Practice management software – just a tool or the key to business success?
Ben Flewett reflects on the evolution of practice management software and how the company’s core remit is not just about being a software provider, but centred on delivering business success to practices.
The world of technology has changed remarkably over the past three decades and dental software has diversified, creating a market in which some software has remained purely functional, whilst other providers have focused on the manner in which software can play a vital role in business development.
Part of the key change for Software of Excellence (SOE), is that we have stopped thinking about ourselves as simply a software company. We now see our job very differently, providing teams of specialists that can give support and assistance across all the different areas in which a dentist may need help in driving their business forward. We have built these teams without impacting our pricing structure and this move is based on our belief that it is incumbent on us to help dentists run more efficient businesses by providing the tools and advice that drives ‘best practice’.
We realised that one of the secrets to running better dental businesses lay in the data held by our practices; but this was under-utilised. We started to think about ways in which we could help our customers use their data to improve performance, while at the same time improving the service provided to patients, which very much remains a key area.
Good to great
The difference between a good practice and a great practice is not, at first glance, obvious. Both see patients every day and provide appropriate treatments within the dentists’ scope of practice. But when the data is analysed, it uncovers dramatic differences between good and great in relation to certain key performance indicators. A great example of this is having a simple automated process that will fill gaps in the appointment book at short notice – it’s a simple solution, but makes a huge difference to efficiency.
If I crystallise the elements that I believe have helped determine the shape of the market in the past decade, I would summarise them under three headings:
- Automation: removing the human element from functions and processes wherever possible. We have been very successful in this in terms of recalls, reminders, and online booking
- Management: where automation is not possible we implement workflow management. This means that the users follow pre-defined processes that ensure that the outcomes determined by the business owner are met
- Behavioural change: finally, if neither of the two options above can be achieved, we look to change behaviour in the team by providing strong reporting solutions that indicate where changes in team behaviour have impacted business performance as well as the patient’s experience.
These elements have brought about a change in perception, which has caused the practice management software market to diversify significantly. Dentists have stopped talking about the comparative features of system A versus system B, and the conversation is now about business outcomes. I believe SOE is leading the market in this area, and the data supports this view.
Our remit always remains the same; to make sure we are delivering success for our customers and that we can evidence this success and prove the difference between being a good practice and a great practice.