Five Pitfalls to Avoid When Purchasing New Software
By Roger P. Levin, D.D.S.
Choosing new practice management software is a major and often complicated decision. Make the right choice and your endodontics practice will benefit in many ways. The wrong decision, however, can result in years of inefficiency and frustration. Before purchasing new software, give careful consideration to five pitfalls that could undermine the potential value of your software investment.
Pitfall No. 1 – Mismatch Between Practice Needs and Software Capabilities
The first step in evaluating practice management software is to look not at the software itself but at your endodontics practice. Though a relatively small business, an endo office must be prepared to deal with numerous complications. From scheduling emergencies, to monitoring patient flow, to staying on top of collections, the demands are diverse. The software you choose must lend itself readily to handling all your essential management responsibilities. Make a list of 10 to 15 critical practice functions and use it as your primary software checklist.
Pitfall No. 2 – Conversion Chaos
Assuming you have identified and installed the best software for your practice, you are still likely to experience problems converting existing data. The volume and nature of the data involved make this almost inevitable, so be prepared. As Levin Group consultants advise our endo clients, plan for a 90-day transition period. Encourage teamwork to help cope with the initial “bugs and glitches” that occur, and build some extra time into the practice schedule to allow for this without in any way impairing customer service.
Pitfall No. 3 – Insufficient Staff Training
Many practices badly underestimate the need for team training when they convert to new management software. All else being equal, purchase your new software from a company that offers the best product support, especially training. If the vendor or others do not offer adequate training services — or if you fail to take advantage of them — you, your staff and even your patients will pay the price. Judge training in terms of preparation for launch, achieving rapid proficiency, responsiveness to special needs, and ongoing training options.
Pitfall No. 4 – Integration Limitations
Your practice exists in a connected world. Practice management software does not stand alone. To achieve its full potential and serve your office well, it must lend itself to seamless functional integration with numerous other software applications and digital technologies. You cannot afford to have management software that simply will not interface successfully with other systems you depend on. You might gain valuable insights by asking the manufacturers of your digital systems about the management software you are considering.
Pitfall No. 5 – Underutilization of Software Potential
Your endo practice is a business and, as such, should be tracking 20 to 25 key performance metrics every month. Most software on the market today can meet this need, but many endodontists are either not tracking these vital statistics, tracking the wrong data, or trying to track too much. Figure out what data will help you make better business decisions, find out how to track it with the software you’re considering, and make sure relevant training is available.
Avoid these five pitfalls and you should be able to select practice management software that will streamline day-to-day office function, reduce stress, and generate the information you need to guide your practice to increased production and greater success.
To learn how to run a more profitable, efficient and satisfying practice, visit the Levin Group Resource Center at www.levingroup.com/endo. It's a free online resource with tips, videos and other valuable information. You can also connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (Levin_Group) to learn strategies and share ideas.
Public Relations: Not a Campaign, a Mission
More than a decade ago, the AAE conducted a member needs survey specifically related to public relations. A majority of members who responded favored a public awareness campaign, though there was no agreement among them as to the focus of such an effort. In 2014, after 10 years of agency-guided initiatives targeting consumers and dentists, AAE members continue to feel strongly about the need for greater awareness, and have diverse views about the best way to it. That is why the AAE Board of Directors made the decision this year to end the formal AAE “awareness campaign” and its assessment, and instead committed to ongoing PR outreach as part of the AAE mission to serve its members and the specialty.
In the process of speaking with many endodontists throughout the years on this topic, a few things have become clear to me and other AAE leaders. There seems to be a great variation in the understanding of the term “public relations,” and an overall lack of clarity about the AAE’s program. Many who have expressed frustration with the AAE’s efforts routinely reference a lack of AAE advertising in their area– their desire is to see billboards, magazine ads, and promotions on radio and television. If sustained, an advertising campaign could create visibility, yet many fail to realize that it is also the most costly public relations strategy, and the least credible. With a modest annual budget of $125 per practicing endodontist, and abundant research suggesting that such a strategy would do nothing to impact behavior of potential patients, advertising was never a component of the AAE’s campaign efforts.
