New study analyzes dental software trends

Technology in dentistry, like in many other professions, continues to evolve. From new CAD/CAM systems, to intraoral imaging, to iPad integration — the world of dentistry constantly adds new options for practices. One key aspect of this technology shift is the prevalence of new dental software, and a recent study delved into the purchasing habits of dentists in that realm.

Software Advice, a company that reviews and catalogues software and publishes its findings, set out to discover what drives practices to purchase certain software systems and why. Analyzing 368 interactions with prospective dental software buyers, the company discovered the following:

  • 94 percent of respondents cited patient scheduling as the most necessary application.
  • 89 percent of buyers want an electronic health records (EHR) application included in their dental software.
  • 95 percent of buyers request integrated suites over best-of-breed applications.
  • Only 31 percent of buyers have a preference between web-based and on-premise solutions.
  • 51 percent of dental software buyers still rely on manual methods, like paper records. (30 percent were using paper exclusively and 21 percent employed a combination of paper records and software.)
  • Device and/or digital sensor integration was the top-requested software application, with 18 percent of respondents specifically wanting this for their dental practice.

While these findings exclusively represent those buyers who contacted Software Advice for guidance on software selection and may not be indicative of the market as a whole, this gives an example of the type of decisions dentists are making related to their dental software.

When discussing the study, Paul Feuerstein, DMD, a past CDA Presents lecturer and editor of Dental Economics, had the following to say about technology in dentistry.

“[In the past,] computers were in the ‘front office’ area. Once the digital appointment book entered [the picture,] integrated technology invaded the treatment rooms. Adding digital radiography, imaging, treatment planning, patient education and more, the software had to become more sophisticated and multidimensional,” Feuerstein said.

CDA has numerous resources available for dentists who are interested in making the transition to EHRs. Such resources include: the Dental Software Evaluation and Selection Checklist, Dental Software Contracts Checklist and Dental Software Implementation and Training Checklist. These resources prompt dentists to consider how they may address issues that arise during the software implementation phase. A veteran in the information technology profession and several electronic health experts developed the checklists.

There also are several CDA Endorsed Programs that provide help in this area.

CDA reminds dentists that despite rumors, there is no “paperless mandate,” or a deadline to switch to dental EHRs coming in 2015. There is, however, an incentive program for Medicaid/Medicare providers to convert to electronic health records. Dentists who bill Medicare and who do not convert to EHRs will eventually see reduced payments for services.

Dentists also need to make sure the software they purchase is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and state law. Data encryption provides a safe harbor from the notification provisions of state and federal data protection laws. If a dentist’s system is capable of encryption, he or she should do it. Dentists can double check with their practice management software vendors about the ability to encrypt data.

For more guidance, view the CDA Practice Support resource HIPAA Security Rule—A Summary or Data Breach Notification Requirements.

For more information and assistance on these topics, contact CDA Practice Support at 866.232.6362.