How Your Dental Clinic Can Benefit from Reputation Management

If you’ve never heard of “reputation management” before it probably sounds like something from the entertainment industry – the kind of job done by someone working for a major film studio or record label.

But while the entertainment industry certainly has its fair share of people whose jobs consist of burnishing and protecting the reputations of the biggest stars, you might be surprised to learn that reputation management should also be a concern for dental clinics.

As a dental healthcare provider, your good reputation is a priceless asset – one that will be a natural draw for new patients. And in the age of online reviews, managing that reputation and making sure that it isn’t tarnished unfairly is something every dental clinic should take seriously.

While I have written before about the importance of online reviews for dental businesses of all sizes, in this post I specifically discuss the role of review management software – a key tool to help you bring your reputation management into the twenty-first century.

To that end, I’ll answer three of the most common questions that I get from healthcare providers who want to know more about reputation management services in general and review management software in particular.

1. What is Review Management Software?

Review management software is designed to help businesses of all kinds effectively handle their online reviews. According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, negative online reviews can sometimes cause doctors to see significant drops in patient enrolment, which can snowball into catastrophe if left unchecked. 

Most review management software offers a variety of tools that help you acquire a greater volume of reviews on social media as well as industry-specific websites. It also helps you curate the reviews you receive from your dental patients and highlight the most positive ones.

Review management software usually doesn’t interfere with negative reviews but it does provide response options that allow you to manage reviews from unsatisfied patients to minimize the negative impact and ensure that the issues they raise are dealt with productively.

Perhaps most importantly, review management software takes a lot of the uncertainty out of review management and gives you the opportunity to easily oversee how your dental clinic is being talked about online.

2. How Does Review Management Software Work?

Review management software for dentists works on four distinct fronts by:

  • Increasing review volume
  • Highlighting the best reviews
  • Responding to negative reviews
  • Optimizing the placement of reviews

For example, this software helps you solicit more reviews by automating review acquisition campaigns via email and text, which means that you don’t have to organize your own campaigns every month or every two months. It also sends you and your team alerts every time a review is posted, which puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to responding to negative reviews and helps you mark up positive ones so that they will be more SEO-friendly, and consequently more likely to be seen by potential patients.

Finally, this software lets you track your performance over time, so you can get a bird’s eye view of how your patients are evaluating the service your clinic provides.

3. What Difference Does it Make?

While most dental clinic managers and owners intuitively understand that a good reputation is essential for growing their patient base, I often hear people ask whether review management software really makes a difference. After all, if you already have good word-of-mouth promotion, will a few reviews whether positive or negative, really make a difference to your business?

The truth is that as the Internet becomes a more and more integral part of how we gather information and make decisions, word-of-mouth is no longer enough – you also need strong online reviews.

According to recent data, 90% of consumers consult online reviews before visiting any business, while 88% of consumers value online reviews as highly as the recommendations of their friends and family. This doesn’t mean that a few mean-spirited reviews online can cancel out the testimonies of satisfied patients, as long as your positive reviews sound genuine and speak to the same positive experiences. 

One thing to remember is that bad reviews come easily, while good reviews don’t, so it pays to invest in software that encourages your patients to do the latter.

Patients, like any type of consumer, are more likely to actually take time out of their day to write a review if they had a bad experience. Essentially, these reviews act as a warning to others. The good news is that people who seek out online reviews are savvy and if they see one negative review stacked up against 20 positive ones, they will be able to read the numbers and understand that one bad review likely doesn’t speak to the overall service provided by a dental practice.

With a growing number of patients making decisions about which healthcare providers to choose based on what they read online, ensuring that your online reviews reflect the best service you provide is essential. And, the best way to garner positive reviews is to simply ask for them.

If you want to grow your business and attract new patients to your dental clinic, building a strong reputation, cultivating good reviews, and ensuring that negative reviews are not prominently displayed needs to be part of your strategy. Review management software is by far the best tool for making this strategy work.   

Gen Z At The Dentist: Challenges and Opportunities

How do I engage young people?

It’s a question I hear often and it can be a difficult one to answer. Usually the person asking works for a clinic that is seeing declining numbers and wants to find ways to draw in Gen Z patients who are starting new careers and trying to find healthcare providers.