Rather, the AAE’s initiatives, vetted each year by a committee of endodontist volunteers and approved by our Board, focused on traditional PR tactics that would influence the public (and later, general dentist referrers) to have positive perceptions of endodontists and impact decisions to seek them out. Those tactics include media monitoring, news releases and editorials in print, radio and television; speaking engagements, attendance at dental meetings and seminars; and development of brochures, newsletters, website content and collateral materials. This strategy is well-suited for community and media relations, and marketing communications, and is generally credible, memorable and convincing. It does, however, require a long-term commitment in order to be effective.
For both the patient-focused program, which ran from 2004-2009, and the dentist-focused program that launched in 2010, we were disciplined in setting measurable goals and metrics that allowed us to track and report progress – these have been reported and are available to members on the AAE website. We collected market research throughout to inform our planning and execution of activities with current data – our research has also been available online to members.
Last fall, after careful evaluation of early indicators of campaign impact, the Public and Professional Relations Committee reluctantly recognized that engagement by endodontists in the current campaign was not at the level necessary to impact referring dentists, despite awareness of campaign tools and resources. Many AAE members who support PR outreach by the AAE simply do not want to be personally involved in grassroots efforts at the local level. After much discussion, the Board approved a thoughtful recommendation by the PPRC to end the program, while retaining all of the capacity and assets that have been accumulated during the last decade for use in continued PR outreach by the AAE at the national level.
So what did we get for all of our campaign efforts of the last decade, you might ask? A tremendous amount of benefit, by my estimation. In 2003, the AAE had no PR staff, and public relations activity consisted of a single press release announcing our new officers each year. Today, we have two staff positions dedicated to media monitoring and relations, who distribute press communications, organize media training for AAE spokespeople, and schedule media interviews. The AAE now has a presence in all major social media channels, and has developed a repository of multimedia content promoting root canal specialists, including a new series of high-end videos explaining endodontic treatments that will be unveiled at the Annual Session in Washington next month. Our market research is the most thorough data available in the profession regarding consumer perceptions of our specialty, the drivers of referral to endodontists by dentists, and the perceptions of endodontics by dental educators and students – and at a combined expense of more than $220,000, not an investment easily made by any individual member in the absence of a campaign.
This research has been invaluable in developing a comprehensive set of toolkits for endodontists to use in mastering and executing consumer and professional outreach activities, complete with templates, customizable samples, graphics and other practice marketing materials, at the beginner and advanced levels. Supporting webinars, webcasts, courses and workshops have been conducted to prepare motivated members for action on their own behalf. And, at the national level, the AAE now annually conducts Root Canal Awareness Week, the first concerted effort of its kind to mobilize supporters of the specialty in educational outreach promoting root canal specialists. Our new Lunch and Learn program introduces future dentists to endodontists in their community, our consistent presence at the nation’s largest dental meetings ensures our participation with speakers and on exhibit floors, and our introduction of clinical tools such as the Case Difficulty Assessment Form and Treatment Options guide has armed practitioners with objective information about how and when endodontic specialists should be involved in treatment planning.
As we look back on the efforts of the past decade, we must recognize the tremendous capacity we have built, and the many ways the AAE has responded to the needs of our members. We also recognize as we look to the future, that the dental professional landscape continues to shift and challenge us, and that the need for advocacy and awareness of the specialty is as urgent as ever before, if not more so. In the coming months, though you will not see an assessment for PR activities on your dues invoices, the AAE will introduce a new PR strategy, one that places a premium on modern communications channels.
Our goal will be to position the AAE and its members at the forefront of the digital community with tactics such as search engine marketing and optimization, proactive social media outreach, website content development and multimedia assets, reaching both patients and dentists with the most authoritative and reliable endodontic information available.
Our approach to public relations and awareness cannot be limited to any one program or fee – it must be a responsive, continual and central part of our Association’s mission to serve its members, and this is the commitment we have made on your behalf.
