Choosing the right software for your dental startup office is an important part of your IT set up.
If you’re starting your dental office from scratch, one of the biggest advantage you have is you select which software you’d like to use before it accumulates tons of patient data.
What I mean is, if you’re buying an existing office, you’re grandfathering the software systems utilized by the previous owner. These software products – whether they’re cloud based or stand-alone desktop applications, they may be outdated if the doctor never kept up with technology.
Previously, I discussed network and hardware setup in the post IT set-up for Startup Dental Office. Software you choose in your office is a critical component that will ensure your office is run efficiently and supported by adequate hardware you set up.
There is a wide variety of software products available in the market designed for different components of a dental practice.
Disclaimer: I have not used all of of the applications that I’m going to list. I’m going to include links alongside the application so you can find out more information.
I’ll limit the discussion of this post to the “work-horse” software applications you need to start seeing patients in your office. In a list of software for startup dental practice, Practice Management Software and Electronic Claims Management software applications are a top priority in terms of implementation to start generating revenue.
There are other important software solutions for patient communications, practice reputation management (patient reviews) and social media marketing. However, I’ll get into those in the future posts.
Not all are necessary to start with for your startup, since there is of course cost involved in investing in these products.
Let’s dive right in.
One of the most important pieces of software in your dental office is your Practice Management System (PMS). This system will house all of patient data such as patient appointments, financial account information, medical history, etc. This system will also be linked to other third party software for Digital xrays, electronic claims and patient communication.
Before we start discussing the most popular systems used today, it’s helpful to know that most of the PMS are either Cloud hosted or in-office server hosted applications.
Cloud vs In-office Hosted Practice Management Systems:
Cloud-based systems are accessed via the internet, which means you can access your patient appointments, billing, xrays, etc. from anywhere with an internet connection.
There are ways to access data remotely even with non-cloud services through remote log-in applications.
With no server in the office, there is, of course, less wiring that has to be done. Because with individual workstations in each dental operatory, as long as you’re connected to the internet, you can access patient records.
There’s no need for ethernet drops in each operatory since you’ll be utilizing WiFi to access your cloud hosted dental practice management system.
You’ll have less IT maintenance because your monthly subscription fee includes backup & security.
Then there’s the concern of the internet connection going down. Which then means you won’t be able to access your patient data. Personally, this is not the reason I didn’t go with a cloud hosted system.
When was the last time you lost internet connection in your home or office? In all four years at the office, the internet hasn’t gone down once during the day.
For me, it was the cost factor. Most cloud based systems require a monthly subscription fee which range from $199-$300+ depending on which system you decide to go with.
Before deciding on a cloud vs non-cloud (hosted on a computer or a server in your own office), you have to decide on what you want first.
What do you think you’ll achieve by having a cloud based system in your office?
– Space saving from not having your server?
– being able to access data from anywhere? or from a mobile device?
– $$ savings from IT maintenance?
You can achieve all those without moving your patient data to the cloud.
In-office Server/Workstation hosted Practice Management Systems:
OpenDental has been gaining popularity in the last few years as people have been switching to this system from Dentrix and EagleSoft.
It is known for being “lightweight”, which means it doesn’t need a ton of computer power/resources to run this application on a workstation. It has just the right set of features for scheduling, billing, etc. It’s extremely user friendly, backed-by amazing customer support.
Pricing: Fee is $169 per month for first six month contract, in which you get all software releases as they come out plus full telephone support. After the first six months, you’re no longer required to be on support.
If you stay on after the first 12 months, the monthly fee goes down to $99. Here’s a good chart that outlines their fees for their services.
OpenDental is what I use in my office and it’s amazing for what it costs me: $0/month since I’m not on their support anymore. I continued to be on their support after the first six months into my startup for a year, then I no longer paid any ongoing fees.
When I needed support (which is rare), or needed to make an update, I’d pay the one time fee for telephone support, which is $50/hr. The website has an online manual with extensive documentation of all features. There’s even a discussion forum for existing & new users where you can post questions.
Dentrix is a feature-packed practice management system owned by Henry Schein. It has all features you can expect to have in a system that manages patient data and more.
It has integrations with most of the third party software for digital xrays, patient communication, etc. Although it’s heavy on the features, doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing. I’ve used this system in my previous associateship, and it sure is resource intensive.
Pricing: They offer three different “bundles”.
Dentrix Essential Bundle is their most basic bundle, which includes their PMS at $139/month. With their Essential bundle only, the fee for sending e-claims is $0.50/claim.
Their Momentum Bundle is $199/month, which includes the PMS, unlimited digital claim attachments, online claim tracking, and 10% discount on e-claims – $0.45/claim.
The Optimum Bundle at $359/month is their Essential + Optimum Bundle + Automated Text/email reminder services, integrated online patients forms, in-office patient kiosk software, and 20% discount on e-claims – $0.40/claim.
See this useful chart for charges for their services.
Eaglesoft is a Practice Management software by Patterson Dental. Like most systems, it also has integrations with third party software for xrays, patient communications, etc.
Eaglesoft seamlessly integrates with RevenueWell, which is a packaged suite of online software. RevenueWell is also a Patterson Dental product.
Patterson does not disclose the price online, so you need to contact the customer service for a demo to find out the price.
Cloud-Based Dental Practice Management Systems:
When it comes to cloud based practice management systems, CurveDental is probably the most popular. They’ve racked up 136 reviews on Capterra, with a rating of 4.5 stars!