While there is no one guaranteed method for attracting young patients, there are a few things you can do to make your clinic more attractive to them both as patients and employees. It all starts with understanding how this cohort differs from previous generations.

Who is Gen Z?

If you’ve only just gotten used to the fact that Millennials are about to replace the Boomers as the largest generation, hold on – a whole new generation is now reaching adulthood and understanding their needs is going to be essential if you want your clinic to grow.

According to most demographic researchers, Generation Z consists of those who were born between the mid-nineties and the mid-two-thousands. While most Millennials were shaped by the experience of spending the first years of their lives in a largely analog world, the Internet and the rise of social media was nevertheless a formative experience.

Gen Z, on the other hand, largely doesn’t remember a world before computers and the Internet. They are the first generation that can be considered true “digital natives“. Digital connection is the natural state of things for Gen Z and influences much of how they see and interact with the world.

As Dr. Jean Twenge explains in this video for Time Magazine, this key difference is having a profound effect on how Gen Z engages with the world.

Generally speaking, members of Gen Z share a set of distinct qualities. They tend to be:

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Digitally savvy
  • Plugged in
  • Independent
  • Hard-working
  • Interested in connection

If you want to attract young people as patients and as employees, you are going to need to understand how they think, what they value and where to most effectively make contact.  

How to Connect With Gen Z Patients

One of the key challenges any dental clinic will face when trying to connect with Gen Z patients is the fact that young people are not always as careful about their health as their older peers might be.

Having just started to live independent lives, many are too busy or too disorganized to book regular healthcare appointments. And if they are going to school away from home, they might not have a regular healthcare provider.

This means that dental clinics need to be more intentional about connecting with Gen Z patients and reminding them to make and follow up on appointments. For this reason, getting the right dental patient communication software can really increase follow through and help you meet your Gen Z patients where they are. Strong patient communication that results in reliable scheduling will go a long way in attracting and retaining Gen Z patients.

Making Gen Z Part of Your Team

Bringing in Gen Z patients is important, but if you want to serve Gen Z well as patients, it helps if you hire them as employees.

So how do you reach out to this key demographic and how can you make sure you are hiring the best candidates for the job? Here are just a few things that can help bring in more resumes from hard-working Gen Z applicants.    

  • Connect with them early: If you want to get the top talent working at your dental clinic, reach out to them while they are still finishing up a dental program. Many Gen Z students are applying for jobs before they are out of college, so making connections early on is important. 
  • Emphasize cross-training: One of the well-documented facts about Gen Z is that multi-tasking comes naturally to them.  Keeping them engaged and interested in how your clinic runs by giving them opportunities for cross training is an effective strategy. 
  • Find out what they want: More than previous generations, Gen Z knows it has options. Discovering what young candidates are looking for and what their expectations are is a great way to make sure your Gen Z hires are a good fit.
  • Be Decisive: Your Gen Z candidate is probably applying to dozens of jobs, so once you decide to hire them, let them know right away!

Gen Z is particularly competitive and they are focused on being the best, doing their best, and receiving the best incentives in return. Patience is not a strong suit with Gen Zers and they are used to having everything at their fingertips.

Whether you’re trying to land a Gen Z as a patient or as an employee, you need to act quickly as Gen Zers will move on to new opportunities if they don’t see immediate results and rewards.

As I have written before in this space, tailoring your marketing to the demographics you are hoping to reach is essential if you want to have a concrete impact and bring in new patients and employees.  

Whether you are trying to attract Millennials or the emerging Generation Z, appealing to new patients and new employees will come down to demonstrating that you care about their needs and are willing to adjust your dental practice to meet them. Remember, the younger generations are the future of healthcare and building a dental clinic that works for them is a great way to guarantee future growth!

 

Why They Stay and Why They Go: A Guide to Keeping Patients

It’s a situation most dentists can unfortunately relate to: a patient who has been coming to you for years calls to cancel their upcoming appointment or doesn’t show up for it at all.

At first you think it’s just a scheduling issue, but then you find out they’ve transferred to another dentist a few blocks away. Clearly they didn’t move out of the city and they obviously still need care – so what happened?