Register for the Annual Session Today!
The AAE Annual Session is just a month away. Find information on workshops, schedules, special events, methods of registration, registration packages and fees and much more here.
Celebrate Root Canal Awareness Week
Of course your patients would rather have a root canal. It relieves their pain and saves their teeth!
Use Root Canal Awareness Week, March 30 – April 5, to help the AAE dispel the myths about root canals and encourage patients to see an endodontist.
View the Root Canal Awareness Week Member Planning Guide, download the poster and logo and use the AAE’s myth-busters to help patients understand the facts about root canal treatment.
While root canal treatment is the dental procedure that causes patients the most anxiety, a recent AAE survey found that number is going down.
Fifty-four percent of Americans said root canal treatment would cause them to be anxious, down from 60 percent last year and the lowest number since the AAE began its survey in 2011. In addition, more than three-quarters of Americans, 76 percent, say they would want to avoid losing a permanent tooth, something root canal treatment can help prevent.
Let us know how you celebrate Root Canal Awareness Week. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or share your success stories on our Facebook page.
JAMA Proves Lack of Association Between Endodontic Treatment and Cancer
A study in JAMA Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery published in October 2013 tested the association between dental caries and head and neck cancers. Results indicate that patients who have had one endodontic treatment had no change in their risk of cancer, while those who had two or more endodontic treatments actually had a 45% reduction in their risk of cancer. The study could be a valuable talking point with patients who have come across misleading information online, and reinforces the fact that root canal treatment is both a safe and effective way to save the natural dentition.
AAE Joins Campaign to Minimize Radiation Exposure for Children
The AAE recently joined the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging in their Image Gently campaign. The Alliance is a coalition of over 70 organizations that was founded in 2008 by the Society of Pediatric Radiology.
The goal of the campaign is to “raise awareness in the imaging community of the need to adjust radiation dose when imaging children, with the ultimate goal of changing practices.” The campaign also works to educate parents and allay their fears of radiation exposure.
The campaign’s primary focus has been on CT scans because the number of pediatric CT scans has increased dramatically in the past five years. While the original Alliance members came from the medical imaging world, representatives of dentistry have been invited due to the increasing use of cone beam-computed tomography (CBCT) in dentistry.
The AAE is a leader in dentistry in urging responsible use of CBCT. In 2010, it issued a joint position statement on The Use of Cone Beam-Computed Tomography in Endodontics, in partnership with the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology. Those guidelines emphasize the importance of not using CBCT routinely for endodontic diagnosis in the absence of clinical signs and symptoms and keeping the dose to the absolute minimum. Specifically, in regards to children, the position statement asserts that:
The use of CBCT will expose the patient to ionizing radiation that may pose elevated risks to some patients (e.g., cases of pregnancy, previous treatment with ionizing radiation and younger patients).
The decision to order a CBCT scan must be based on the patient’s history and clinical examination, and justified on an individual basis by demonstrating that the benefits to the patient outweigh the potential risks of exposure to X-rays, especially in the case of children or young adults. CBCT should only be used when the question for which imaging is required cannot be answered adequately by lower dose conventional dental radiography or alternate imaging modalities.
Dr. Martin Levin, who oversaw the joint committee that developed the position statement, is the AAE’s representative to the Alliance and attended the Alliance’s As Low As Reasonably Achievable conference (ALARA) in February.
Dr. Levin observes that joining the Alliance “will allow the AAE to partner with other participating organizations to raise awareness of the risks of ionizing radiation to children and young adults. Our members will benefit from a better understanding of current and future technologies, patient dose tracking initiatives, quality improvement, clinical decision support and risk assessment.“
AAE President Gary Hartwell also notes that the goals of the Alliance are in harmony with the AAE’s commitment to evidence-based treatment selection criteria and radiation dose minimization.
Learn more about the Alliance and partnering organizations at the Image Gently website.
