Alan Halls DMD
Alan Halls DMD
As a dentist and software developer, I often get asked technical questions regarding how technology can help an office overcome certain challenges, as well as advice regarding hardware and software for their office. Enjoy and comment.
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Practice Management Software, the Good the Bad and the Ugly - Part 1

9/13/2018 11:20:45 AM   |   Comments: 0   |   Views: 96
As I have been adding additional practice management software packages to the supported list for, I have had some thoughts I wanted to share. These posts may be updated from time to time as I work with additional PMS systems.

When choosing a practice management software (PMS), you may be tempted to only look at the features of the PMS, I want to explain why this may not be the best decision making process. 

  • Part 1 - I go into a little background that most people could probably skip if they wanted.
  • Part 2 - Describes some differences in how data is organized, and the consequences
  • Part 3 – How data is stored, and what that means to you (Especially Softdent users!)
  • Part 4 - Integration

Part 1.

First I am going to go PMS systems are, in simple terms, just a "view" of what is in your database. A database is similar in structure to an Excel spreadsheet that can be searched, and joined with other spreadsheets to get additional information generating reports, or in the PMS case, a "view”. 

Each company creates it’s own version of what they think the best layout is, how many buttons to put on which pages and so on. While there are hundreds of different PMS systems (OpenDental lists 250 which it will convert data from) each with their own layouts, they all attempt to do the same exact job - display critical information about your patients and their treatment in an organized way.

Because they all are trying to do the same job, to a large degree, all databases store the same information. Part of that is because there is only so much information available to the dentist and office staff - and so the main things that are stored are:
Practice Info - (Providers, chairs, prices)
Patient Info - (Name, Address and other vital stats)
Patient Treatment Info - (Perio, missing teeth, current tooth conditions…)
Patient Accounting - Payments owed and made
Appointments - (Time, Date, Provider, Duration, Confirmation Status, Insurance plan at time of appointment) 
Appointment Notes
Procedures - (Codes, Fee Schedule, Status)
Insurance - (Plans, Benefits, Limitations)
Insurance Claims - (Status, Info to tie to patient and procedures)
Communication Logs 
Medical Alerts

As you look at it and try organizing them into categories, with some time, you could almost design your own database using Excel. If you did, you may end up like OpenDental’s version 4 which had just over 100 tables, which over time expanded to 329 in version 18.

Some tables have lots of columns, some only have 2, but nearly every piece of data in the database is a stored value of things about your office, your patient, accounting, or your preferences (colors, notifications…) and is a store response to something you typed, or a button you pushed.

Check Part 2 for differences in how that info was stored.

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