so keeping up with changing patterns in how we communicate in the healthcare industry is essential. 

But good communication is about a lot more than just making sure you are texting people rather than calling them. Smooth internal communication protocols are essential for any dental clinic, and using a software platform that provides an integrated way to share information and update key team members is going to be a big part of that in the coming years. 

The right communication platform will centralize the communication features your clinic uses every day, which can help you save time and reduce chaos and confusion. Keeping an archive or a history of your clinic’s communication, patient contact info, and even account balances all in one place means you won’t need to purchase a number of different software platforms, or have multiple apps open all at once.

You can also use message templates to maintain a sense of consistency with your messaging, and save your communications staff vital time. The right communications management software can also help you schedule messages in advance, allowing you to automate a great deal of the work.

Introducing new tools and platforms will mean that your team needs to be on the same page, but it may also mean exploring new options staff-based communication platforms outside the office – like mobile dental applications that help your team access and send the information they need no matter where they are.  

Three Person Looking at X-ray Result

2. Make Your Scheduling More Patient-Centric

The days when patients picked up the phone when they wanted to book or reschedule an appointment are long gone. So, if you want to reach new patients in younger age groups, you need to make sure your approach to scheduling is calibrated to appeal to that tech-savy demographic who overwhelmingly prefer to be contacted via text or email. 

Understanding the importance of multi-channel communications is key, as some patients prefer to be contacted in different ways. Using a combination of text, phone, and email messages will allow you to maximize your outreach.

One of the best ways to develop more patient-centered scheduling is through dental appointment software that makes it easy to contact current and prospective patients using their preferred methods of communication. 

Not only will this help with patient acquisition and retention, it will also make it easier to ensure patients don’t fall through the cracks due to miscommunication.  

3. Upgrade Your Data Storage

One major concern that every dental clinic needs to be taking seriously these days is data storage. 

In the dental profession, we tend not to think of data as being at the heart of the service we provide, but the truth is that without data, it is impossible to offer high-level care. After all, how can you offer a useful prognosis to your patient’s oral complaints if you don’t have access to their medical history?

Dental clinics face two choices when it comes to their data: store it locally using on-site servers or upload it to the cloud. While storing information locally may seem easier – and in some cases, may be preferable – the cloud offers far greater security and convenience. 

The benefits of cloud-based data storage include:

Greater Accessibility and Usability

With cloud-based data storage (like Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive), users can drag and drop – and then modify – files from anywhere, with no prior technical knowledge.

Disaster Recovery

Having a data backup plan is important for any business, but doubly so for a patient-based business like your dental clinic. Cloud storage creates a constant, real-time backup of all your important documents – including sensitive patient information, which can be recovered instantly from anywhere.

Reduced Cost

Internal power and resources associated with private servers are wiped clean with cloud storage. While cloud-based options will charge a usage cost, this basic fee is far less than the alternative.

If you want to enter the next decade with a modern data storage protocol that will meet the needs of tomorrow, look into some of the dental cloud server options that are available. 

Many things go into successfully running a healthcare business, but in my experience the ability to anticipate and prepare for upcoming challenges is one of the most important. 

As you reflect on the accomplishments of 2019, don’t forget that a whole new set of challenges is waiting for you around the corner in 2020. If you want to make sure you start the year strong, investing in improved communications, scheduling, and data storage software is one of the best places to start. 

Get in touch with ABELDent today to find out how our unique dental platform can help provide you with the integrated tools that will help your clinic flourish in the coming year.