The starting price is listed at $350 / month. But I’m sure there is a demo available by contacting their customer service. Their price is also dependent upon the number of doctors in the office. They also offer various solutions at additional cost – such as automated appointment reminders, online payments, and Native Digital Imaging Direct to the Cloud
Most doctors choose cloud based systems because they don’t want to deal with a server in the office or anything wired. There’s no maintenance of data that you need to do on your part. Your monthly subscription for the service takes care of that.
Denticon by Planet DDS is another cloud based Practice Management system that is popular.
According to Capterra, Denticon was first to the cloud and they’ve been around for over a decade.
It’s built to handle multi-location, solo offices and mobile clinics. Planet DDS also provides in-house Virtual Business Services team that provides all services from verifying insurance eligibility, entering fee schedules and plans to following up on unpaid insurance claims.
Find out what other users have to say about using Denticon by going here.
Dentrix Ascend is Henry Schein’s Cloud based Practice Management System. There’s still the server based Dentrix as I’ve mentioned already before, but this is Henry Schein’s way of keeping up with cloud technology.
There’s no annual contract, and their monthly subscription fee includes the electronic services as well as technical support.
Your Practice Management System is only half of the basic systems you need to start seeing patients, especially in an office that is going to accept insurance plans. The other half of it is being able to send electronic claims from within the appointment software.
When it comes to electronic claims, there’s something called a clearinghouse. A clearinghouse is a third-party entity that sits between your dental office and the payer (insurance companies).
There are multiple options when it comes to choosing which clearinghouse to go with. If you decide to not go with a clearinghouse, then your other option is to manually enter the claims on different insurance companies websites – service that is now available for free with many payers. However, this will be extremely time consuming for your staff, so don’t even consider this route.
The other option is to simply mail your claims in, but now you can’t track the status of your claims and the processing can take several weeks versus just a few days with e-claims.
The advantage to using a clearinghouse is that now you can use your PMS and submit your claims electronically with a click of a button to insurance payers – saving you TONS of time.
Most services will offer instant claim validation. What this means is that once claim is sent via your PMS, before the claim is sent to the payer (insurance company), the e-claim service will validate the claim for usage of valid dental codes (CDT), missing information (Insurance Policy holder’s group #, subscriber ID, etc).
For instance, let’s say you generate a claim from your PMS for restorative work completed on a patient. Your front desk has properly attached all insurance details to the patient’s chart, so that when the e-claim is generated, it includes all insurance details of the policy holder.
You log into your e-claim service, let’s say for example ClaimConnect – it will reject the claim because it does not recognize the subscriber ID of the policyholder.
Your front desk can review it and realize that it was entered incorrectly in the PMS and can now edit the claim right on the website and correct and resubmit the claim from there to be sent to the payer.
So what options do you have for clearinghouses?
Clearinghouses for sending electronic claims
Claim Connect offers Electronic Attachments (via NEA FastAttach), eligibility & benefits, and also provides ability to send e-statements.
This is the system I use that integrates perfectly with OpenDental. Along with NEA FastAttach, I’ve had no issues with sending insurance claims electronically, and I pay $0.37 / Claim sent.
NEA FastAttach is for attaching supporting documentation requested by insurance companies, such as periodontal charting, xrays, narratives, etc.
The way DentalXChange and FastAttach work in conjunction is when you generate the claims at end of the day, claims will go to DentalXChange. Once claims are sent electronically, you will get a notification in your FastAttach application on your workstation wherever it’s installed a need for attachments for claims that require it.
After clicking through to a patient, you can then attach supporting documentation by either importing files or capturing a screenshot of a periodontal chart, for example, like you see in the screen below.
Renaissance has been around since 2002. In addition to electronic claims management services, they also provide fee schedule reports by zip codes. They’re able to get this data from analyzing all the claims submitted through their service from different zip codes.
According to their website, the charge for a fee schedule report starts at $89.95. Make sure to visit the website and call them up for more information.
Tesia has been around since 1991. Along with e-claims, they also have their own eAttachment service.
If you use Dentrix Practice Management Software, you can use their own e-claims service, but it’ll get expensive at $0.50/claim. However, they do offer a slight discount if you’re going to bundle other services.
See this useful chart for charges for their services.
You’ll go crazy when you consider all the options available for choosing software for specific segments of your office – Practice Management (Patient appointments, billing), electronic claims, patient communication, etc.
Goal is to stay focused for where you are now in your startup journey. When you’re starting out, you want to just start with your Practice Management system and your electronic claims set up.
OpenDental, Dentrix and Eaglesoft have been around a long time. When reading reviews online of different systems on Capterra, keep in mind that for any system, what one user finds to be user friendly, you may not like at all.
OpenDental has been gaining popularity in the last few years because of its user friendliness and customer support. I have not personally used Eaglesoft. I have used Dentrix before and I thought it had too many features for what we may need in a dental office.
When I was starting out, I downloaded the trial version of OpenDental only two weeks before opening the doors to the office, and I hit the ground running immediately. The website has extensive user manual for anyone to follow and also offers online webinars that not only teach basic features, but also offer tips and tricks you can use to systematize things for efficiency.
You can find reviews from users of the software systems I’ve mentioned above on Capterra (https://www.capterra.com/dental-software/).