Lighthouse 360 may have officially launched in 2008, but the story behind this patient communication system began in the 1990s, when two of the co-owners, Joel Kozikowski and Brian Smith, co-authored the practice management system PracticeWorks. Here, Kozikowski takes us back through that development process and his role in Lighthouse 360’s success.
Lighthouse 360 may have officially launched in 2008, but the story behind this patient communication system began in the 1990s, when two of the co-owners, Joel Kozikowski and Brian Smith, co-authored the practice management system PracticeWorks.
Here, Kozikowski takes us back through that development process and his role in Lighthouse 360’s success.
Q: What was your role in developing Lighthouse 360?
A: I was one of the core developers. I was instrumental in the architecture of the software itself. I had a lot to do with the general design of the software and the idea behind it.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
To really understand it, you need to go back to where Lighthouse came from. The whole story is integral to this product’s development.
In 1993 Brian Smith and I created the PracticeWorks practice management system and worked on it throughout the 1990s. One of the features we were proud of was the automation system built into it. It was based on the philosophy that a lot of practice management systems took a computer aided approach to things. You could tell the computer I want you to print this list or find all of the patients who meet this criteria and the computer would print the report. It required the person to know what he was looking for and to ask for it. We wanted to create a system where the computer tells you what you need to be aware of.
We left PracticeWorks and formed Lighthouse, a consulting firm, in 2002. We wanted to help PracticeWorks users really understand how to use those automations. We had an online forum for users and we did seminars around the country teaching how to efficiently run a dental practice using the tools we built into PracticeWorks, including how to use the recall system we developed as a way to manage recall based on the way patients behave.
It got to the point where we could take it to the next level and just automate it completely. We were long gone from PracticeWorks at that point, and our business was limited to PracticeWorks users. We knew every dentist would benefit from this, so we decided to create a software system that would handle tasks completely automated, no matter what practice management system the dentist uses.
Q: From there, how long did it talk to develop Lighthouse 360?
A: We started working on it in early 2006. It was 6 or 8 months before we got the initial pieces of it working. Our third founder in this venture, Allen Jorgensen, was a beta tester for PracticeWorks, and that’s how we met him. His wife is a dentist and he brought all this external management experience when they opened in the 1990s.
Fast forward to Lighthouse 360. We already had a dental office that was our lab. We were able to test as soon as we had the beginnings of the code. And once we had the main system we had this core following of about 300 customers who were members of our online forum. They continued to stay involved with us so we gave them a subscription to Lighthouse 360. Immediately we plugged into 301 users. Offices were able to use it very early on, so that helped us refine it. In 2008 all the pieces fell together and we started selling it.
Q: What features are you most proud of?
A: The recall system. We constantly hear stories from customers about their recall system falling apart. When we look into why, it’s because they switched to a competitor. Most companies take a very simplistic approach to recall, sending the exact same message over and over again. Ours is based on this system we developed in the early days. When users come back to us, immediately the hygiene book starts filling up again.
I’m also really proud of the daily task list. We send an email to all our customers telling them here are all the patients coming in today, here’s what you need to know about those patients to make your practice run better. It goes way beyond the idea of just an automated appointment reminder.
The system doesn’t rely on just email and text for reminders. It also does postcards, letters and phone calls. We can touch every patient one way or another. We can’t email a patient without their email address, so the task list reminds you to get the email, which will save you the cost of a postcard or a phone call in the future.
Q: What are the main benefits?
A: Reduction in broken appointments is a big one, and the recall system. This system will not let patients fall through the cracks even if they cancel an appointment at the last minute. If I’m 8 months past due and cancel an appointment, you don’t reset the clock on me. I’m still 8 months past due. We have a different communication schedule for different types of situations.
This is something you couldn’t reproduce even if you wanted to. It’s too labor intensive to look at that all the time. Lighthouse 360 is set it and forget it. Offices don’t have to do anything differently. The system looks at all the different situations with server updates every 10 minutes. Appointment reminders based on the way patients behave reduces no shows and saves practices time and money. Maybe the thing I’m most proud of is we do all of this with no contract. Our clients are free to cancel any time they want, so we simply have to provide exceptional value every single month.