Organized Dentistry Comes Together to Discuss the Future
Leaders of organized dentistry battled record low temperatures, flight cancellations and travel delays to gather in Chicago on Jan. 10-11, 2014, for discussion on “Looking Ahead: The Future of the Dental Profession.” The National Roundtable for Dental Collaboration, spearheaded by the American Dental Association in 2010, has grown to include 24 dental organizations, including the AAE and other dental specialties. At each of its annual gatherings, the NRDC tackles a mega-issue facing dentistry; past themes have included dental education, research and development of a national public awareness campaign.
January’s meeting included panel discussions on the changing health care system, technology advances, “game changers” in dentistry and managed group practices – all topics on which the AAE Board of Directors has focused in recent strategic discussions.
Dr. Marko Vujicic of the ADA’s Health Policy Resources Center suggested that dentistry is entering “a new normal.” No change has occurred in dental spending since 2008; dental use among working-age adults has declined, but increased among children. This presents opportunities: Finding ways to stimulate adult demand for care, leveraging the value agenda to improve population health and embracing opportunities for different health care providers to work together. Dentistry has a unique opportunity to rethink its role in health care and educate the medical community on the links between oral and body health.
The National Roundtable for Dental Collaboration includes 24 dental organizations.
Context is decisive, according to Dr. Marc Cooper of the Mastery Company, who explained that the context of dentistry has changed and will not go back to how it was. Historically, the dentist’s role was that of driver, and the purchaser served as decision maker. The new model casts the purchaser as driver, and the payor as the decision maker. Multi-provider/multi-location practices are seeing high growth, while solo and family practices are in decline. Larger corporate practices hire external talent, enabling them to provide new practitioners with unique benefits: mentorships, relocation, debt management, etc.
Permanent “game changers” in dentistry were highlighted by Dr. Roger Levin of the Levin Group: changing consumer purchasing habits and insurance reimbursement rates, expansion of national corporate dental centers, new dental schools, increasing student debt, fewer associate opportunities for new dentists, dentists practicing for 8-10 years longer, and, for specialists, an increase in general practitioners providing specialty services. Endodontics was noted as an example, in that demand had increased up until five years ago, and that general practitioners today are providing more root canal treatments than ever before.
Rapidly evolving technology will impact the dental profession and drive the automatic personalization of patient care, reported Ms. Pam Hemmon of Patterson Companies. Technology will continue to create efficiencies in the healthcare system and level the playing fields among all industries. Dentists must be agile and seek out every “business moment.”
Mr. Gary Price, president and CEO of the Dental Trade Alliance, provided an update on the public awareness campaign of the Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives, to which the AAE is a contributor. Of all Ad Council campaigns in recent history, the dental campaign had greater than average success in awareness as well as donated media rates. Initial findings indicate that behavioral change has begun to occur as a result of the campaign, which is focused on the message: Two minutes, two times a day. The Ad Council has indicated interest in continuing the campaign for another term – a notable achievement, as 85 percent of their campaigns run only one term. Additional information on the campaign can be found at healthymouthshealthylives.org.
New JOE iPad App Available to Download
Earlier this month, the AAE unveiled the new JOE: Journal of Endodontics iPad® Edition. The app features the same content as the print and online JOE, but is available wherever and whenever members need it – no more carrying around a print copy or waiting to get to a computer.
With the JOE: Journal of Endodontics iPad® Edition, members can:
Bookmark favorite articles
Take notes and highlight within articles
Quickly swipe through articles and issues
Save to their favorite reader apps
Get up-to-the-minute alerts on new issues and featured articles by activating the App Alerts
AAE members can receive this app for FREE by registering to activate their access and downloading the app to an iPad.
Spouses and Guests Invited to Old Town Alexandria Tour
By Shelley Zucker, AAE Alliance President
Planning to attend the 2014 Annual Session with your spouse, companion or a guest? The AAE Alliance is offering a wonderful opportunity for guests, as well as meeting attendees, to explore beautiful and historic Old Town Alexandria, Va., on Friday, May 2.
