At SoftwarePundit, we regularly speak with dentists to learn more about how they grew their practices from the ground up. In the process, we’ve discovered a few running themes among dentists who are venturing out on their own for the first time. In particular, we’ve found that strategically investing in the right types of software can help set up your practice for continued growth and success.
If you are a new dentist thinking about starting your own practice, you already know that it’s important to select a practice management software system that will help streamline your practice, and that will grow with your practice for years to come. However, you may not know that there are other types of dental software systems that you’ll want to use in your practice as well. In this article, we’ll cover the different types of software that can help dentists manage their new practices and set them up for long-term success, and identify some budget-friendly options that are excellent choices for cost-conscious practices just starting out. We’ll also discuss some types of software that can be useful for your practice down the line once your practice has become more established, and is looking to take things to the next level.
Practice management software
Dental practices rely on their practice management software to manage everything ranging from patient scheduling and documentation, to insurance claims. The right practice management software (PMS) can help set the tone for a successful practice, so it’s very important that you select an option that is easy to learn, easy to use, and that offers extensive support so you can ask questions and get the necessary help whenever you run into any issues. It’s important to select the right system for your practice, since if you later decide to switch to another PMS, it can be a hassle to convert your data to the new software, and to adapt to another system. So, we encourage practices to demo as many practice management software systems as they can, in order to make the most informed decision for their needs.
New practices tend to be more cost-sensitive than established practices, but the good news is that there are several affordable, yet reputable options available to help you run your practice efficiently from Day 1. One such system that is popular among many dentists is Open Dental, which costs roughly $100/month, and integrates with most other types of software systems (described below) that you’ll want to use.
There are other practice management systems, like CareStack, that are more expensive, but come with built-in tools for online appointment scheduling, patient communication and business intelligence. While CareStack's price starts at $650 per month, you will not need to purchase these additional systems.
You can read our extensive list best dental practice management software systems to learn more.
Dental accounting software
Practice management software will handle some of the financial aspects of your practice, such as patient ledgers and insurance claims. However, you’ll also need to invest in dental accounting software in order to keep track of expenses, payroll, and purchases from vendors. Systems such as QuickBooks can help you keep track of accounting tasks more quickly and efficiently, and also provide helpful reports and dashboards that illustrate profit and loss, income, and other key metrics about the financial health of your practice.
Dental email marketing software
When starting a new practice, attracting new patients is more crucial than ever. However, as your practice grows, retaining the patients that you’ve worked so hard to attract will also become just as important. One low-effort way to stay engaged with your patients is by regularly communicating with them through email newsletters.
Creating newsletters is easier and more affordable than ever before, now that we have services like MailChimp that offer easy-to-use email newsletter templates, and a free tier for small business owners. Even if you only have time to create a newsletter once every so often, it’s a good use of time that will keep your practice at the top of your patients’ minds when they remember that it’s time to schedule their next hygiene appointment, or if they have a problem that requires immediate attention. To learn how to get started on your first newsletter, you can check out our MailChimp tutorial.
Online appointment scheduling systems for dentists
Today, many patients expect to be able to book appointments immediately online. By enabling patients to schedule appointments online, you’ll be able to have patients book appointments 24/7, instead of only during business hours. According to LocalMed and Zocdoc, which are popular online appointment scheduling systems for dentists, roughly 45% of appointments scheduled through their systems are booked outside of business hours. This means that by forcing patients to call your office in order to make an appointment, you may be missing out on many patients. In addition, by having your staff spend less time on the phone, they can focus on other tasks, and on providing the best patient experience possible.
Depending on the system you choose, you may also be able to solicit more patient reviews to build your online reputation, and gain additional exposure to new patients. Therefore, the benefits and payoff of this type of software extend beyond the immediate ability to offer your patients a convenient way to schedule appointments and check availability.
These systems typically cost a few hundred dollars per month, but given that they help provide additional exposure for your practice and can help bring in new patients, this type of system is a worthwhile investment even for newer practices.
Patient communication software for dentists
Automated patient communication software is useful for reducing no-shows and cancellations, improving patient recall, and in soliciting patient reviews. They typically work by integrating with your practice management software, so that they can automatically message patients who are overdue for appointments, or who require appointment confirmations. The most well-known systems include Lighthouse 360, Solutionreach, and Demandforce. However, given that these systems cost a few hundred dollars per month, it may make sense for a newer dental practice to invest in this type of software only once it has a large enough patient base to justify the cost. Once you have a sufficient number of patients visiting your practice where it doesn’t make sense to perform these tasks manually, then it can make sense to invest in one of these systems.
Business intelligence software for dentists
This type of software is largely relevant for newer practices that have an established patient base. Business intelligence software can help provide powerful insights that help you make data-driven decisions to improve your practice’s performance. This software keeps track of various key performance indicators (KPIs) which can help identify areas for improvement in your practice. These systems typically integrate with your practice management software, as well as your accounting software, to help provide the full picture of your practice’s financial performance.
Since these systems typically cost hundreds of dollars a month, they’re mostly relevant for more established practices with a sufficient amount of patient volume. Until your new practice reaches this stage, you can try to keep track of certain KPIs using built-in reports from your practice management software, which is still useful, but typically less robust. When you’re ready for more in-depth reporting capabilities, you can then consider one of these systems to help jumpstart your practice’s profitability. Dental Intelligence is an example of such a system that you’d want to consider if investing in this type of software.