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Inside Dentistry
April 2024
Volume 20, Issue 4

Software as a Service Solutions

Realize efficiencies and other benefits to practice with the right considerations

Monique Kramer

Software as a service (SaaS) is a familiar buzzword in many industries. But what exactly is it, and how has it evolved to meet the needs of businesses? SaaS is a software delivery model that allows users to subscribe to and use centrally hosted applications via the internet. You have probably heard of and even used some of the well-established SaaS companies, such as Salesforce, QuickBooks, Eaglesoft, or Dentrix—all of which have been part of the landscape of dental practice for many years.

Although SaaS itself is common in the dental industry, the introduction of the term and the extensive array of functions that it encompasses is still new to many end users. Unfortunately, the swift saturation of the market with SaaS providers, coupled with this shift in terminology, has impeded the seamless integration of SaaS into many dental practices, diminishing its capacity to establish more streamlined and efficient business models.

Clearing Up the Confusion

Technology companies have recognized the potential opportunities in the dental industry and expanded their SaaS capabilities accordingly and rapidly. Nevertheless, this expansion has led to what seems like endless options for users, creating a landscape with mixed and complex messaging. Understanding what these SaaS options are capable of and how their adoption integrates into the daily business workflow is crucial in determining which are necessary and desirable for your practice. For many practice owners, the biggest challenge is understanding the symbiotic relationship between SaaS and users that not only elevates the user experience but also enables businesses to transcend the limitations of conventional and previously used software models.

As technology has progressed, SaaS has been integrated into various business functions, and its reach has expanded. Three years ago, when I began studying and interviewing dental SaaS companies, I could categorize them into four distinct groups with limited overlap. Today, that number has surged and continues to grow. The categories of SaaS include property management systems, customer relationship management systems, revenue cycle management systems, learning management systems, procurement systems, insurance systems, data analytics systems, clinical AI systems, accounting systems, and more. As SaaS companies have expanded their capabilities to include more business categories, they have also merged and formed strategic partnerships, which has added to the confusion regarding possibilities for adoption.

Powered by AI

Presently, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into SaaS applications is creating opportunities for innovation that enable users to access cutting-edge technologies effortlessly, unburdened by the complexities of software installation and maintenance. This innovation represents a paradigm shift, where the combined strengths of SaaS and AI can usher in a future of seamless, intelligent, and accessible software solutions. Clinical AI for decision support is gaining momentum and credibility within the profession, and multiple SaaS companies are securing approvals from the US Food and Drug Administration for their systems. The growing recognition of clinical AI's accuracy highlights its capacity to enhance the efficiency of diagnosis, improve patient communication, and contribute to the overall profitability of dental practices.

Challenges and Considerations

When adopting SaaS solutions, end users often encounter several challenges. These challenges include uncertainty about which SaaS options align with their current systems, questions about the optimal number of SaaS companies to engage, and issues navigating the "tech stack" of SaaS applications, such as dealing with an overwhelming number of dashboards. Understanding the costs associated with SaaS solutions can present another hurdle as well as concerns about whether these tools will replace existing team roles. Achieving success with any technology hinges on the end users—the team members. The pivotal factors for success in the adoption of SaaS lie in team members' education and acceptance of SaaS solutions and the simplicity or seamlessness of their integration into daily workflows. This can create efficiencies in all areas of a dental practice and improve staff retention and bottom-line profitability. However, overcoming the related challenges requires careful consideration, strategic planning, and oftentimes, expert guidance to ensure a smooth transition into the realm of SaaS solutions.

Several crucial considerations in the adoption of SaaS solutions are identifying areas within the practice that are not meeting set goals, pinpointing opportunities to enhance patient experience, and assessing the overall financial performance of the practice. Evaluate your current operatory workflow and administrative processes. This evaluation will help guide you to the specific SaaS solutions that can enhance the operational efficiency of your practice.

Developing a SaaS roadmap can be very useful in the process of refining your business model and integrating technologies that align best with your practice. In addition, collaborating with a SaaS consulting service can add significant value by alleviating confusion, mitigating frustration, and reducing time loss. Engage your team in discussions about areas that directly impact them, share your observations about existing issues, and propose SaaS options as potential solutions. During this process, encourage their input. Fostering collaboration will not only build support but also help in the decision-making process for SaaS solutions that you are contemplating. Establishing the efficiencies that will be gained is crucial to securing team member buy-in and ensuring comprehensive utilization of SaaS across all relevant business functions.

Finally, it is crucial to collaborate with the support staff of chosen SaaS companies to achieve successful adoption and receive ongoing support. Given the continuous evolution of SaaS capabilities and partnerships, staying engaged is essential to receive timely notifications about any enhancements or changes. The expertise of SaaS companies can help guide you in developing a workflow for their SaaS offering in your practice. Although no single SaaS company or dashboard covers all SaaS functions, some companies are actively developing open AI solutions to aid in the integration of diverse dashboards, which is an aspect that merits consideration.

Reap the Rewards

In conclusion, SaaS solutions, particularly those that incorporate AI, have the power to cultivate efficiency in any business model. Implementing appropriate SaaS solutions can not only accentuate your practice's workflows through innovation but also contribute to staff retention and recruitment, enhance patient experiences, and ultimately, boost overall productivity and profitability. SaaS solutions help to create an environment in which everyone can thrive and deliver excellent patient care without compromising the practice's financial success. Now is the time to take advantage of these tools and resources and revitalize your practice.

About the Author

Monique Kramer is the founder and CEO of Dental SaaS Consulting.

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