Why, after years of coming to your dental clinic, did they decide to switch? Many of the dentists I talk to can’t help but admit that they often feel hurt in these situations. While that feeling is natural, the reason usually is not personal.

Patients come to your practice for the service you provide so instead of wondering what is wrong with you, it’s better to treat it as a learning experience that can help you improve the level of care you offer.

Why do Patients Leave?

If you want to improve patient retention, you need to understand why patients decide to switch service providers in the first place. While you can’t control all the factors that lead a patient to leave, you can make it easier for them to stay.

Here are the top reasons, according to one leading industry magazine, why patients leave dental service providers:

  • Bad experiences at the front desk
  • Long wait times
  • Difficulties getting timely appointments or changing appointments
  • Insurance problems
  • Perception of unnecessary discomfort during care

From my own experience, and from the experience of dental professionals I work with, I would add a few others:

  • Concerns over prices
  • Outdated methods of patient communication
  • Perception the practice is not “modern” and keeping up with the latest technologies
  • Better service available elsewhere

Switching healthcare providers is not very convenient, which is why people generally only do it if they are legitimately unhappy with the service they’ve experienced.

The good news is that there are strategies clinics can employ to keep their patients, such as investing in better dental software or making the patient experience more enjoyable. If you want to improve patient retention here are four things you should start doing immediately: 

1. Hire A Secret Shopper

A lot of work is involved in setting up your own practice and once things are running smoothly it can be easy to fall into routines. While routines are not bad in and of themselves (in fact can be very useful in the workplace!) routines can make it easy to become complacent. And, when you spend every day working in your clinic it can be difficult to know how a patient seeing it for the first time experiences it.

One way to get a first-time patient’s honest take is by hiring someone to act as a patient and then report on their experience at your clinic. This can help you see your clinic through fresh eyes and give you an opportunity to learn what kind of treatment your patients are getting from your receptionists and hygienists.  

2. Get Patient Feedback – And Act On It

There are lots of tools that can help you get feedback from your patients about how your clinic is doing but none of it is worth much if you aren’t able to act on it.

While dentists and healthcare service providers around the world are investing lots of resources in getting customer feedback, implementing the insights that feedback provides is often significantly more difficult.

Listening to what patients tell you is one of the most essential aspects of improving care. For example, if they say:

3. Manage Your Reputation

It’s easy to imagine that reputation management only matters for bringing in new patients. Yet the truth is that a patient’s view of the care they receive can be shaped by the views they are exposed to.

If you heard someone complaining about the food they ate at a restaurant you frequent wouldn’t it make you think twice about your own experience?

Being intentional about how your brand is perceived online can also help with patient retention, which is why you should consider making dental reputation management software part of your patient retention strategy asap.

Because reputation is something that you can mold over time, you can expect quantifiable results that will actively grow and improve your business so long as you’re willing to put in a little time and effort.

There are numerous benefits to maintaining a solid online reputation, but here are the ones I think are the most valuable:

  • Higher trust – People’s trust in a brand rises alongside its reputation.
  • Increased profits – Companies with better ratings and reviews get more business.
  • Better talent – Brands that boast a positive reputation will ultimately attract better employees.
  • Less risk – People move with crowds and reputation management is a way to attract that crowd.

4. Know Your Competition

In the healthcare industry we don’t often like to think of ourselves as being in competition with each other. But the reality is that when patients have options for care, they will inevitably compare your dental practice to others.

Knowing which dental clinics are in your area and how your service stacks up to theirs is essential if you are to stay competitive, so do your research and find out where your practice is falling behind other clinics in your area.

Losing patients can certainly be a demoralizing experience. Rather than taking it personally, it’s wise to treat it as an opportunity to figure out what you can do to minimize this type of setback in the future!

Automated Patient Communication Systems Are All The Rage: How To Find The Right One

For good reason, there’s been a recent explosion in the number of dental practices that are using automated patient communication solutions.

In short, they save administration time and help boost revenue by sending customized patient messages in a batch via email, text or voicemail.

Common messages include appointment notifications, appointment confirmation requests and outstanding treatment notices. Patients can respond from their smartphone, tablet or computer and the system automatically updates their e-calendars – fast and easy.

