Curve Dental's cloud-based alternative to practice management software excites patients with time savings and efficiency

June 4, 2012

Dr. Mark Colonna lives and practices in Whitefish, Mo., a small community of 6,300 only a few minutes’ drive from stunning Glacier National Park. The park encompasses 1,013,572 acres of alpine forest, snow-capped peaks and 37 glaciers. Despite the ruggedness of the land, Dr. Colonna’s practice is anything but rustic. He is a strong advocate of laser dentistry, being the first dentist to use only a laser to prep a crown, and he uses the cloud to manage his practice.

Dr. Mark Colonna lives and practices in Whitefish, Mo., a small community of 6,300 only a few minutes’ drive from stunning Glacier National Park. The park encompasses 1,013,572 acres of alpine forest, snow-capped peaks and 37 glaciers. Despite the ruggedness of the land, Dr. Colonna’s practice is anything but rustic. He is a strong advocate of laser dentistry, being the first dentist to use only a laser to prep a crown, and he uses the cloud to manage his practice.

Q: Whitefish lies in the heart of some of America’s most rugged country. Using the cloud stands in stark contrast to your rural setting. Why Curve Dental?

I have been in private practice for nearly 30 years now, and have used many office management systems, from the basic Colwell programs, to Softdent, and most recently Practiceworks for the past 10-or-so -years. With traditional software platforms, lots of things have to be working to use the software. For one, the server, which is the integral part, must be flawlessly functioning  for these platforms to work properly. Also, integrated backup programs and virus protection are needed to protect us from losing valuable data. If you have ever experienced a backup failure, you would understand one of the reasons we switched to the cloud was important. Despite our efforts to ensure our data was safe, we lost about a week’s worth of data one time. It was a harrowing and embarrassing process to figure out which patients owed what, and how their insurance benefits were used, or not used. We even lost appointments. Not a fun process. With the cloud, it eliminates all of that risk and hassle.

Q: Curve Dental is a Web-based application. What did you know about the cloud prior to moving your practice to the cloud?

I tried Apple’s iCloud and I was hooked. I asked myself, “Is there a dental practice solution for the cloud?” After some research, I found Curve Dental. After a phone call I received information that explained in detail the bonuses that come with cloud computing. In addition to the potential to save money, I also enjoy being able to access my schedule, charts, prescription notes, and everything else from anywhere in the world at any time. That was attractive to me as I am on the road quite a bit lecturing on laser dentistry and other new technologies; having convenient, flexible access to patient data is very important to me.

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Q: How well did your team adapt to the cloud?

Training was an aspect of what I feared in switching to new software; ‘time consuming’ is usually an understatement. But with Curve, their outstanding support and training was the best I have ever seen in the industry. In no time, we had all the office staff up to speed so that when we went “online” with Curve it was almost flawless. They lessened the learning curve, (no pun intended) by weeks if not months. Not only did we save time, but we saved many staff dollars this way. We’ve found Curve Dental to be uncomplicated, secure and actually fun to use!

Q: What would you say to doctors who are looking for new dental software?

Keep your head up and look to the horizon for what’s coming. Traditional software is not necessarily out-of-date. Not yet, anyway. But I think every doctor needs to ask themselves if they’re comfortable investing in traditional software today when tomorrow it will probably be outdated. It will still work, but they’ll be faced with making a switch to the cloud soon thereafter. So the decision is whether to switch to the cloud now and avoid the pain of switching again in the future. For us, Curve Dental was the right choice. I feel we have a leg up on the competition, technologically, which is part of the reason our patients love us and refer their friends to us. My partner, my team and I have built a thriving and successful practice because we’re quick to embrace new procedures and technology.

Practice Ramifications

by Merry Greig Cosgrove, RDH, MS,
Pride Institute Consultant

The decisions made regarding your choice of practice management software are vital, as this can create the biggest impact on all aspects of practice performance-present and future! Here, we look at Curve Dental, a Web-based alternative to traditional practice management software. Modern, “cloud-based” services are dependant upon the latest Web browser and Web 2.0 technology. To make the leap from a more traditional approach of software requires routing through on-site servers, to off-site.

If your vision is to create fresh, more efficient alternatives for managing all operational systems in your dental practice, then exploring the benefits of a cloud-based practice management system can truly support your goals. Cloud computing is the delivery of hosted services over the Internet, rather than a product that is supported on-site. With the economy continuing to pose challenges, a less costly, more efficient model of ongoing practice support is essential for all dentists to look at to maintain business growth and profitability.

Because this is a service as opposed to a product, the initial cost is a one-time-only fee of less than $3,000. The initial fee is for training, data conversion and configuration services. This is followed by a subscription fee of approximately $300 per month. The monthly fee covers all aspects of on-going upgrades and support. The initial ROI comes from a decrease in technology expenses because there is no data backup and no servers needed on-site. The ongoing return on investment comes in many different layers depending upon the full use of the practice management systems from scheduling and financial/insurance, through treatment presentation and managing the continuing care department. This requires the dentist and the team to take full advantage of all the tools and reports that are part of the Curve Dental service package.

In any software conversion, to efficiently maximize new tools requires a smooth and complete data conversion strategy. At Pride Institute, we like to say, “Garbage in, equals garbage out.” If there were no black and white data and operational systems to begin with, it can impact the training and learning curve and the ability to fully integrate the new service significantly. Curve offers 90-minute training modules as well as training videos available online. There is no question all of your systems are impacted by your choice of practice management process. Therefore, we recommend working with a practice management expert, so the doctor and team have a keen understanding of what they want from their systems and the turn key processes needed to run the systems. Each team member, from appointment coordinator to clinical assistant, needs to understand his or her ongoing role in embracing and fully using all of the tools and reports. It is not unusual for the team to experience change resistance and hold on to old systems and processes. The good news is, because the service itself is intuitive and something most people have some interface with, this can reduce the learning curve significantly. Leadership is something you do with people not to people, so strong communication and planning ahead, works wonders for integration success.

Patients like the idea of Web-based processes and will be excited about the changes if they see the benefits of increased efficiency, time savings, etc. Because a data conversion affects all aspects of the dental experience, a great way to start the process is through patient surveys and feedback processes. If your patients feel they are part of the upgrade from day one, they will become ambassadors for your success. A more efficient practice is a practice that provides better customer service and clinical results. A transition to a Web-based service can be a huge part of a successful marketing strategy.