Using Online Dental Practice Management Software in a large specialist dental clinic environment
The last few years saw us getting more online. Gradually the information technology services are being transferred to the Internet. It started with banking, tickets, holidays booking and now reached the medical industry. More practitioners and medical institutions are turning to the Internet for answers to their problems.
I will not be covering in this article all the advantages of going web with your practice management software (PMS). I will just mention a few most obvious ones like the maintenance free operations and availability of data 24/7 from any location. For this publication I want to concentrate on another, maybe by far the most important, feature of the web-based management software – its affordability and ability to significantly improve the efficiency of your operations.
This is a somehow overlooked feature of the PMS. More often people compare interfaces, functionality, looks, ability to customise, etc., and they seem to ignore the critical aspect – it should help you earn. A business owner should maximise assets and minimise liabilities. Traditional software is certainly a liability. Web-based software, on the other hand, offers a different way – no ownership, thus no liability, but a small monthly service fee.
Our institute, the AIDER* has been using Praktika** – an Australian Web-based PMS for over 2 years. I will share our experience to highlight some new opportunities the Internet opens for modern dentists. The key to a more efficient business is certainly to minimise unnecessary spending and maximise spending that returns an increased value. Online PMS suit this purpose well and may increase your efficiency dramatically.
The gain starts immediately with the acquisition. A typical purchase cost of a traditional PMS for a 2-3 provider practice is several thousand dollars. It certainly varies from package to package, but there is one common principle: more licences, more expensive the acquisition price is. There is a significant difference if you spend your funds on equipment, staff or software. Equipment and personnel are essentially what generates you income. By using a scanner or a drill you are directly creating a value that turns into revenue. Software is not such – you cannot charge your patients for storing their data. It is a facilitator, but not an income generator. Money spent on software is instantly frozen and excluded from your business operations. The resale value of purchased software is virtually zero. You cannot sell it to anyone else. In fact, you are not actually buying, you are paying for the right to use it (licensing). Software is not an investment – it does not return an increased value, it freezes the funds and gets obsolete very fast.
It would make more sense from the efficiency point of view to spend less on software and invest in acquisition or upgrade of equipment and staff. Praktika uses the SaaS (Software as a Service) model within which the software is not purchased, the user only pays for the service. There is no need to pay a huge sum upfront for the software. For our practice it meant that we were able to allocate significant extra funds (around a hundred thousand dollar mark) to invest in equipment and staff training. For a medium size practice it may mean an extra chair or an expensive hardware item, or even an extra staff member – the assets which will generate more income in time. For a small start-up practice it means borrowing a lot less and spending more where it is needed more.
The next important area where more funds can be freed and spent with more use is your local area computer network (LAN) and IT maintenance expenses. A typical client server setup requires an installation and maintenance (upgrades, patches, updates, backups, virus and hacker protection, etc.) of a central server computer. Then there are also workstations that are connected via LAN. The setup normally costs thousands of dollars. More complex setups need regular maintenance, so practices either employ or hire IT personnel.
The situation with web-based software is very different. The Internet is an existing universal network. Online software is utilising it. Generally it is enough to have the Internet connection and a Wi-Fi router. Your workstations do not need to be reconfigured, no software installations are necessary, and any computer is ready for it. Any operating system or configuration is fine. All the maintenance is also done by the Praktika team. The backups, upgrades and security issues are all covered in the service agreement. We do not employ any IT personnel and have never used any IT specialist to set up and maintain our network, which includes more than 20 workstations. There is no dedicated server, no worries what may happen if we upgrade our server software or hardware. We are sure there won’t be any incompatibility with the workstations.
For multiple location practices the savings are absolutely enormous as no special arrangements must be made to connect several locations and share data – the Internet does it all.
Certainly, there are various ways how you can increase the productivity of your practice. Efficiency is a complex issue that requires complex approaches. One thing, however, is very simple and straightforward – spend less on something that does not generate income and spend more on something that does. Web-based Practice Management software may aid you in that by lowering down the costs of acquiring, running and maintaining your computer systems and software, so that you can allocate more funds to invest in the areas of importance, the investment which will result in the increased efficiency of your practice operations.