We’re explaining the differences between practice management and patient communication systems in dentistry. Spoiler alert: it's a bit of an "apples to oranges" comparison, but they’re both great for your practice!
There are two critical components for building a successful dental practice: managing the day-to-day operations of your business and fostering relationships with your patients through consistent communication. While most practices are well-versed in practice management software to keep their operations organized, there is usually less familiarity with patient communication software for maintaining patient engagement. And, there can often be confusion as to what services each software offers. Let’s take a quick look at the differences between practice management software and patient communication systems and the benefits each can provide to your practice and your patients.
Practice Management Software
Just about everyone knows the big players in dental practice management software: Dentrix, Eaglesoft, Open Dental, and Curve are a few of the top choices. For full disclosure, Flex integrates with Open Dental, so we are obviously partial to their system (it’s great if you’re researching your options 😀 ). Regardless, practice management software serves the core functions of keeping your scheduling, clinical charts, financials, and patient data organized. Think of it as the system that works behind the scenes to make sure your practice is a well-oiled machine.
Patient Communication Software
While practice management software is working behind the scenes to keep your business humming along smoothly, patient communication software is the "face" your patients see, representing your practice and building those relationships. Patient communication software allows you to automate routine, patient-centered tasks (like confirmations, recall, and tons more) and provide more convenient methods for patients to interact with your practice (online scheduling, two-way texting, and lots of other features). Where practice management software is about organizing your business operations, patient communication centers around embracing the opportunities to engage with your patients and deliver a more convenient, efficient relationship with your practice.
What Does Patient Communication Software Include?
There are several patient communication software options out there with different feature offerings and price points, so you’ll want to do your research for specifics. Flex offers:
- Automated confirmations, reminders, and recall via email and text
- Paperless forms/consents
- Email blasts
- Intra-office communication
- Text-to pay/online payments
- Online scheduling
- Two-way texting
- Treatment plan presentations
- Review requests
Again, you should definitely take a look at your options and compare features. Patient communication is a broad field - the available systems are all slightly different in their pricing and the tools they provide.
How Do These Two Systems Work Together?
In the case of Flex, our system integrates with Open Dental practice management software to provide automation and to record and update the patient’s record in Open Dental. For example, when your patient completes an online new patient form, signs a treatment plan, or schedules an appointment online with Flex, all of that information is seamlessly imported and updated in Open Dental automatically. Flex does not store any data in our software, but pulls and pushes data to and from Open Dental. So, we add a new layer of functionality and customization to Open Dental that would not be possible at the same depth without Flex.
As practice management companies continue to look for additional features to offer as part of their platform (so they can create and build new revenue streams with their existing clients) we are starting to see more patient communication features being included in some of the practice management software systems on the market.
Recently, in one of the many dental-focused Facebook groups, an office manager asked how Flex and another patient communication software are different from one of the major practice management systems that provides a couple of communication features. I explained to her the major differences that I’ve mentioned here but I also went a bit further.
Although the practice management software she mentioned does include a few patient communication functions, that is not its primary focus. Often these included communication tools are not designed with the same level of functionality or ease-of-use as a dedicated patient communication system. It's important to understand the difference between a feature that’s been added to check a box so their sales rep can say “we have that'' and a complete platform that was designed solely to focus on creating a smoother, enhanced patient experience. The simple answer here is to always do your research, compare performance and functionality, and determine which option best fits the needs of your staff and your patients.
Do I Need Both Practice Management and Patient Communication Software?
The bottom line is that practice management and patient communication are two sides of the same coin for your dental practice. You need practice management software to keep your business operations organized while patient communication serves a different function altogether: to build an effective patient communication and engagement system that helps you keep the patients you have while attracting new patients in order to grow your business.
Ready to Learn More About Flex?
Please visit our learning center to see more features that Flex includes to supercharge your practice. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to contact a member of our team via the button below.
If you’re looking for a patient communication solution for Open Dental, we always encourage you to ask other Open Dental practices about Flex. We pride ourselves on creating Flex fans for life. The words of our customers are our best reference and we think you’ll like what you find.