This blog provides a summary of the benefits of using an Automated Patient Communication solution and explains what factors to consider when choosing one.

Patient Communication Benefits Summary

  1. Patient Convenience: Patients can quickly and easily respond to appointment notices by email or text     
  2. Reduced Costs: Automated patient reminders and confirmations save significant administrative time
  3.  Reduced No-Shows: Patients that receive electronic reminders are more likely to keep appointments
  4. Increased Booking Rates: Patients that receive outstanding treatment notices are more likely to schedule appointments.
  5. Patient Engagement: Automated communication keeps patients actively involved in their oral health.

Choosing a Patient Communication Solution

While some dental practice management systems (DPMS) have this type of functionality built within the software, there are also third-party solution vendors who provide dedicated patient communication applications that integrate, to varying degrees, with a number of DPMS. The following table summarizes the advantages and disadvantages both options:

Third Party Solution
These applications are dedicated to automated communication only and are marketed to a variety of customer service organizations including dental practices. Since they are not part of the dental practice management software, they must extract the data from the software’s database.

Practice Management Software Solution
Automated patient communication capability is either built-in to the software or offered as a fully integrated optional module. Since both applications are provided by the same vendor the integration and data sharing between the two is secure and potentially unlimited.
PROSPROS
Third Party Solution
– Typically feature rich
– Vendor depth of experience – specialize in automated patient communications
– Wide range of systems and feature choices







Practice Management Software Solution
– Tighter Integration between the DPMS software database and the communication features
– Database updates in real time maintaining data integrity
– Single entry of data
– Features remain reliable and consistent with all DPMS upgrades
– One vendor support
– Often included at no or minimal cost
– Ability to offer Patient Portals (see more below)
CONSCONS
Third Party Solution
– Typically more costly
– Not dental practice specific
– Limited integration – only as good as the data it can extract from the DPMS system
– Database updates are not always in real time
– May require additional patient data entry
– Integrations can break as DPMS versions change
Practice Management Software Solution
– May lack advanced features
– Not the DPMS vendor’s primary product/focus






Patient Portals

Some DPMS solutions also offer a patient portal – a secure, online website that gives patients 24-hour access to specific information and an instrument for information exchange (as determined by the dental practice).

Portals enable patients to carry out tasks that previously had to be completed either by telephone or during an in-person visit. This may include appointment requests, healthcare information updates and responses to surveys and review requests. The key is that Portals give dental practices the platform and the power to increase patient engagement making them an essential feature for most offices.

Portal Benefits

  • Increased Administrative Efficiency: Improves                        communication between your patients and dental team.
  • Patient Convenience: Patients can request and respond when and how they want.
  • Enhanced Patient Care: Patients and providers can view up-to-date patient information.
  • Efficient Marketing Tool: Provides an effective source of patient referrals and testimonials.

Note:  Third-party vendors have little or no ability to provide comprehensive patient portals as they have limited access to the DPMS database and no control over additional data fields that may be required to provide the functionality and information exchange desired.

Conclusion  

Automated Patient Communication and Patient Portals that are developed by DPMS vendors are specifically designed for use with their own practice management software. Integration integrity is ensured and maintained with uniform DPMS/Automated Patient Communication upgrades. There are no inherent limits for data exchange and data is never out of date since it is updated in real time. Additionally, there is the convenience of single vendor support for all functions.

With a third-party solution, the DPMS database is potentially at risk of corruption every time the third-party application accesses it to obtain the patient/appointment information that it needs to function. On the other hand, third-party solutions typically offer a wider range of features and are the only option if your DPMS vendor does not provide automated patient communication functionality.

In summary, if your DPMS vendor offers patient communication features that meet your needs then it is likely to be a more stable and secure solution making it preferred when compared to any third-party offering.

4 Back to School Tips to Help Dental Students Succeed This Semester

The following guest post is from Tyler Willis, founder of Tyler Willis Content Consulting. An accomplished writer and editor, Tyler engages with clients from many industries including higher education, technology and healthcare to produce professional quality content that appears in magazines, online news and blogs.

