Today, there are very few dental practices that do not have a practice management system installed. The days of front office staff flicking through a paper diary and shuffling notes from dentist to hygienist are long gone for most. Owners and practice managers spend hours researching the best system to suit their practice’s needs; perhaps they are a multi-site practice and so need a system that can cope with different locations, or maybe they require a piece of their existing equipment to integrate seamlessly with the software. The decision is an important one, as a lot of time and money is being invested. Sometimes, the area that can get overlooked due to resource constraints is the dental team’s involvement. Their inclusion and motivation for the practice management system is essential in its long-term success and full utilization.
Training the Team
If you are about to install a new system—or you are changing to alternative software—the initial training and ongoing support of the whole dental team is pivotal in its success. Even if there are members of the team who will use it to a lesser degree than others, their understanding of how the program works and where they can find certain information might prove beneficial in the future. Suppliers of practice management systems should offer comprehensive guidance and support for all members of staff; this should also be part of the decision maker’s criteria when assessing which system to purchase. Often, the training provided is an assortment of face-to-face teaching, self paced online training and written instructions, and then—when needed post-launch—webinars, telephone interactions and online forum support as appropriate.
It is important to understand that everyone learns differently. Some individuals are visual learners and need stimulation in the form of pictures, videos and drawings to help the new information to be processed fully. They need to be given time to read information and to make their own notes. Others are kinaesthetic, or tactile, learners and respond well to movement and participation; listening to or watching a slide show presentation is not compatible to this type of person. Finally, there are auditory learners who need to hear the information out loud and be part of discussions.* Most individuals are a mixture of the three, but with an emphasis on one type, and so having a balance of different communication techniques can ensure that all staff members are included.
Ongoing Support and Process Improvement
With a comprehensive, but not overwhelming, start-up training program, the whole dental team can quickly be initiated to the new system for the benefit of the practice and its patients. However, the training should not stop there. Once the team is “up and running” there are bound to be further questions, queries and ideas for improvement. There should be a way to capture these internally, as well as reaching out to the practice management software supplier when needed. Those suppliers with exceptional customer service will have a support desk that can be contacted whenever an issue or question arises. Look for additional training opportunities to see what else you can learn because “you don’t know what you don’t know”.
What’s more, continuous support and advice from the experts will ensure that you properly utilise the equipment, optimising its benefits and optimising your return on investment. There might be additional features you can add on to the software that will further enhance the patient experience, improve communication channels with patients and dental technicians or integrate other technologies for better diagnostic and treatment planning. Remaining abreast of the latest on the market will ensure your practice stays ahead of the game.
Keeping it Simple
The best practice management systems keep things simple. They have been designed with the whole dental team in mind, often for practices with multiple locations, several users and varying dental equipment and devices that need to be integrated.
The digital revolution has empowered the dental practice to run more smoothly and efficiently for the benefit of the dental team, but—more importantly—for the care given to patients.