We are in the middle of a technological revolution in the dental software industry that is dictating the way DSOs and dental groups run their operations and do business. Newer enterprise software models include robust multi-location support, greater centralized functionality, predictive analytics, next generation clinical and EHR features, cloud technology, better imaging integration, improved cash flow and risk reduction, higher levels of security and more advanced technology platforms. Some dental vendors are embracing these changes and continuing to innovate in order to provide their expanding DSO and dental group base with the most up to date solutions. However, some vendors are choosing not to spend the time, resources, or investment it takes to keep up with technology innovation because they are comfortable with things the way they are. In addition to not offering updated technology, many DSOs have complained about continual poor customer support and service from their present vendors. Quite frankly, some of these dental groups feel stuck.
The question is which category does your present software vendor fall into? Those vendors that invest considerable money, resources, and efforts needed to innovate or those vendors that resist it? Because of the software revolution, informed dental groups and DSOs are reevaluating their present software solutions and comparing to see if there are better alternatives on the market. In fact, you are doing yourself a disservice if, with the dramatic changes in the DSO and multi-location dental group software market, you don’t at least question if you have the best, most flexible solution moving forward and if your software vendor is committed to your future.
This past year I’ve had more and more DSOs and groups coming to me looking for assistance reevaluating their present software situation. Even if your present software offering seems to be working for you, it is definitely worth it to evaluate if you should stick with what you have or determine if there is a ‘better mousetrap’ out there for you.
Learning from the Past
I am seeing the same patterns that dictated explosive software change and growth in the medical industry over the past few years begin to emerge in our DSO and group dental software industry. Years ago in the medical industry a few vendors dominated the market. As multi-location groups had increasing needs for better operational efficiency, better cash flow, and improved patient care, there was a need for medical software to become more sophisticated and technologically advanced to meet these growing needs. This opened up the door for a new generation of software vendors with better ideas and technologies. Some of these newer vendors a few years later have evolved into the most successful companies in the medical software industry. On the other hand, other established vendors that had good market share at the time but refused to innovate aren’t around anymore. There were also cases where older established companies, which did not have timely innovation, found themselves licensing software from some of the newer more advanced technology companies. We could very well see the same trend in our dental software industry.
Is your Vendor Holding you Hostage?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had DSOs and dental groups come to me wanting to look at new software for their changing needs, but fearful that they couldn’t change because their vendor had convinced them that it would be too difficult or dangerous to move their administrative, financial, and patient information over to the new vendor. To me this is a good example of being held hostage by your vendor. In a perfect world you would have negotiated a ‘transition clause’ in your original software agreement that allows you to get your data electronically from your vendor. However, having negotiated medical and dental software contracts for many years, I can tell you that most groups don’t think to have this written into their contracts. But even if you don’t have one of these transition clauses in your original agreement, don’t let your vendor bully you into thinking that you need to stay with their software forever just because there is a perception that you cannot move the data from one system to another. Vendors realize that customers do change software systems, and from a customer service standpoint, these vendors should work with you to help you through this transition. It is reasonable to pay them for their time and assistance. However, if you determine that the present system is not adequate for your long-term needs and you want to move on, then you should do so.
What about the time it takes to change?
Another reason why some DSOs and dental groups choose to not look past what they presently have is because of the time it takes to evaluate, select new software, and implement a new system. I have seen it time and time again. Change can be stressful. But if we didn’t invest the time and energy into changes which our practices and groups needed, then where would this industry be? And there are proven processes that I am very familiar with and have used for years to help evaluate and select software with minimal effort and in a timely fashion.
This could be your chance for a better contract
Although you might not realize it, there is a good chance that the original contract you signed with your dental software vendor is one sided and gives the upper hand to your vendor. Even if you had an attorney assist you with this, there is a chance the contract is inadequate if your attorney did not have previous software contract experience. So this is your chance to get better contract terms. Whether you are looking at a new vendor or getting updated software from your present vendor, the opportunity is there to finally get contract terms which are in your favor and that level the playing field with your vendor. I have negotiated numerous contracts in this same situation with good results and I encourage you to be proactive.
As mentioned earlier, even if you believe your present software vendor is doing an adequate job, consider the future growth of your DSO and make sure that your enterprise software is able to keep up. Don’t you owe it to yourself to take your head out of the sand and at least compare what’s available in the enterprise software market?
Mike Uretz is a nationally recognized expert on “next generation” DSO and Dental Group practice management software and Electronic Health Records (EHRs). He is the executive director of DentalSoftwareAdvisor.com, founder of DentalSoftwareCompare.com and has helped DSOs and Dental Groups evaluate enterprise software technologies and vendors, negotiate contracts and agreements, and provide implementation management. He has also obtained millions in technology subsidies for his eligible DSO and Group clients. Mike can be contacted at [email protected] or 425-434-7102
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