For students preparing for a career in the dental industry, September is a exciting month. As that delicious nip of fall enters the air, the new semester brings new classes, new challenges, and new opportunities for growth. 

Studying to become a dental professional can be incredibly rewarding, but I don’t think anyone who has been through the process would say that it is easy. Dental programs are designed to be extremely demanding, but there are ways to make things easier for yourself.

Here are four tips that can help you head into this school year prepared for success and focused on mastering the skills you need.

1. Plan Ahead

The best way to succeed in dentistry school is to plan so that you are prepared for the rigours of the coming months instead of finding yourself panicking as the end of the semester closes in. Pace yourself, make sure you understand the material and adopt a proactive attitude to learning.

Here are a few areas you can focus on to ensure that you succeed in dentistry school:

  • Manage your time – Mastering the skill of time management is crucial to keeping on top of your assignments and studies while also balancing your personal life and other responsibilities. Keep a calendar noting when all of your assignments are due and the time and location for every quiz, exam, personal appointment, etc. so that you arrive on time.
  • Set some time aside for yourself – This often-overlooked tip is key. Don’t drop all of your social engagements or hobbies just because you’re studying. Make time for yourself to avoid burnout.
  • Always be professional – You are about to embark on a career in patient care, and the sooner you learn how to conduct yourself in a professional manner, the better your prospects will look. Dentistry school is also the perfect time to start building networking connections. Trust me, they will last your entire career.
  • Keep your body in shape – This is an easy one to let slide, especially during exam crunch time. But it’s important to get a good night’s sleep and keep fit. Keeping your body healthy will keep your mind sharp and help you succeed.

This video that shares more good advice for first year students in dental programs.

2. Gain As Much Knowledge As Possible

Dentistry students get a lot of information thrown at them and, when you’re just starting out, it can be tempting to wonder when you’ll actually need to know all this.

The reality is that since you will be running or participating in a business in addition to being a clinician, you don’t just need to know about your own role. You will also need to co-ordinate with team members that have a variety of different skills. As I mentioned in a previous blog, succeeding in dentistry often means adopting new approaches, mastering new software solutions and using cross training techniques to get the most from yourself and your team. Soaking up as much knowledge as you can while in dentistry school, even if it doesn’t seem immediately applicable to your desired role, will stand you in good stead once you are in the workplace.

3. Prepare for a Career in the Real World

Dentistry has changed a lot in the past twenty years, and being part of a dental team involves understanding a lot more than just teeth. In addition to covering standard tools of the trade like scalers, molds and tofflemires, your instructors will talk about practice management and people skills.  

Take advantage of these education opportunities to learn more about industry-specific topics like the role dental software plays in the modern clinic. The specific features of the software will give you a good indication of what is important to track and monitor to run a successful practice so that you are better prepared when you graduate. Remember, successful dental professionals wear a lot of different hats and maintaining an approach to your studies that is focused on preparing yourself for the actual industry will stand you in good stead when you are interviewing for your first job in the field.

4. Don’t Neglect Your Own Health

Let’s face it: if higher education is stressful, advanced study in the healthcare sciences is doubly so. And one of the unfortunate by-products of all this stress is that students often don’t take adequate care of themselves, even as they are learning about the importance of regular check-ups for public health.

When studying to be a dental professional, make sure to regularly book appointments with your own healthcare providers so you can keep healthy throughout the school year. Remember, you can’t take care of others if you are neglecting your own health! You’ll also get a better idea of what approach you will adopt when dealing with patients based on your own experience as a patient.

Many of the healthcare professionals I talk to look back on their university or college years with a sense of fondness for the good times – and a general feeling of relief that they made the grade.

Whether you love the student life or can’t wait to start practicing your profession, it is important to get the most out of your school experience. After all, these years can set you up for a long and successful career in the world of dentistry!

Looking To Improve Your Quality of Service? Review Management Software Can Help

What price would you put on attaining a great reputation?

If you operate a dental clinic, your reputation in the industry is one of the most important aspects of your business. A good reputation will attract new patients and help you keep the patients you have – but it will also do a lot more than that. 

