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    5 tips for a successful software implementation

    New software should be an exciting event for a dental practice, not a painful one.

    With the explosion of software features and functionality catering to the needs of DSOs and emerging dental groups, there is increasing interest in evaluating and purchasing new dental software. In some cases, however, DSOs and groups are hesitant to switch software because of fears related to implementation.

    However, having been involved with numerous implementations over the past 20 years, I can tell you that there is a recipe, if followed, that can assure your DSO or dental group a successful implementation every time.

    1. Select a dedicated project manager from dental group side

    One team member should be designated to liaise with the vendor and manage the installation. This person will be responsible for collecting issues from the rest of the work group and communicating to the vendor as well as holding the vendor accountable for resolving problems.

    Related article: 4 ways to make software warranties work for you

    The project manager should not attempt to manage the project in his or her spare time; instead, a reduction in other duties should allow the person time and energy to devote to the process. To successfully install new software, the group must anticipate and prepare for the work. Implementation is a two-way street and communication must be enabled between the vendor and the group.

    2. Organize dental group and vendor implementation teams

    Dental groups need to prepare for implementation. The project manager cannot undertake the entire installation process alone. Data entry, customized templates and software training all require a team approach. The implementation team must include both administrative and clinical staff. The group must also schedule time for users to work with and troubleshoot daily tasks. Ensure that all team members know what tasks they should be able to accomplish at various stages of implementation and how to communicate internally about problems. All users of the software should be involved in training and testing.

    Frustrated with computerA train-the-trainer approach can be beneficial: a small number of super users are trained by the vendor, then are given scheduled time with other practice staff to train them in the software. This approach can increase local expertise and reduce training cost, but a liaison is still necessary for technical support and troubleshooting.

    The vendor’s implementation plan should clearly state who the vendor provides for implementation, training and contact. Often, a trainer as well as a relationship manager will be provided to a group. The roles for each vendor resource should be clearly stated, with contact information and when and how contact should be initiated. If there is a designated liaison from the vendor, that person’s availability should also be stated.

    Related article: 7 common questions about dental EHR

    3. Develop a detailed project plan

    A project plan should be negotiated between the dental group and vendor. The kick-off meeting is the time to review and tweak the project plan. The project plan should specify when the project will begin, what the key milestones are, and remedies and steps to take if milestones are not met. Milestones could include hardware purchases, training sessions, customization or other items. Roles for various tasks and stages of implementation should also be specified.

    Up next: Meetings and more planning

    Mike Uretz
    Mike Uretz is a nationally-recognized Dental software and Electronic Health Records (EHR) expert. Mike has helped hundreds of individual ...

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