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MacPractice Inc. highlights strategic thinking in bringing Apple to the dental office

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report-2012-08-01
Issue 8

Interview with Mark Hollis, CEO of MacPractice.

Interview with Mark Hollis, CEO of MacPractice.


Q: You and Patrick Clyne, President of MacPractice, founded MacPractice nine years ago. Why?

A:We have always felt the Mac platform was most appropriate for a dental practice because of its ease of use, outstanding reliability, low maintenance cost and innovative products and technologies. We wanted to be the first to develop an all new dental software to leverage the capabilities and reliability of industrial strength, Unix-based Mac OS X.

In the 1980’s Patrick led the development of DentalMac, the very first dental software with a Graphical User Interface (GUI). He developed DentalMac for Apple’s very first computers. DentalMac was subsequently bought and sold several times and had not been significantly enhanced for years. As a result, it was and is incompatible with Mac OS X. As the top sales representative of DentalMac for 10 years who was still supporting 650 DentalMac, MediMac and ChiroMac offices in the New York metropolitan area in 2004, I knew there were still many disappointed DentalMac users who were also Mac devotees holding out for something new for Mac OS X.

Patrick and I decided to take a chance and join forces with the best corporate people and nine top field representatives and trainers who were all formerly associated with DentalMac. In 2004, we contacted all the DentalMac users we personally knew...one year later MacPractice had its first 600 client offices and released its first version.

Our decision to found MacPractice seems like a no-brainer today, now that Apple has become the world’s most valuable company subsequent to the introduction of the iPad, iPhone, iPod, MacBook Air, Mac mini, new iMacs, numerous Mac OS and iOS versions, and since Apple’s decision to put Intel chips inside Macs which makes it possible to run Windows on a Mac when necessary. But all of these things happened after we founded MacPractice, and many questioned the wisdom of our decision at the time.

Amazingly, still today probably less than 10% of computers that are sold are Macs, but that represents tens of millions of computer users who appreciate the advantages of the Mac platform.

Q: Are there particular challenges you have had to overcome to provide a complete Mac solution for a dental office?

A: Perhaps our biggest challenge was to provide viable digital radiography solutions to our customers. In 2005, when Apple introduced the first Mac with an Intel chip, we immediately took advantage of the new ability to boot a Mac in Windows or run Windows on a Mac in a virtual machine with excellent Windows performance. It became possible to run virtually any PC digital radiography solution on a Mac. Over the past nine years we have sold many manufacturers on the idea of supporting their PC solution bridged to MacPractice DDS and running on a Mac computer.

However, as successful as we have been with the PC bridge, what we Mac users ultimately want are Mac native solutions. Toward that end, MacPractice has developed our own native driver and we have also assisted numerous other manufacturers to develop Mac native drivers for their products. As a result of our efforts and our company’s success, there are a growing number of Mac native solutions for digital radiography and intraoral cameras as well, making the Mac a viable and compelling option for dentists.

Another major challenge was to establish a financially viable company with a client base large enough to fund development, support and on-site representation and service resources for a top-of-the-line Mac solution, all of which we have successfully achieved in a relatively short period of time.

Q: What is the size of MacPractice now?

A: We have 100+ employees in our 17,000 square foot office with a National Training Center in the popular Haymarket district of Lincoln, Nebraska. Patrick and I purchased a nearby property last year and plan future construction of a new six-story office building and National Training Center.

There are 40 MacPractice Practice Consultants throughout the US and in the UK and Australia providing on site services. While more than 90% of our 14,000 providers are in the US, 5,000 of whom are dentists, MacPractice is used in 25 countries today.

Q: What do you feel are the strengths of your company?

A: People, experience and commitment. Patrick and I are extraordinarily blessed with many loyal and talented members of the MacPractice family in Lincoln and out in the field. We have developed productive, long-term relationships with these people who, like us, are committed to always doing the right thing by our customers and each other. There has not been a turnover of MacPractice Practice Consultants or administrators in nine years. I know it is hard to believe, but it is true. And I think that speaks volumes about our company’s work ethic, from the top down. We have also had very little turnover in our engineering department, and I can’t tell you how critical that is.