Earlier this summer I wrote about the value of reputation management software, and review management software in particular, as a way of increasing the growth and profitability of your practice. This week, I want to share some of the less obvious ways in which strong online reviews can make your dental clinic shine.

Yes, using review management software to curate your online reputation will help you build your patient base but, as you’ll see below, that’s not all it can do for you.

Good Reviews Attract Good Staff

Every dental clinic relies on a strong team of receptionists, assistants, managers, hygienists, and dentists in order to function well. Building a good team isn’t easy, and attracting talent can be a challenge, especially in competitive urban markets. Attaining as many positive online reviews for your clinic as possible will make it much easier for you to find passionate, dedicated staff. 

Most job seekers will read up on online to find out as much as they can about their potential future boss before they ever send in an application. If you don’t have much of an online presence, or if your online presence contains a lot of negative reviews, this can make attracting the right people even harder.

Conversely, if your clinic has received a lot of positive, public feedback online from genuine patients then potential employees are far more likely to consider working for you.

Reviews are a way for potential employees to discover a number of things about your practice. Here are some of the things patients may comment about in reviews:

  • Your Team – A strong team with the right work ethic will attract better candidates
  • Service – Potential hires want to know whether a practice is trying to improve people’s lives by providing great service and by making them feel welcomed and appreciated
  • Workspace – The physical space of a clinic is as important to employees as it is to patients and a comfortable, well-kept office with modern equipment will attract both
  • Office Culture – A positive office environment is an attractive quality for potential hires

Negative Reviews Give Opportunities To Show You Care

No one likes logging onto the review management component of their dental software and seeing that someone has left a negative comment criticizing their dental clinic.

But wouldn’t you prefer to know if your patients are having a bad experience, rather than remaining unaware of the impression your clinic is leaving in patients’ minds?

They say that ignorance is bliss but in the world of healthcare it is actually dangerous. Knowing how your patients feel about the service you offer is absolutely essential if you want to give them the best care possible.

For this reason, you should embrace negative reviews as an opportunity for growth. After all, you can’t get better if you don’t have reliable feedback about where you are missing the mark. 

One of the reasons why dental reputation management software is so helpful is because it alerts you to every review posted about your clinic, and gives you a variety of action options, putting you in the driver’s seat when it comes to dealing with disgruntled patients. 

According to some experts, when healthcare professionals respond to negative reviews, patient satisfaction can double, turning a bad visit into a good experience. So, make sure your review management software is set up so that you can respond to them as quickly as possible!

Tapping into Patient Reviews Helps You Fine-Tune Your Practice  

Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the ways you can improve the culture of your practice. Everyone working in dentistry should be striving to give patients a better experience and a better level of care. One of the best ways to find out where you can be doing better is by regularly reading what people have to say about you.

For example, if most of your patients’ reviews indicate their appreciation for your practice’s implementation of appointment management software, e.g. for convenient  patient confirmation or re-booking of appointments online, it indicates that your approach to booking is working. It also suggests that your patients are pretty plugged in which may lead you to adopt new digital tools to make your clinic even more accessible.

Remember, even when patients are happy with your service there are still ways that it can be improved!

Online reviews have rapidly become one of the most important factors in how patients decide on their health care options but this isn’t the only reason to take online reputation management seriously. Investing in review management software can also help you attract talented employees, respond to negative criticism in real time, and fine-tune the service that your dental practice offers. 

Purchasing new Dental Software? What you should know before signing on the dotted line!

A few months ago I wrote a blog article about what to look for in dental software to get the best fit for your practice. However, once you identify the software you prefer for your office, it is critical to ensure you have considered all factors before making a commitment to the vendor.

In this blog we will look at important selection criteria that often gets overlooked during the evaluation process – only to be discovered (and regretted) after an agreement has been signed.

Purchase Model/Overall Cost

Cost is often the main concern of dentists when comparing practice management solutions but it can be challenging to make an objective cost comparison.

  • Each vendor may offer a different mix of components that comprise their standard configuration
  • Any additional features you desire will likely only be available an additional cost – either from the vendor or from a third party
  • Some parts of the total solution may be offered in the form of perpetual software licenses for an upfront, one-time, payment
  • Some other features may only be available by paying a monthly subscription

The simplest way to deal with this complexity is to list the main features you require then calculate and compare each system’s upfront and monthly costs.

