Consider New Dental Software – Tips On Getting The Best Fit

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: 

Vendor

  • 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. 

Software Application

  • 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.

Support/Value-added Services

  • 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.  

Platform/Security

  • 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

Final Thoughts

  • 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

3 Ways Software Can Help Reduce No-Shows and Short-Notice Cancellation

I know from experience that few things are as frustrating for dental clinic administrators as when a patient doesn’t show up for their appointment, or cancels at the last minute. Dental clinics run on efficiency, and nothing is more wasteful than having large blocks of time open up during business hours because a patient couldn’t be bothered to cancel in advance.

While it might be tempting to blame the patient for being disorganized, if you want to understand why short-notice cancellations are so common – and you want to explore strategies for reducing the number of no-shows you have to deal with – it can be helpful to put yourself in the patient’s shoes.

Numerous studies have confirmed that the average person finds going to the dentist to be an extremely stressful experience, so it shouldn’t be surprising that many patients decide to back out when their appointment comes around. Instead of getting angry, it is far more productive to explore what tools are available to help patients keep their appointments, and re-book far in advance when they have a legitimate scheduling conflict.

At ABELDent we’ve built a dental practice management software platform explicitly designed to help clinics modernize the way they handle booking and patient communications. Here are three ways you can use practice management software to reduce no-shows and short-notice cancellations.

1. Software Keeps You Connected

Patients cancel appointments for many reasons, but the root problem is often a sense of disconnection. As a health care provider, it is your job to make patients feel safe and comfortable. Patients who feel cared for and valued are far more likely to follow through on their appointments, and to provide advance warning when they need to re-book.

Dental practice management software can help you cultivate this sense of connection by helping you keep detailed notes about each one of your patients, making personalized care easier and communication more fluid.

Over the years, ABELDent has helped countless dental clinics leverage the power of tools like patient reminder software to make patients feel more connected, and as our testimonials page shows, ABELDent software solutions have had a major impact on clinic success across the country.

2. Software Puts Patients in the Driver’s Seat

Making your patients feel more connected to your clinic is important, but it is perhaps even more essential to make them feel like they are in control of their own booking. If it is hard for a patient to contact your clinic to re-book an appointment, they probably won’t, and in the digital age we live in, patients may consider calling the clinic and talking with a staff member to be too much of a hassle.

If the patient decides to miss their appointment without contacting you, not only does this leave you with a gap in your schedule, it also means having to follow up with the patient and find a new time to see them.

One of the reasons patient portals are so effective is that they allow patients to control various aspects of their booking from their personal device. In addition to being able to view their health records and update personal information, most portals enable patients to view their upcoming appointments, request changes, and even cancel a visit (if you choose to provide this option).

Empowering patients to take charge of their bookings through their smartphone or computer is a great way to ensure that they provide you plenty of warning if they aren’t able to make it to an appointment.

3. Software Makes Sending Automated Reminders Easy

Sometimes, however, short-notice cancellations or missed appointments simply happen because the patient forgot they had an appointment. Given how far in advance bookings are typically made, it can be easy for patients to lose track of time and accidentally double-book themselves. Helping these patients keep their appointments is as easy as sending them an automated appointment reminder with the click of an icon.

Studies have shown that automated appointment reminder systems play an important role in reducing cancellation numbers, and are why sending reminders to patients is becoming a standard practice across the industry. Without this tool, a busy staff faced with a full schedule can result in reminders slipping through the cracks and remain unsent. Using automated appointment reminder software to make sure all patients are contacted in advance via email or text should be an important part of your communication strategy.

Given how many different things are involved in dental practice administration, it can be easy to lose site of the fact that dentistry exists for one reason: to serve patients. Last-minute cancellations are annoying, but cultivating a person-centred approach with patients when dealing with this issue can help. Effectively communicating to patients the importance of keeping their appointments or giving sufficient notice if there is a problem can be a preventative strategy to reduce missed appointments and the associated stress.

Adopting software tools that make patients feel more connected to your clinic and more in charge of their own booking is a great way to increase follow-through, and ensure that anxiety or hectic schedules are not keeping your patients from taking care of their oral health.

Protect Yourself from the Latest Cyber Scams

At first glance, cyber security might not seem like it would be a major concern for dental clinics. After all, their focus is on providing high quality healthcare and making patients as comfortable as possible – so are they really a big target for hackers?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes: because clinics deal in so much private information, and because most clinics are relatively small operations, they have become magnets for cyber criminals looking to steal personal and financial information they can use to turn a profit.

