A male dentist is standing before a laptop computer. He is reviewing a patient's dental chart.
Dental practice management software is no longer limited to patient charting. New solutions offer insurance verification plus financial forecasting and digital marketing tools. — Getty Images/Dusan Stankovic

Once you’ve decided to update your systems, the next step is selecting the right dental practice management software solution. But starting the process can be overwhelming. Many options exist, and all sound promising from the intriguing web copy and sales information. Avoid getting caught up in the hype by knowing exactly what your dental office needs and having a method to find the best tools for your practice.

The right solution fits your budget and provides must-have features. It should support high-level goals, like increasing revenue and improving patient experience, and it should be easy to deploy and use. Follow these steps to make a solid purchasing decision.

1. Identify your reasons for buying dental office software

Every dental practice has a purpose in mind when buying dental management software. But it’s easy to forget the main reasons when you see all the bells and whistles dental practice tools offer. Therefore, it’s a good idea to write down your dentistry challenges and goals before buying dental software.

Consider the following questions:

  • Could dental assistants save time with charting shortcuts and digital tools?
  • Are dental records kept in paper files?
  • How do you access billing and procedure codes?
  • Do you have multiple employees to schedule for office shifts?
  • Can you access administrative and clinical records if you’re out of the office?
  • Do you manually invoice and send reminders? If so, how much time does this take monthly?
  • How many appointment no-shows occur? Could an automated reminder system improve these figures?
  • How much time do you spend processing and following up on insurance claims?
  • Are you calling in prescriptions, or could you use e-prescribe?
  • Do patients show interest in using an online portal?

[Read more: Investing in Tech: How to Decide on the Technology Your Startup Needs]

2. Determine your budget

Most dental management software vendors don’t display pricing online. They typically offer several subscription tiers, starting at over $100 monthly. Some provide discounts for annual prepayment. Additionally, providers like Curve Dental have reduced startup implementation and licensing fees.

Although you can purchase self-hosted tools, the upfront cost is usually well over $1,000. Also, it may require additional on-site hardware, depending on the age of your current computer and storage system.

Lastly, support and updates for on-site systems vary widely, whereas cloud-based dental practice software updates automatically. So consider your options carefully, and decide which practice management system suits your budget and long-term approach best.

3. Make a feature wishlist

Dental practice management software centralizes office and clinical tasks, eliminating the need for multiple applications. So, if you're currently using different apps for scheduling or imaging, you can consolidate. However, if your current imaging tools don’t integrate with a new system, the extra expense for this feature may not be worth it unless the solution has other tools you can’t live without.

Look over your goals and challenges to see how the following features can help your dental practice:

  • Remote access.
  • Online scheduling.
  • Insurance verification.
  • Charting.
  • Clinical notes.
  • Insurance claims management.
  • Treatment planning.
  • Analytics and reporting.
  • Accounting software integrations.
  • Digital imaging.
  • Payment plans.
  • Pay by text.
  • Appointment and payment reminders.
  • Revenue cycle management.
  • Patient portal.
  • Curbside check-ins.
  • Business phone system integrations.
  • Teledentistry tools.

[Read more: Why Text Message Payments Might Be Good for Your Business]

If you're leaning toward one vendor, but it's missing one feature you need, a communication and engagement platform can fill that gap.

4. Consider ease of use and scalability

The dental software’s user interface affects your everyday productivity. A system that is challenging to operate and requires multiple clicks to accomplish tasks you do repeatedly will be inefficient. Moreover, it could cause your staff to inadvertently make errors on patient records or when billing insurance or submitting claims. While all tools have a learning curve, modern dental practice management systems should offer clickable buttons and drag-and-drop tools.

Also, think about your growth prospects. Some dental software solutions include business intelligence, reputation management, and marketing features. These features can help dental practices achieve long-term growth goals.

5. Build an initial list of dental practice software solutions

Start with a broad list of options. Your professional network may have recommendations. Also, check G2 and Capterra. Read software reviews and roundups, check customer ratings, and see if users filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

Consider the following dental software solutions:

  • CareStack: Over 2,000 companies leverage CareStack’s full-featured practice management software, from single-office practices to large dental support organizations. It offers online dental imaging tools, pay by text, patient portals, and multilocation schedule management. CareStack has a six-step deployment process with on-demand videos and step-by-step lessons.
  • Curve Dental: More than 70,000 dental professionals in North America use Curve Dental’s all-in-one practice management software, including independent and multisite businesses. It provides enterprise-level features, like robust analytics dashboards and reports, patient engagement tools, payment processing, and optional imaging modules. Curve Dental pricing starts at $500 monthly.
  • ABELDent: ABELDent offers local server-based and cloud solutions. Both applications have similar features, a modern user interface, and a subscription pricing model. In addition, you can store backups on your local server or in the cloud. Features include patient dashboards, a treatment manager, clinical and perio charts, and patient self-booking tools. ABELDent also has a limited freemium version for startups based on the Microsoft SQL Express platform.
  • Easy Dental: New dentists and budget-conscious startups will appreciate Easy Dental’s cost-effective tools. The dental practice management software provides a simple feature set with foundational tools, including patient billing, payment processing, CareCredit integration, schedule management, appointment reminders, and patient satisfaction surveys.

6. Assess future technology purchases

Before buying dental practice software, think about potential future purchases. Often, patient engagement and marketing solutions or business intelligence tools have features that overlap with practice management applications.

If you're leaning toward one vendor, but it's missing one feature you need, a communication and engagement platform can fill that gap. Likewise, as your dental business grows, a robust analytics tool can provide deeper insights for financial forecasting and increased profitability.

Here are a few options that integrate with practice management software:

  • Dental Intelligence: Fully automated analytics dashboards display key performance indicators (KPIs) and individual patient data, giving dentists a clear view of their practice’s financial health. In addition, Dental Intelligence supplies eligibility verification and claims processing tools, two-way communication features, and patient loyalty programs.
  • RevenueWell: This all-in-one dental marketing and communication helps dentists improve search engine optimization, collect patient reviews, and build relationships. RevenueWell offers patient portals, two-way text messaging, and appointment reminders. Additionally, dentists can process payments and even enhance their social media presence.
  • Weave: Streamline patient communication with Weave. It offers business phone systems, online review management, insurance verification, and mobile apps. Plus, Weave automates appointment scheduling, reminders, and follow-ups.

[Read more: 6 Digital Analytics Tips From Industry Experts]

7. Request demos and free trials

After narrowing your list to a handful of vendors, it's time to test software solutions. Reach out to schedule demos and free trials and obtain pricing information. Have a co-worker in the software demo meetings with you when possible, and ask the host if you can record the session.

For a productive demo, do research beforehand and also be sure to do the following:

  • Know what features you want to go through.
  • Have questions ready so you can get the most out of the demonstration.
  • Ask about additional costs, such as implementation fees and support services.
  • See if you can speak with their customer service department and access the self-service resource center. Self-service documentation is invaluable for small businesses, so a robust help center with videos and tutorials is vital.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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