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Choosing the Right Dental Practice Management Software
A rundown of options and challenges to consider
For many dental practices today, success depends upon practice management (PM) software programs. Although there is no perfect solution because of the constantly changing dynamics of a dental practice, software companies invest significant research and development to continually upgrade their products and services to meet the varied needs of their clients.
Most dental practices already have PM software—a survey conducted in 2010 by the California Healthcare Foundation found that 93% of respondents use PM software.1 However, according to a 2006 survey on use of technology in the operatory—ie, clinical computing—only about one quarter (24.6%) of general dentists were using computers chairside.2
It would be useful to dentists to have programs that help them transition to a digital patient record that incorporates all administrative, clinical, and electronic communication applications into a single system that is secure, cost-effective, intuitive, and open to new and developing applications. This is a challenge for software companies, because dentistry is still predominately composed of solo practitioners (56%), with an additional 11% having associates and 8% partners.1 These small businesses have limited resources to attain many of today’s leading technologies, and their needs vary significantly.
There are many PM solutions from which to choose that will deliver excellent results; the quality of the results achieved will depend upon how well the user implements the program’s resources and solutions. The vast majority of dentists still only use a fraction of the applications they have already purchased. Dentists should invest in staff training and re-training each time they upgrade software.
Although an exhaustive list of all companies and PM software is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to note that three major corporations provide PM software programs to more than 82% of the desktops in dental practices3: Henry Schein Practice Solutions; Patterson Dental; and Carestream Dental. Other companies that supply products to a smaller percentage of the dental market, many of which serve more focused niches, will also be presented.
Assorted PM Solutions
From Henry Schein
Henry Schein Practice Solutions (www.henryschein.com) has the largest market share of the dental PM software industry.4 The company’s focus is on providing comprehensive solutions across the full spectrum of dentistry, from dental schools, large multiple-site group practices, and specialty practices, to solo general practitioners.
The company offers a variety of independent software programs,5 summarized as follows:
Dentrix® G5—This is the most recent version of the company’s flagship server-based PM system for general dentistry. It also serves as an app platform for running third-party applications that integrate into the new Dentrix database.
Easy Dental®—This budget-conscious, server-based PM system is designed to enable dentists to add new functionality as their practice grows.
Viive™—This complete PM system designed for Macs is engineered to take advantage of the Apple operating system’s strength and simplicity.
AxiUm—This complete clinic management system is used in more than 27 dental schools and institutions in North America and Europe.
Dentrix® Ascend—This is a new, cloud-based PM solution.
DentalVision® Enterprise—This scalable architecture solution offers custom programming and flexible reporting tools for the multi-doctor, multi-specialty, and multi-practice environment.
OMSVision®, EndoVision®, and PerioVision®—These specialty-specific PM systems also deliver a certification-ready electronic health record (EHR).
From Patterson Dental
Patterson Dental’s (www.pattersondental.com) focus in PM software is more centralized, offering one system for general dentistry and one for specialty providers.6 Patterson’s philosophy appears to be analogous to that of Apple—providing a seamlessly integrated solution with limited options that are designed to specifically function within the program. Users do have the option of bridging to other products, but it involves a separate database.
The company’s PM software options are as follows:
Eaglesoft—This is a single system designed to manage the entire practice. The system can be personalized using flexible customization capabilities that enable practices to organize information according to their preferences. Eaglesoft also has a direct integration option with certain products so the practice can have a single database as its digital patient record.
Dolphin Imaging & Management Solutions—This is a full-featured orthodontic PM system that is especially suited for high-volume, multiple-location, and/or multiple practitioners.
Dolphin Cloud—This comprehensive web-based service includes the entire Dolphin Imaging & Management product online without the need for a local server. It enables sharing of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional (3D) images, x-rays, notes, and other information associated with referrals and patients.
Carestream Health owns more than 1,000 patents for medical and dental imaging and information technology. Carestream Dental (www.carestreamdental.com),7 which has a direct sales force instead of a dealer network, manufactures all of its own imaging systems and is thus able to integrate imaging software into PM software that provides enhanced flexibility and patient file details. This is especially important with the more recent demands on 3D image management.
Carestream Dental’s dental PM solutions include:
CS PracticeWorks—This features a full suite of automated tools to help promote efficiency, making it well suited for single-doctor practices/offices that pay associates based on production.
CS SoftDent—This is designed for multi-doctor practices, offering in-depth reporting capabilities. The software also provides additional billing options for offices that participate in capitation or managed care insurance plans, perform medical cross-coding, need multiple fee schedules, or subscribe to PPO insurance plans.
CS WinOMS—This is specifically designed as a hub for oral and maxillofacial surgeons.