Moreover, research shows that cyber attacks can have a devastating impact on small businesses like dental clinics. According to one study, forty-three percent of cyber attacks target small businesses, sixty percent of which fold within six months of the attack. These are risks that no dental practice can afford to take.   

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post outlining some of the most common types of cyber attack and explaining some of the ways dental clinics can use practice management software to protect their financial records, patient files and other documents. Today, I want to follow up on that post by exploring ransomware attacks, identity theft schemes and the importance of developing a resilient strategy for weathering cyber attacks.

Ransomware: When Data Becomes a Hostage

In my previous post, I talked about phishing scams and malware that cyber criminals use to steal financial and credit card information. These types of attacks are designed to trick unsuspecting individuals into handing over personal financial information and all dental clinics should be on the lookout for them.

As mentioned in previous blogs, one type of malware – ransomware – has become particularly prominent. Unlike other forms of malware, ransomware doesn’t try to steal information from your database. Instead, it encrypts all the files on a computer’s hard drive and demands payment in return for decryption. Once you have been hit with the ransomware attack, you are forced to choose between having all of your information deleted or paying large sums of money to unlock your data.  

You can learn more about how ransomware has developed, and the unique threat it presents, in this video:

Ransomware is particularly dangerous because it can be difficult to track and cyber criminals are constantly adapting and tweaking their methods for delivering ransomware to your computer.

For this reason, the only real way to protect yourself from a ransomware attack is to make sure that your live data is accessed from cloud servers (rather than an on-site server) and that it gets backed up regularly in the cloud. This will ensure that your data won’t be held hostage due to unauthorized access and that you’ll have reliable copies if you ever need them.

Beware of Identity Theft Data Mining

While we often emphasize the financial costs of hacking, it is especially important for dental clinics to remember that there is another dimension to the problem: because they deal with large amounts of detailed and private information, many hackers will target clinics to mine data they can use for the purposes of identity theft. Consequently, we advise our ABELDent clients to never store sensitive information such as patient credit card numbers on their systems. 

If a cyber criminal gets hold of your patient’s clinical records, this can plunge you into a bureaucratic nightmare for failing to protect confidential healthcare information. Fines and penalties can drain your bank account and interrupt just about every aspect of your life for months on end.

At ABELDent, we have been talking for years about the importance of protecting patient information and recent legal developments only serve to underscore the importance of making sure that dental clinics are taking all necessary precautions to protect against identity theft.

Upgrading to cloud-based practice management software can make a world of difference in this regard, as it’s specifically designed to help healthcare professionals keep their patients’ data safe, while also protecting against data breaches that can lead to potentially ruinous court cases.

How Quickly Can You Bounce Back?

While it’s important to provide as many layers of protection as possible when it comes to cyber security, the chances are high that you will still be the victim of some kind of attack at some point. So, what do you do when that happens?

  1. Having a plan in place is crucial if you want to be able to bounce back quickly from a cyber attack. Evidence shows that clinics that have a system in place are usually able to get back up and running within hours, but only if they have backed their systems up properly and have protocols in place to minimize damage.
  2. Preparing your team so that they know who to call and what to do in the eventuality of a cyber attack is key if you want to make it through an attack unscathed. So take the time to train your staff on the right procedures -and make sure you are regularly backing up your data in secure ways!

Based on the cyber security outlook for 2019 , we’re no closer to preventing the occurrence of cyber crime. In fact, for small businesses like dental clinics, the likelihood of being hit by some kind of cyber attack will probably only increase in the coming year. This is why it’s so important for clinics to take the necessary measures to protect themselves from attacks that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, shut them down permanently and even get them into legal trouble.

In summary, don’t take any chances with your cyber security: backup your data regularly in the cloud. Better still, use a dental practice management system that accesses your live practice data from cloud servers so that it is never stored on-site and susceptible to attacks. You will be much less susceptible to an attack and even in the unlikely event that you are hit, you can recover easily with up-to-date backups. 

When to Keep Up with Technology

Dentists are inundated with new technologies that they are told they should implement but when is the right time and how do you decide?

Technology has absolutely revolutionized the field of dentistry, and new tech developments have gone a long way toward making life easier for dentists and hygienists around the world, which of course improves the comfort of patients. In the last generation alone, new breakthroughs in laser technology and digital impressions have made it much easier for dental clinics to offer a higher level of care.

Still, one of the most frequent complaints I hear from dentists and clinicians is how overwhelming it can be to stay on top of new tech developments.

With new breakthroughs happening all the time, and better tools reaching the market every year, it can be hard to know which developments are must-haves and which are not worth investing in – especially since many dentists are already stressed and are primarily focused on attracting new patients and retaining them in an increasingly saturated market.

