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Searching for a practice management system: How to weigh the pros and cons of adding a system

May 25, 2016
How to weigh the pros and cons of adding a dental practice management system.

By Erin Voss, RDH, BS

Becoming more successful is the ultimate goal for almost every practice, but what steps has your practice taken to achieve this? Six years ago, our practice implemented a practice management system in order to reach our goals of becoming a more efficient practice and increasing our case acceptance rate.

This article reviews some of the ways in which we have benefited since implementing the system, as well as some perceived challenges of using a practice management system.

Why Implement a Practice Management System?

Our dentist wanted to become as paperless as possible in every aspect of our dental office. After researching and trying other practice management systems, she found that Eaglesoft from Patterson Dental would allow our practice to do this most efficiently. After this decision was made, our team attended a training session where Patterson trainers walked us through the system and showed us all of the capabilities the product encompassed. They took the time to teach us shortcuts and gave advice on the best ways to utilize the system.

Although there is a learning curve to endure, implementing a practice management system has made our practice more efficient in so many ways. It helps keep communication open and easy inside and outside the office.

Increased practice success: Implementing a practice management system has increased our case acceptance rate significantly. We've found that telling our patients they have periodontal disease is one thing, but actually showing them is another. Patients often won't move forward with treatment if they can't physically see the damage that is being caused.

Our practice management system allows us to acquire, store, and enhance our digital images. We can show the patient exactly what we are talking about while pointing to the problem areas as we explain the disease. Because of this, more patients have chosen to move forward with treatment.

Time savings: As dental hygienists, we are often on very tight schedules, meaning we are always looking for ways to save time. I typically know how long we'll need to schedule particular appointments for, which is why the Eaglesoft Scheduler is so convenient. Our schedules are laid out in color blocks. So with one quick glance, I am able to see where we can fit a patient in for that follow-up appointment-all from the operatory.

Messaging:Although communication is key, it's just as important to find ways to communicate more efficiently. Our practice management system's messaging app has done just that. Instead of having to get up to talk to the front desk or dentist, we are now able to send a quick message right from the operatory chair. It also makes sharing information with specialists' offices for referrals quick and easy. This feature makes a big difference in our day-to-day routines.

Scheduling appointments, looking at images, and reviewing treatment and insurance plans has never been easier or faster, as they all appear on one screen. Our office no longer has to take the time to switch between screens or dig through paper files. All patient information can be found in one place on one screen. This has been a major timesaver and allowed us to become a more organized practice as well.

Favorite Features

Our practice uses intraoral cameras and Schick sensors for bitewings and periapicals. Both tools integrate seamlessly with Eaglesoft, which was very important to us. We are able to copy images from our cone beam CT to Eaglesoft and save them in one location, making them easy to find.

It is the imaging enhancement/adjustment feature, Eagle Eye, that is my favorite. This feature helps us obtain the best possible diagnostic images for our patients. Eagle Eye allows us to zoom in on radiographs giving our patients a better look at exactly what we are talking about, whether that be bone loss, bleeding, or pointing out a cavity. We see so many patients who are visual learners, and need to put a picture with an explanation. Being able to do this has increased our patients' knowledge about what is happening with their dental health.

When dental practices are looking for the right practice management system, it is important to research the training and support team, as they will become an integral part of your practice. Live Help, a support tool from our practice management system, offers instant assistance whenever it is needed. A member of our staff types a message in the designated area within the system, and a support team member is connected to us in a matter of minutes. Because of the instantaneous support, Live Help is another one of my favorite features.

Perceived Challenges

Although the above highlights what Eaglesoft has done for our practice, for example, there are still perceived challenges that many dental practices face when it comes to implementing any kind of new software. So often I think dental practices forgo implementing a practice management system or switching systems for a number of reasons. However, it's important to remember that many of these are simply perceived challenges and are, ultimately, not true.

Costs: A dental practice is a business at the end of the day, and costs will always come into consideration. However, looking at the costs of our practice management system versus how many benefits it's brought to our dental practice makes it a pretty even playing field. If used correctly, this is often the case for many practices.

Office overhaul: Implementing a practice management system does not mean your office needs a complete overhaul. If your practice prefers paper charts and a paper check-in process, that's fine. A practice management system only improves the process, making the checking-in and charting process more efficient.

The learning curve: Personally, this was the hardest for me. After six years, I still don't know everything there is to know about Eaglesoft. However, there is always help within minutes by using the Live Help Feature. This feature allows us to learn and grow as a practice together.

Different systems: If your practice has tried a practice management system and been less than pleased, that does not mean you will be less than pleased with all systems on the market. Each system is different and customizable to fit your dental practice's needs.

If your dental practice does not have a practice management system, I encourage you to test a few out to find the best fit. Since implementing Eaglesoft, our practice has seen increased success in many different forms. We are able to provide better service to our patients and use our time more efficiently. Improving your case acceptance rate and practice operations is as simple as attending a training session to find the best system fit for your practice. RDH

Erin Voss, RDH, BS, graduated from Clark College Dental Hygiene Program in 2009 and obtained a bachelor's in dental hygiene from Eastern Washington University in 2010. She has worked in private practice for over six years and is an active member of the Seattle Study Club for Dental Hygienists.