Is it time to switch software vendors?

February 12, 2016
Mike Uretz
Mike Uretz

Mike Uretz is a nationally-recognized Dental software and Electronic Health Records (EHR) expert. Mike has helped hundreds of individual practices and multi-clinic groups properly evaluate and select software vendors and solutions, structure and negotiate pricing and contracts, provide implementation oversight and vendor management. Mike was a member of the Certification Commission for Health Information Technology EHR vendor certification workgroup, and has been a member of various federal and state working committees for EHR business practices and policy. Having been involved with the EHR Incentive program from day one, Mike has helped a number of states, to evaluate and select EHR vendors, structure contracts and agreements, and manage vendor issues. As co-chairman of the Best practices advisory committee for EHR Contracts, Mike has been instrumental in developing standards for structuring vendor contracts and pricing for use by state programs nationwide He is the founder and editorial director of, a trusted and objective online resource on all matters related to dental software. He is also the point person for Advanstar’s coverage of dental EHRs and their evolving role in the dental industry and can be reached by e-mail at

We are in the midst of a revolution in the dental software industry that is dictating the way groups and practices run their operations and do business. Some of these changes include software certification testing, advanced clinical and EHR features, cloud technology, better imaging integration, improved cash flow and risk reduction, higher levels of security and more advanced technology platforms.

We are in the midst of a revolution in the dental software industry that is dictating the way groups and practices run their operations and do business. Some of these changes include software certification testing, advanced clinical and EHR features, cloud technology, better imaging integration, improved cash flow and risk reduction, higher levels of security and more advanced technology platforms.

Some dental vendors are embracing these changes and continuing to innovate in order to provide their customers with the most up-to-date solutions. However, some vendors are choosing not to spend the time, resources or investment it takes to keep up with technology innovation because they are comfortable with things the way they are. In addition to not offering updated technology, many groups and practices have complained about continualpoor customer support and service from their present vendosr. And quite frankly, they feel stuck.

The question is, which category does your present software vendor fall into ... those vendors that embarace change, or those that resist it? Because of this software revolution, informed groups and practices are reevaluating their present software solutions and comparing to see if there are better alternatives on the market. In fact, you are doing yourself a disservice if, with the dramatic changes in dental software, you don’t at least question if you have the best, most flexible solution moving forward and if your vendor is committed to the future.

This past year, I’ve had more and more groups and practices coming to me looking for help with reevaluating their present software situation. This is not to say that their present vendors and associated dental software systems are not ultimately what would serve them best. But with the amount of innovation in dental software it is definitely worth it to see if you should stick with what you have or if there are greener pastures. There is an old saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it." But I don't believe this applies to technology innovation as time and time again improved and innovative software technology has helped practices and groups improve their operations, patient care and bottom line.

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Lessons learned

Having been involved with the medical software industry for a number of years, I can tell you that patterns seem to be emerging in our dental software industry. Years ago in the medical industry a few vendors dominated the market. As groups and practices had increasing needs for better operational efficiency, better cash flow and improved patient care, there was a need for medical software to become more sophisticated and technologically advanced to meet these growing needs. This opened up the door for a new generation of software vendors with better ideas and technologies.

Some of these newer vendors a few years later have evolved into the most successful companies in the medical software industry. On the other hand, other established vendors that had good market share at the time but refused to innovate aren’t around anymore. There were also cases where older established companies, which did not have timely innovation, found themselves licensing software from some of the newer more advanced technology companies. We could very well see the same trend in our dental software industry.

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Are you being held hostage?

I can’t tell you how many times I've had groups or practices come to me wanting to look at new software but were fearful that they couldn't change because their vendor had convinced them that it would be too difficult or dangerous to move their administrative, financial and patient information over to the new vendor. To me this is tantamount to being held hostage by your vendor. In a perfect world, you would have negotiated a "transition clause” in your original software agreement that allows you to get your data electronically from your vendor. However, having negotiated medical and dental software contracts for over 15 years now I can tell you that most groups and practices don't think to have this written into their contracts.

But, even if you don't have one of these transition clauses in your original agreement don't let your vendor bully you into thinking that you need to stay with their software forever just because there is a perception that you cannot move the data from one system to another. Vendors realize that customers do change software systems and from a customer service standpoint should work with you to help you through this transition. It is reasonable to pay them for their time and assistance. However If you determine that the present system is not adequate for your long-term needs and you want to move on then you should do so.

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Do I have the time?

Another reason some groups and practices choose to not look past what they presently have is because of the time it takes to evaluate and select new software. I have seen it time and time again. Change can be stressful. But if we didn't invest the time and energy into changes which our practices and groups needed then where would this industry be? And there are proven processes that have been used for years to help groups and practices evaluate and select software with minimal effort and in a timely fashion. There is also a new generation of online tools that can provide information to help you evaluate your options.

Opportunity for a better contract

There is a good chance that the original contract you signed with your dental software vendor is one sided and gives the upper hand to the vendor. Even if you had an attorney help you with this there is a chance the contract is inadequate if your attorney did not have software contract experience. So, this is your chance to get better contract terms. Whether you are looking at a new vendor or getting updated software from your present vendor the opportunity is there to finally get contract terms which are in your favor and that level the playing field with your vendor. I have negotiated numerous contracts in this same situation with good results and I encourage you to be proactive.

As mentioned earlier it is possible that your present software vendor could be offering you the next generation of advanced software. But, considering the growing importance of software in the future of both your practice management and clinical operations along with quickly advancing technology don't you owe it to yourself to take your head out of the sand and at least compare what's available on the market?