So how should you decide what technologies to employ and when? Following are a few things to keep in mind when making your decision.

1. Ask Yourself What Problem the New Tech is Solving

The first question you should ask before upgrading to any new tech solution is what problem this new tech going to solve?

New technology should never be adopted for its own sake, but instead it should be adopted precisely because it helps your dental clinic operate more effectively and/or contributes to increased patient satisfaction.

Whether that means adopting automated patient communication or incorporating digital radiography, you should always be able to clearly articulate how this new technology makes your clinic better equipped to meet its quality and customer service goals. 

Essentially, ask yourself whether this investment will fill an immediate or anticipated need. If it doesn’t, it’s safe to pass.

2. Always do Your Research Before Upgrading

New technology gets a lot of hype and I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes it’s tempting to upgrade to the latest tech simply because it offers new, cutting-edge solutions. Novelty is exciting!

But in order to upgrade strategically and effectively, it’s important to look beyond the hype and do your research. If you are looking for new practice management software, one of the biggest questions facing dental clinics right now revolves around data security and storage. Consider the relative merits of cloud and local server solutions and make an informed decision based on your particular needs.

Since most dental software has now evolved to the point where appointment scheduling and clinical record keeping are relatively comparable between vendors, differentiation has shifted  to enhanced productivity tools such as integrated financial accounting and payment card processing, advanced reporting analytics, and more adaptive administrative and clinical workflows. These are the latest things to put on your comparison checklist.

In short, the best dental software solutions should always save your practice time and energy and give you the information you need to make informed practice management decisions.

Secondly, it is a good idea to make sure the vendor you choose has a good track record of keeping up with the latest developments in the dental industry. As CEO of ABELSoft, I can say that following this philosophy has always been a priority for our company.

3. Think to the Future

The trick is to time your upgrades to guarantee the best value for the longest period of time. Pay attention to patient feedback and to developments in your field with a goal of staying ahead of the curve without wastefully investing in every new technology that comes along.

One way to do this is to use the same framework that you use when considering a new treatment procedure – evidence based dentistry. By applying the same principles you will have much more confidence that the technology will deliver what it promises. 

4. Make Sure to Calculate Your Return on Investment

For example, innovative tools like 3-D intraoral scanning are starting to make difference in how dentists work. With the potential to provide more accurate replicas of the mouth than a traditional mould, they may offer a return on investment through time saved and mistakes averted. However, if you are considering such technology, make sure you consult with colleagues who have already implemented 3-D to get their impressions (no pun intended!).

If you manage a dental clinic, nobody needs to tell you that it is important for you to stay aware of the new technological developments – from improved record-keeping systems to efficient appointment reminders and confirmation communication – that make it possible to run your business better day-to-day.

In summary, whether you are a dental practitioner or office administrator, it pays to approach new technology in a strategic way that will allow you to minimize costs and ensure that you get solutions that can actually help your clinic reach its full potential. 

What will you do with your cloud-shift $avings?

There is no question that investment in technology can be significant for any business, let alone a small- to medium-sized dental practice. When it comes to your practice management software, the return on that investment and its inherent value to your bottom line is undeniable. But the cost of hardware, maintenance, security, and IT support can certainly add up.

One of the best advantages of working in the cloud is the prospect of dramatically reducing the technology expenses line item in your budget.

During a recent discussion with a client regarding her planned migration to our cloud hybrid solution, we got out our calculators to do a real-life cost-benefit analysis.

This led to a genuine “eureka!” moment for my client. She got excited about the many ways that she could spend the freed-up funds over the next year. She started out with practical suggestions; by the end of our phone call we were contemplating whimsical and downright hysterical options.

The whole topic went viral – if you can use that term for water-cooler conversation dominance – and before I knew it we were compiling a list of ideas to share in a blog post. Here are the team’s top ten picks:

10. A bucket-list trip on the panoramic Rocky Mountaineer through Western Canada and Alaska

9. Porcelain veneers

8. Two weeks on a beach in Maui with my mate

7. Home theatre with surround sound: one for my operatory and another for my rec room

6. A wellness spa retreat for my hardworking staff

5. A Jaguar hood ornament for my Honda Civic

4. “Everybody gets a car!” (well, maybe with a small cash infusion from Oprah)

3. A vintage Pac Man arcade game for the staff lounge

2. A staff lounge

1. A shiny new, state-of-the-art CAD and CBCT system – or maybe just an AI Dental Advisor. Siri, meet Carie

What’s on your wish list?

I invite you to share your top picks with me.
 

