12 Questions to Ask Before Selecting Your Next Dental Practice Management Software

Choosing the practice management software that's right for your practice is an important decision, whether you're opening a new practice or transitioning from another product. Your practice management software is the nerve center of your practice. It has to be flexible enough to integrate with new technology, new platforms, and the requirements in government regulations and reimbursement. It also needs to be intuitive to work the way you think, and provide stability and security.

The software that was sufficient five years ago may no longer provide what you need in an EHR, patient portal, and mobile technology. You also need to consider training and the quality of training offered. Is support and service available? Is service and support outsourced overseas? Are you limited to email or chat communication or will you have access to live reps?

12 Questions to Ask Vendors:

1. What is the cost and timeframe of initial hardware setup?

Make sure you know all related costs and you have a clear idea of how much time it takes to get the new software up and running.

2. What is the ongoing cost of onsite IT support?

When dealing with computers and hardware, a low up-front cost with other vendors may end up being more costly over time. Determine your Total Cost of Ownership.

3. Is onsite training available locally or will you pay travel expenses?

Does the vendor employ local trainers or will you incur travel expenses to fly a trainer to your location?

4. Is the software MU I, II certified & ready for Stage III certification? And are they ICD-10 ready?

There are complex regulations for the way data is stored and transmitted. Certified software will minimize headaches and allow eligibility for government incentives. Be    sure to ask:

    Can I use the software to qualify for government incentives for the adoption of EHR?

    Does the product have ONC-ACB certification as required in Massachusetts and Minnesota in 2015?

    Does the software have a certified Patient Portal?

    Does it have HIPAA compliant secure direct messaging or will you be exposed to fines up to $50,000 per incidence?

    Is it ICD-10 capable?

5. Is the software local or cloud-based?

Using a cloud-based system is gaining popularity but it may not be right your dental practice. Cloud options have security, performance, and reliability issues and can increase your cost for Internet service. If you choose a local/client server option (the software and data exists on a server in your office and is preferred by 97% of dental practices) vs. on the cloud (software and data are stored on an offsite server accessed on the internet), make sure you have a clear understanding of a few basic things:

    How are updates delivered?

    How often are updates released?

    How do you access your program, schedule, x-rays, patient data, etc. during an internet outage?

    How do you get your data if you want to transition to another vendor?

    Is your data stored on a server in the US? What location? Is there redundant backup (multiple locations)?

    Who has access to and how is your patient data protected?

6. Is the security and audit trail compliant with current and anticipated guidelines for Patient Protected Health Information (PHI)?

A fully integrated (all one database) practice management EHR/EDR system provides assurance of meeting ONC-ACB 2014 Edition certification.

7. Does the product integrate with mobile apps in reception and treatment areas?

Mobile technology provides a simple, efficient way to streamline workflow- for you and your patients. Respect your patients' time, and yours, by having patients enter and update their information, complete and sign forms, and even take their own photo on an iPad. This data will automatically update your practice management software and clinical software, removing the data entry for your staff and speeding the patient visit.

8. What are the capabilities of the Patient Portal?

Can patients register and enter/update their health history online and in the office? Does it post as discrete data in the PM and clinical software? Can patients view, download and transmit their records and securely communicate with you?

9. Do I have a good selection of native, fully integrated camera and X-ray options?

Software is only as good as the clinical technology it supports. Make sure your software provides interfaces with your existing technology vendors as well as others you may add in the future. Verify that your software interfaces with a numerous quality digital x-ray and photo vendors.

10. What is the flexibility of options with the images I acquire?

Are the x-rays and photos easily attached to eclaims, and confirm photos are stored and viewed in your primary database. Also, can be easily incorporated in a letter to the patient or to a referring doctor, or presented to the patient or family member for treatment acceptance on a computer, securely on the web, or on a tablet.

11. Where is the software developed and where is it supported?

Is Support in-house, work-from-home, or outsourced? Check the online ratings for customer reviews on the product, service and support. Is ongoing training available after initial setup and installation? Do they have user conferences?

12. How many software designers and engineers maintain and develop the software?

A better question would be … is the vendor a real software company? Does the product keep up with the current operating system? Does it take advantage of new desktop and mobile technology, and are those included in your annual support fee? These are important questions you need to consider prior to making a decision.