In addition to the core practice management software being offered, here are examples of specific features and services that may be available either bundled or separately:

  • Clinical applications (Charting, Clinical notes)
  • Patient Communication/Appointment Reminders/Patient Portal
  • Imaging software/Third Party Imaging Software Integrations
  • Patient Kiosk
  • Advanced Reporting
  • Payment Card Processing
  • Reputation Management
  • Remote Back-up services
  • Productivity Tool Integrations (Accounting, Office 365, Payroll, HR Management)
  • Software Maintenance (updates)
  • Software support (telephone, knowledge base, email, chat)
  • Training (on-site, classroom, web-based, telephone) 

You should also consider the after-tax cost of your investment. Upfront payments for software and hardware are treated as capital costs that can be depreciated at different rates. Alternatively, these assets can be leased and lease payments are treated as an expense against generated income. Monthly rental/subscription payments are treated similarly for determining after tax income. It’s best to check with your accountant to determine the optimum financing mix that minimizes your taxes and preserves cash flow based on your practice profile.   

Data Conversion

If you currently use practice management software, chances are you will want to transfer as much practice data over as possible to the new system. However, if you have many years of data, it makes sense to limit the carryover of transactions to the last two to three years so your new system starts with a relatively “clean” database.

Worth noting here is that you should be able to run your old software (and database) simultaneously with your new software during the early stages of the new implementation. This arrangement equips you to look up historical transactions as required.

Now let’s look at the different levels of practice data conversion to be considered.

Basic
-Patient Demographics including recall dates and account balances
Intermediate
-Patient Demographics including recall dates and account balances
-Appointments
-Financial transactions
-Procedure history
-Insurance information for eClaims
Full
-Patient Demographics including recall dates and account balances
-Appointments
-Financial transactions
-Procedure history
-Insurance information for eClaims
-Clinical charts and diagnostic notes
-Outstanding treatment plans
-Detailed insurance information/coverage

Your chosen level of data conversion will be influenced by the number of patients and records you decide to transfer. For example, you may not wish to pay for appointment information transfer if the number of future appointments is small and quick to enter manually.

Beware of companies who promise detailed conversions at no or low cost  as an enticement. Regardless of the amount of automation used in the conversion process, each data conversion is unique and takes substantial time for planning and testing. Low cost conversions will likely lead to poor results and cost you much more if you need to correct corrupt data or enter missing information.

Keep in mind that the The differences from one software to another can lead to data that doesn’t map accurately into ABELDent. Some systems are based on ancient, obscure or proprietary differences in dental software databases means not every data field from one system will have a direct match in another system. Furthermore, some software systems are based on obscure, proprietary technology that make it difficult to extract data. In addition, some vendors encrypt your data making it impossible to move it to another system without obtaining the decryption key (for which they may charge a substantial fee).

After you’ve chosen the level of data conversion that’s right for your dental practice, the easiest way to ensure a satisfactory conversion is to request a sample and check it for data accuracy. Ask the new vendor for a data conversion agreement that specifies the files and fields that will be carried over and where they link to in the new system. You will also need to schedule a time for the new vendor to receive your most current backup prior to going live so that the data transferred over is as up to date as possible.    

Implementation/Configuration:

When you are ready to make a commitment to a new dental software vendor, it is important to have an implementation plan in place so that the transition goes as smoothly as possible. Ask your new vendor what their implementation steps are and how any issues you may have experienced in the past would be resolved this time around.

Choose a reputable hardware/IT vendor and make sure they consult with the dental software vendor so that your new dental software system gets configured to specification. Skimping on quality hardware or using inexperienced technologists can cost you a lot more down the road in lost productivity if the system and/or the support prove unreliable.

Schedule several training sessions prior to your “live” date so that staff have an opportunity to get familiar with all the basic functions of the software. It is best to shut the office down during training so staff can give their full attention instead of dealing with interruptions. Once up and running, don’t be satisfied using just the basics. Switching from your current system implies you are looking for something more so book advanced training to help your team fully realize the  software’s capabilities and increase your return on investment!