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Dental offices deal with a high volume of patient information—both clinical and administrative. The dentists and office managers we talk to most often are looking for ways to improve access to that information, and for better efficiency in documenting and managing it.
Watch the video below to see dental software functions and benefits in action.
As you just saw, dental software is designed to streamline the workflows of dental practices to help improve not only efficiency, but also patient care. Common applications and modules of dental software include:
Electronic Health Records (EHR)
We've created this guide to help prospective dental software buyers better understand the benefits dental solutions can offer. Here's what we'll cover:
What Is Dental Practice Management Software?
Dentists have a unique challenge in the medical community. Most appointments are scheduled several months ahead of time and require coordinating patient schedules and information with two different types of practitioners: dentist and hygienist.
Often, routine visits turn into more in-depth procedures, and the ability to manage these changes and the associated information can have a big impact on the time spent caring for your patient, and the quality of care you provide. These challenges make it that much more important to use dental software that manages patient data, images and practice information.
Although the terms dental electronic medical records (EMR), dental electronic health records (EHR) and electronic dental records (EDR) can have different meanings, the terms are often used interchangeably. While there may be nuanced differences, generally all three terms refer to software that manages the charting and management of a patient's clinical information.
As a rule, effective dental office software will have: templates specifically designed for dental practices; tooth and gum graphics; and an ability to import and organize X-rays. They’ll also have features to deal with patient scheduling, billing and coding support, patient education modules, and often a Web portal for patients, all of which maximize the efficiency of the front and back office staff.
Dental Imaging in EagleSoft
Common Features of Dental Practice Management Software
As you search for dental practice management software, consider the following key features and functionality:
Graphical tooth charting
Dentist software should have a simple graphical depiction of each tooth and gum that makes it easy to identify caries, fillings, veneers, crowns, missing teeth, gum problems and any other relevant issue. Any changes made to text-based templates should be reflected in the graphical tooth chart, and vice versa.
Text-based templates should be present for all common procedures, and the EDR should let you add a template quickly in the event that an emergency procedure is required. Commonly used templates might include routine exams, fillings, root canals, crowns, tooth extraction or any number of customizable templates.
The idea here is to import X-rays and other digital images, immediately connecting them to the patient, and present them in a way that makes sense to the dentist (i.e., the same order as the graphical tooth chart). Often dental imaging software programs also offer advanced features like measuring a tooth or identifying a particular region of interest, too. Although standalone imaging software does exist, combining it with the EDR software facilitates integration, which is why most vendors offer both capabilities as a combined unit.
Look for something that simplifies scheduling by coordinating dentist, hygienist and patient schedules and that doesn’t require back office staff to fast forward through six calendar months every time they need to book a patient out.
Dental billing and insurance
Dental billing software helps the practice in maximizing revenues through effective coding support, which simplifies billing as much as possible. As part of a dental EMR, it will likely include only those codes needed or used by dentists and can help group procedures that commonly occur together.
Allows patients to fill out their dental history, change their contact information or even receive or send bills, X-rays and other documents from the comfort of their home, saving practice time and improving office efficiency.
Charts in Curve Dental
How Is Dental Software Priced?
Although exceptions exist, you'll typically find dental software priced in one of two ways: a subscription fee paid every month or year, or a perpetual license fee paid once, up front.
Pricing model tends to correspond with how the software is deployed: on-premise or in the cloud. On-premise deployment means the software is installed on your own local servers. Cloud-based deployment, on the other hand, means the software is hosted online, or "in the cloud." You use an Internet connection to access the software via web browser.
Traditionally, on-premise deployments are priced using the perpetual license model. However, today you'll find more and more on-premise products offering subscription pricing models. Cloud-based software is generally priced using a subscription model, wherein users pay a monthly or annual fee per user.
Perpetual licence pricing comes with a steeper price tag up front, but low recurring monthly or annual costs (e.g., for maintenance or support). Subscription pricing, on the other hand, has a lower up-front investment, but relatively higher recurring costs, since you're paying the subscription fees each month or year.
The costs of on-premise and subscription models tend to converge over time, so the pricing model you choose depends largely on whether you prefer one large fee up front, or smaller fees broken out over time. Check out our total cost of ownership calculator to see how this works.
ARRA Meaningful Use for Dentists
Many dentists looking for dental management software are wondering if they’re eligible for the financial incentives provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Although the Medicare incentives generally do not apply (since Medicare doesn’t cover most dental procedures), dentists whose patient volume is at least 30 percent Medicaid can receive the Medicaid incentive, provided they adopt a certified electronic health record (EHR) product.
Since there currently are no certification standards for EDRs, a dentist looking to meet these requirements would have to adopt a dental EHR, which could then interface with a dedicated EDR if that’s your preferred tool.
Although this may seem cumbersome, the best dental software programs have been designed to integrate with EHRs specifically to fulfill this need, and it could qualify you for almost $70,000 in incentives over six years.
Popular Dental Software Comparisons
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.