Going Cloud: Three Common Myths Busted

The more I discuss cloud computing with dental practitioners, the more I recognize that there’s as much dis-information floating around as there are facts you can count on.

Moving to a cloud-hosted model is a big decision. Most companies choose it for business agility and cost savings. But there are drawbacks to consider. That’s why ABELDent now features a hybrid solution: Our practice management software users can enjoy all the advantages while minimizing the risk.

To help you separate fact from fiction and support any level of migration to the cloud, I thought it might be helpful to share the truth about the most common myths:

  1. If our data moves to the cloud, our business will no longer have control over our technology.Not so!  You still have total control over technology, but your IT department won’t have to worry about constant updates. The time they’re now spending on maintenance and software upgrades will be significantly reduced, allowing them to focus on advancing your organization’s technology and business operations.

    Instead of spending your capital budget on servers, you can think strategically about reinvesting those funds into growth initiatives. (Hmm… what else could I do with those savings?)

  2. Keeping our data on premise is safer than in the cloud.Not so!  It’s becoming increasingly clear that companies are routinely hacked without ever knowing it. Your practice may have a security expert, or use the services of a third-party professional. However, most companies can rarely assemble a team large enough to uncover and protect against the hundreds of possible alerts that come through each day.

    Cloud data centres like Microsoft Azure – our proven choice – are singularly focused on security and built with scale in mind. A dedicated team maintains security at the pinnacle of industry standards, using a wide range of processes and regulatory compliance expertise, to prevent, detect and mitigate breaches.

  3. Corporate spies, cyber thieves and governments will have access to my data if it is in the cloud.Not so!  This is a top fear about the cloud among many businesses, but it is unfounded. It’s your data, not anyone else’s. You determine access and options, rights and privacy restrictions. Strict controls and design elements prevent your data from mingling with that of other organizations. Physical access to data centres is secured and monitored continuously, and all data centre staff must follow stringent data access protocols.

    A respected provider like MS Azure guarantees that your data will not be mined for advertising or for any purpose other than providing services you have paid for. If you choose to leave the service, you take your data with you.

The more I learn, the more the benefits of cloud computing make solid business sense, especially within the context of our hybrid solution for dental practitioners. As always, we’ve dedicated our development resources to making sure we address the needs, concerns and real-world priorities of our users. Read more about our Best of Both Worlds solution. And please share this with any colleagues who need help separating fact from fiction when it comes to the cloud. It’s good to be on the same page: You’ll save time by not having to argue about these myths.

Your dental practice hardware can make – or break – your day

I work in the software development industry. I’m surrounded by early adopters.

The shiny baubles that were mentioned in a recent post… the latest toys… the tiniest and most powerful gadgets… they want it all. And they’re willing to stake a place in an overnight line-up just to be the first to get their hands on it, whatever the cost.

I also love technology and how it makes my life easier. But I’m not an “if it isn’t broken, then break it” kind of person. I like things that work, day in and day out; things I can count on.

So I was not at all surprised last week when my old trusted home PC crashed one final time. What did surprise me was how inconvenient it was to get a new one up to speed! I’m vigilant about data back-up and system security at work; not so much at home. And even though I now use cloud technology, my cell phone and laptop are my lifelines.

There are lessons to be learned from this: good reasons to upgrade your operating system and practice hardware even when, on the surface, things appear to be working just fine.

Security
When an old Operating System is retired, the developer will stop supporting it with updates, bug fixes and security patches. Your system and practice data including, of course, private patient information, are left vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated security threats, viruses and malicious software attacks. Each new operating system builds in ongoing advancements in defensive technology.

Patient Service and Satisfaction
How often do you or a team member comment that “the system is slow today” – usually as small talk while a patient on the phone or at reception waits for data to be retrieved? If this happens frequently, you should be looking for an opportunity to improve performance with hardware upgrades. Today’s consumers are far less ‘patient’ than we once were.

Performance
Current i5 processors can be 10 times more powerful than a computer produced as recently as 5 years ago. Software is designed with that capability in mind. Newer Operating Systems rely on it.

Stability
The physical component that is most vulnerable to wear and tear is the hard drive that holds your data. Solid State technology has no moving parts, but an older hard drive can be wholly reliable right up until the day the spinning disc fails. This will happen invariably at the least convenient time.

Of course, with the mainstream adoption of cloud technology, the cost and upkeep of a server is minimized. But there are still desktop and tablets that require maintenance. At the office, our IT team is proactive in constantly upgrading and replacing our hardware. And I have learned a valuable lesson from them. Still, I can’t say I don’t miss my old faithful. Its slow performance gave me time to ponder the universe… and grab a snack.