But, it doesn't have to be.
In fact, if you do your due diligence and take the proper steps, changing software platforms can be a relatively painless process. And, eventually, it should result in more productivity, more efficient processes, and, ultimately, a better experience for your patients.
Let's start by talking about why dentists change software platforms. Some dentists change because they crave new and different features that they believe will benefit their practice and their patients. Other dentists change because they want to better protect patient data. Yet others want more accessibility.
I worked with one office that had three different databases and a manual process for appointment reminders. I explained they needed to bring all that data and those processes under one umbrella. They soon realized this was the best way for them to deliver a great experience for their patients.
“Changing software systems is as much about your team as it is about the new technology.”
So, we know why dentists are changing software platforms. But what common challenges are dentists running into when they're making these changes?
The biggest concern is around data conversion and migration. Essentially, our clients want to know how to replace long-time paper charts with digital data. As you can imagine, this is a time-consuming process in which confidential patient data must be protected. Dentists are rightly concerned with how this data migration will work.
Dentists are also concerned with the process of actually making the change. Some dental practices have used the same software for more than 20 years. Changing to an entirely new system can mean new workflows, structures, and processes. So, although the new software could result in more efficiency and better patient care, it doesn't mean it will be easy for the team. Change is hard -- for everyone, including dentists.
At the end of the day, there's no shortage of challenges and concerns. But certain steps can help mitigate these concerns and make the process a bit easier. I've been a part of hundreds of software changes for customers over the years, and I've noticed three key steps that dentists can take to help make the process a little less painful:
1. Do your due diligence
Allocate for plenty of time to investigate all your software options on the front end. Ask for demos. Ask the right, meaning difficult, questions:
- Will the company show you what your data will look like in the new system?
- What data will convert and what will not?
- What kinds of training and support does the company offer?
- Is the company actively developing its software?
- How long has the company been around?
- Does your current hardware need to be updated, too?
By conducting ample research at the beginning of your process, you'll reduce the chances for surprises when you start your implementation.
2. Inquire about integrations
Most dental offices already use technology in the form of intraoral cameras, digital imaging modalities, and other tools. The main question to ask beforehand is if your new software will "talk" to these tools and technologies.
I also advise my clients to also ask the following questions:
- What other integrations does the software provide?
- Does the software "play nicely" with third-party vendors?
- Does the company have agreements with other products?
Make sure you're confident your new software will work with everything else in your office before signing on the dotted line.
3. Put your team front and center
Purchasing new dental practice management software is a big deal, but remember that your team members are the people who will be using it every day. Be sure they are trained properly. Focus on ongoing training and learning to ensure you're utilizing all the features of the new software. And remember, as adult learners, we often need to understand the why, so allow even more time for the team to get smarter about the new processes and understand what's happening, as well as the rationale behind it.
I also tell my clients to celebrate small wins along the software implementation journey. Changing systems requires hard work, patience, and resiliency. Make sure you're taking time to acknowledge this throughout the implementation process. And be sure to highlight individual and team victories along the way. After all, changing software systems is as much about your team as it is about the new technology.
Dan Easty is a national technology advisor for Patterson Dental.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.
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