OrthoTrac—This user-friendly system for orthodontic practices tracks appointments, clinical information, billing, and patient correspondences with automated tools.
CS OrthoTrac Cloud—This is designed to fit seamlessly into an orthodontic practice’s existing system, enabling orthodontists to access patient files—including images—in real time from any web-connected location.
Options from Other Companies
Several other companies serve more niche-focused areas of the dental market.
Curve Dental (www.curvedental.com), for example, focuses only on web-based dental PM solutions, offering a complete solution8 called Curve Hero. Obvious advantages for cloud-based applications include the elimination of hardware glitches, data backup, server issues, and upgrades. Needing only Internet access to connect to the database simplifies hardware requirements and IT support. Imaging software is built into Curve Hero, incorporating most intraoral cameras, phosphor plate imaging systems, and many of the current digital sensors.
The sole business of MOGO, Inc. (www.mogo.com/) is to provide dentists and specialists a single, complete integrated clinical and administrative PM solution.9 There are no separate bundles to purchase. MOGO offers a full selection of interfaces for digital imaging. Its open-architecture design allows practices to choose a direct interface or bridge and use multiple brand names. With six directly integrated interfaces and more than 20 bridges, MOGO is able to continually add tools as the market grows. Due out this winter, Version 17 of MOGO’s software will come in two forms: MOGO Windows for client/server format and MOGO Cloud for web-based format.
Another company of note is QSI (www.qsidental.com), which develops and sells EHR software and PM systems to the healthcare industry.10 Its niche has been to serve more than 2,200 dental group practices with multiple doctors and multiple locations, transitioning them from client/server systems to web-based solutions.
Challenges to Consider
There are some general issues that dental practices looking to invest in PM software need to consider. Many practitioners want to know if the software will provide intuitive steps to carry out functions and enable the staff to learn quickly. Each company considers its solution to be intuitive and its format for training to be user-friendly, but this mostly depends on the purchaser’s comfort with the program. Training, in general, has been simplified with the advent of live and recorded webcasts, making it readily available.
Practitioners are also concerned about whether the platform of the hardware and software will allow for future expansion and integration of various technologies easily enough. The rapid pace of growth of hardware and software solutions in dentistry has certainly created some havoc for dental practices. This is where web-based solutions offer an advantage, because they eliminate the need for in-house servers, and upgrades are performed transparently in the cloud. The biggest challenge for web-based solutions today is 3D image management. All of the aforementioned companies offer at least one cloud-based PM solution, which indicates that the drive to the cloud will continue. The hardware and software issues that have persisted in dentistry are likely to remain a challenge, especially for client/server solutions. This also presents in-house IT challenges.
Dentists are wearing many hats in their practices these days and are looking for solutions that will help them become more efficient. Their expectations for effective technology are growing while their tolerance for “glitches” in the systems is waning. There are many PM software products from which to choose, and making the right selection is critical.
About the Author
Claudio M. Levato, DDS, is a fellow of the American College of Dentists, International Academy of Dental Facial Esthetics, Odontographic Society of Chicago, and International Congress of Oral Implantologists. He is in private practice in Bloomingdale, Illinois.
1. Loeb P, McGibony R, Yeung P, California HealthCare Foundation. Health information technology in California dental practices: survey findings. www.chcf.org/~/media/MEDIA%20LIBRARY%20Files/PDF/H/PDF%20HealthITInCADentalPracticesSnapshot.pdf. August 2010. Accessed November 22, 2013.
2. Schleyer TK, Thyvalikakath TP, Spallek H, et al. Clinical computing in general dentistry . J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2006;13(3):344-352.
3. Levato CM. Management systems: the glue that holds a practice together . Compend Contin Educ Dent. 2011;32(spec iss 4):10-12.
4. By the numbers. Henry Schein website. www.henryschein.com/us-en/Corporate/FactSheet.aspx. Accessed November 26, . 2013.
5. Manage your practice. Henry Schein Dental website. www.henryschein.com/us-en/Dental/PracticeSolutions/ManagingPrac.aspx. Accessed November 22, 2013.
6. Practice management overview. Patterson Dental website. www.pattersondental.com/Technology/PracticeManagement. Accessed November 22, 2013.
7. Practice management. Carestream Dental Web site. www.carestreamdental.com/us/en/practicemanagement?fromMenu=true. Accessed November 22, 2013.
8. Curve Dental. Curve Dental website. www.curvedental.com. Accessed November 22, 2013.
9. Key features of MOGO. MOGO website. www.mogo.com/features.shtml. Accessed November 22, 2013.
10. QSI Dental. QSI Dental website. www.qsidental.com. Accessed November 22, 2013.
In the market for a new practice management software system?
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