MacPractice has a large core team in the field and in our office, the members of which each have 25 to 30 years of experience developing, implementing and supporting software in dental practices. That experience is invaluable.

Patrick and I personally understand every aspect of our business as it affects our clients. We understand what happens in a dental practice through firsthand experience, and this strengthens and enhances our products and services.

Everyone at MacPractice is committed to supporting our client’s use of MacPractice software. MacPractice is solely owned by Patrick and myself. MacPractice has been financially self-sustaining since its first month in business in May, 2004. I am glad to say that I only had to wait four months before it was self-sustaining enough that I was able to collect a salary. MacPractice currently grows 20% annually, and, in response to that growth, Patrick makes sure that there are always more than enough competent support personnel to address our clients’ needs.

There is no one on the planet who has more experience than Patrick in developing computer solutions for dentists that leverage a graphical user environment. Among other accomplishments, Patrick led the development of the first dental charting and digital radiography solutions to be integrated into a practice management software (DentalMac). Within a few months of Apple’s introduction of QuickTime, Patrick was the first to implement QuickTime movie capture in DentalMac.

Q: What is unique about MacPractice?

A: I like to think that we are as creative and innovative as the Apple platform we leverage, while at the same time being pragmatic. In our mission to provide solutions to our clients’ problems and tools to enhance their productivity, although familiar with the approach others may have taken, our thinking is unconstrained.

While dentistry is in our DNA, we also have 25-30 years of experience developing, implementing and supporting solutions for physicians, chiropractors and eye care professionals. This provides us, and all of our clients, numerous significant and unique advantages. As an example, MacPractice DDS 4.1 is the first dental software to have received ONC-ATCB 2011-2012 Certification making it possible for MacPractice DDS users to obtain $63,750 per provider in government incentives if they fulfill Medicaid requirements and as much as $44,000 if they are oral surgeons or provide other services for which Medicare reimburses.

MacPractice is more financially viable than a development firm whose income depends solely upon success in just dentistry, and therefore our clients are more secure. MacPractice DDS is undoubtedly successful by itself, but our engineering and support resources are three times larger than they would be if MacPractice DDS were our only product.

MacPractice DDS is designed to suit multiple dental specialties (all specialties) simultaneously. For example, an orthodontist and a pediatric dentist can share office space and staff and use MacPractice DDS. The orthodontist does not need to purchase another more expensive, orthodontic software, pay training separately and be obliged to pay additional annual support and enhancement fees.

MacPractice DDS is multi-disciplinary. As an example, a clinic providing dental, medical, chiropractic and optometric services can use MacPractice DDS. Each practitioner will have the functionality they require in their exam room and all business functions are supported, including dental and medical eclaims and patient billing.  

Q: What can we look forward to in the future from MacPractice?

A: I can’t be specific because our goal is to stay state-of-the-art and, as you know, technology changes daily. But I can speak to the fact that there will be more Mac native dental digital imaging solutions coming to the Mac. MacPractice perio charting will be significantly enhanced. An inventory function will also be added to all MacPractice products.

To compliment our interfaces to MacPractice for iPad and iPhone, we will release several native iOS solutions that communicate with MacPractice on the desktop, in addition to MacPractice Clipboard DDS for the iPad. We will enhance viewing and entering data in MacPractice on the iPad and also expand the current capability and performance of using MacPractice DDS on an iPad by collaborating with other developers.

All MacPractice products for Mac, iPad and iPhone will continue to be developed to take advantage of Apple’s operating system updates and the certain release of new Apple hardware.
And look for further integration with partners providing web services to MacPractice users.

All this to say, we have great future plans for MacPractice dental applications and for MacPractice DDS users. With the plan to build new offices with expanded training and support facilities, we plan to be around for a long time meeting the unique needs of dental professionals.

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