The practice management software used in dental offices is the backbone of how we run our day. It shows us who is coming in when, what they need, all their past images and radiographs, what they will owe us, who they are related to, what their insurance is, and so many other vital things that are needed to take care of patients.
You may have chosen a software when first opening the practice, or it may have happened that you bought the practice and just continued to use the existing software. However, there are many reasons why someone decides to convert to a different practice management software when the existing software just isn’t serving the office as well as it could be.
I have managed a software conversion for a dental office, and I will be completely honest: the conversion process is not easy. I think when it’s being done for the right reasons and is managed correctly, converting to a new software is worth it. I equate this process to trying to lose weight. It’s easy and predictable to keep living your life the same way as before, but when you are committed to working out, watching what you eat, and meeting your new goal weight within a certain time frame, that hard work will be worth it – as long as you manage it the right way and keep moving in the new direction you chose. Eventually you will look back and be happy that you made the change.
I’d like to offer four suggestions for any office considering a software conversion. These tips can help to ease this transition and make it successful.
1. Know the why
Have a concrete reason to make the change to the new software and be able to clearly articulate that reason to your team.
• Knowing that switching software is not an easy process, make sure there is enough value in the new software to go through the process. Migrating from one software to the next will put a strain on the team, and you want to make sure it is worth it.
• Make sure the team knows the reason for the change.
Show them the light at the end of the tunnel before the conversion process begins, so they can see the benefits. The whole team is more likely to buy in to the process of converting if they understand the specific ways it will improve the experience of everyone involved.
2. Preparation is key
No matter what the new software company tells you, all the data from the current software will not easily convert into the new software. You’ll find some data will inevitably end up dumped into the wrong field or just won’t match up from one software to the next.
• Review all data in the current software and work diligently with the conversion team to try to find a corresponding field in the new software.
• Don’t rush through this process. As they say, “garbage in, garbage out.” You and your team will be much happier with the new software if you take the time now to map the data to the right fields.
3. Invest in training
Practice management software is the foundation of how your practice runs and changing to new software will be hard if your team is not given the time and resources to fully learn it. I have a dentist friend who went through a conversion like this, and he initially said that his team was excited about changing software. But six months later, he told me that his team absolutely hated the new software. Why? Because he made a major mistake: instead of shutting down the office for training so his staff could learn the new program, he stayed open and saw patients during the time that staff were with the trainer trying to learn the software. He chose to do it this way so there was no loss to production, but it ultimately cost him more to do it this way than to take a few days to devote to training.
• Invest in the training and the time. Don’t be shortsighted when it comes to training. I know it is hard to shut down your practice for a few days, but I guarantee your team will be more efficient in the future (and ultimately increase production) if they are given the time to learn the software.
• Have a great trainer to train everyone on all aspects of the software. This all but guarantees that your team will like the software and be competent with it.
4. Expect challenges and delays
Software conversion does not happen overnight, no matter how often the new software company tells you it will be “plug and play.” There will be learning curves, challenges, and unforeseen issues. If you set your team up with a promise that it will be an easy process, then it will inevitably be more painful than necessary. On the other hand, if you plan for the hardship and it goes better than expected, then everyone will be happier.
• I suggest planning for at least 6 months of headache.
Just expect that for the first 6 months, your team will be working out of both the old and new software until most of your patients have been seen using the new program.
• Set a process up to plan for how each patient is handled when they come in. Understand that there will be a lot of times at the beginning when there might be a need to access the old software, but by around the 6-month mark, this will be a rare occurrence or may not still be happening at all.
In my own experience managing a dental office through a software conversion, I remember the day I realized that it had been so long since I’d had to access the old software, I could not even remember my password to the old practice management software. At that point, we were about one year out from our conversion date. That was the day that I knew that we had successfully made it through! We did it, and I know that your team can, too.