Practice management software has provided the tools to run a modern dental practice. Patient database and scheduling tools, combined with financial and reporting functionality help dentists do the management fundamentals well.
However, some practice management software is capable of much more. Long time OASiS user and Tasmanian dentist Dr Ian Gurner, who runs a successful two-chair general practice in Hobart, has changed the complexion of his practice, using OASiS templating and reporting to meet financial targets and keep his team working on the things that really matter.
Working to a system
According to Dr Gurner, software has made tremendous inroads in dentistry, improving both office and surgical management. But, like all process transformation, adopting new systems and ways of doing things isn't without adjustment, and requires system users to think differently.
"Software certainly helps, but it requires a management shift and ongoing training and review, and there are tradeoffs. It takes longer to chart properly using a computer, but there are benefits at the other end. If you've charted properly the system will produce an invoice, generate treatment plans, and update the treatment chart - all in one keystroke. But that only happens if you've managed your examination charting appropriately," Dr Gurner said. "It's not rocket science, but requires ordered thinking and consistency."
While software systems make new demands of users, adoption is smoother when inbuilt flexibility allows dental practices to make the system their own. And this is where Dr Gurner says OASiS sets the standard.
"The scope for user modification sets OASiS apart," Dr Gurner says. "There is a huge capacity for changing things - like charting icons, and the way speed buttons work, predictive typing, and set-ups determining information input. You can make OASiS work for you, whereas other vendors expect you to adapt to their systems. That is the differentiator."
Template for success
Most practices have financial goals, but few equip frontline team members with the tools to help fee earners meet them. OASiS My Time aligns scheduling with financial goals, applying a booking template that ensures the right blend of appointments are scheduled and that workloads are tailored to dentist preferences.
"The right software can make a difference to business," Dr Gurner said. "I don't do the day-to-day scheduling, so it's less obvious to me. But templating determines the spread of work to meet a financial target, and ensures bookings reflect my preference for heavier mornings and lighter afternoons. It also ensures staff aren't overloaded, and we don't run out of instruments."
Smart appointment scheduling has also streamlined end-of-day shutdown, Dr Gurner said. Too many short appointments at the day's end didn't allow his team to get a head start cleaning up. "So we've changed the day's last appointment to a long one, so nurses who aren't working in the treatment room can commence cleaning up. Now, end-of-day shutdown is more efficient. So, the capacity to regulate our workload has made an enormous difference to staff and myself."
Reporting the right story
While reporting mostly comes down to dollars and cents, sometimes it's the so-called softer measures that show the big picture. OASiS My Money, the financial management and reporting module, illuminates key practice statistics and provides a window to productivity and financial achievement against goals. But Dr Gurner says, more than just money, reporting other measures are better at empowering the entire practice team. He explains: "There are times when you're not meeting targets, but feel like you're working really hard. OASiS provides a breadth of reporting that lets you find statistics that are empowering for the team," he said. "For example, one report shows our patient churn is extremely low. So when we're struggling to empower the team we can pull out reports highlighting the quality of our customer service, which might not be evident in financial performance. It moves us away from just focusing on the money. It might sound like a small thing, but for a health practice it's very important".
After 28 years in dentistry, Dr Gurner has witnessed many industry changes. Patient empowerment is one of the more profound changes. "Patients are much better informed and aware of their rights," he says "They're more likely to seek a second opinion and shop around for another price."
Dr Gurner views the change positively and says practice management systems have a role to play, highlighting a specific measure he has taken to put patients in control. Using charting functionality in OASiS My Work, he furnishes patients with an estimate of necessary work as they leave so that they can schedule future appointments when they feel financially equipped to do so.
"We have zero bad debt, and a big part of that is using charting functionality so that every departing patient leaves with an estimate in their hand, so they can plan for follow-up work, and schedule a new appointment based on their own perceived level of financial capability."
Time is money...
- OASiS keeps dental practice working to a system.
- Software easily adapted to practice requirements.
- Templating tunes patient appointments with revenue goals.
OASiS modules used...
- My Money - Simplifies financial transactions and produces clear reports illuminating efficiency.
- My Time - Improves practice appointment book management; auto-allocation of tasks; and track progress against practice goals.
- My Work - Improves chairside workflow, including real-time billing; and puts all patient details at your fingertips.