After a water taxi ride across the National Harbor, we will begin a narrated walking tour designed especially for our group, with stops along the way for seated “tastings” at Old Town Alexandria’s celebrated restaurants.
See page 36 of the Annual Session program or the “Alliance/Spouse/Guest Activities” section of the Annual Session webpage for details and cost. If you have already registered your guest for Annual Session and would like to add the tour to your registration, please contact the AAE office at (312) 266-7255. The tour is open to everyone – join us!
To learn more about the AAE Alliance, email email@example.com.
AAE Foundation's Corporate Open House Another Success
AAE Foundation and Association leadership welcomed 40 executives to the third annual Open House and Breakfast during the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting on Feb. 20, 2014.
The breakfast offers a casual forum to educate executives about the needs of members while attendees are given a tour of the AAE’s headquarters office.
The tours are designed to educate the corporate community about the AAE’s different departments, and Foundation donors receive a special update on the Foundation’s latest grants.
“We appreciated the invitation, and the event provide us with additional insight and how we might play a larger role,” said Patti Betzendorfer, chief human resources officer for ADMI, Inc. “It was, in my opinion, one of the best events we attended while we were in Chicago.”
View more photos from the 2014 Open House in our online photo album.
Headquarters Update: New Staff Members Join AAE Team
The AAE Headquarters office employs a total of 29 staff. Recently, three vacant positions were filled. Please feel free to welcome our new staff, and call on them for assistance!
Jessica Dornfeld accepted the Communications Coordinator position in January 2014. She reports to Harriet Bogdanowicz, Assistant Executive Director for Communications and Membership, and is responsible for the development and coordination of the Communique member newsletter, Journal of Endodontics News pages, the AAE Product Catalog and other publications.
Rocio E. Avila, IOM, accepted the Senior Accountant position in February 2014. Rocio’s responsibilities include general ledger financial record maintenance, monthly closing, annual audit preparation and budget development for both the AAE and AAE Foundation. She reports to Accounting Manager Alma Hundiak.
Donna Verga accepted the Marketing Manager position in March 2014. In this role, which replaces the Communications Manager position, Donna’s primary responsibilities include developing and implementing marketing programs for membership recruitment and retention, CE offerings, saleable products, and other member benefits. She reports to Harriet Bogdanowicz, Assistant Executive Director for Communications and Membership.
Canadian Academy of Endodontics Elects New President
The Canadian Academy of Endodontics installed Dr. G. Joseph Schwann as President at its Annual General Meeting in September 2013.
Dr. Schwann received his D.M.D. degree from the University of Saskatchewan and his Certificate of Endodontics from Oregon Health and Science University. Currently, he owns an endodontic specialty practice in Calgary, Alberta. Dr. Schwann has also been a member of the AAE since 1986.
In addition to Dr. Schwann, the CAE elected a new slate of executive officers including:
President-Elect: Dr. Tom Iwanowski
Treasurer: Dr. Howard Fogel
Executive Secretary: Dr. Wayne Maillet
Constitution and Bylaws: Dr. Greg Fraser
Past President: Dr. Douglas Conn
Annual Report for FY2012-13 Now Available Online
Learn about the AAE’s work during the 2012-13 fiscal year in the Annual Report, now available to view online.
The report highlights the accomplishments of the AAE, AAE Foundation and American Board of Endodontics, and provides an overview of the Association’s and the Foundation’s financial positions.
Mehvnoosh Darj, El Paso, Texas
Noureldin H. Shoreibah, Calif.
Richard C. Downing, Pasco, Wash.
Seth L Perrins, FPO, AP
Sheldon M. Sealey, Baldwinsville, NY
Sinan N. Qyat, MT Gambier West, SA Australia
Steven G Rabenstein, FPO, AP
William S. Walker, FPO, AE
Wilson Duong, Brooklyn, NY
Johannes Schmitt, Bensheim, Germany
Karim Idzahi, Voorhout, Netherlands
Michael Waplington, Worcs, U.K.
Rami Tahboub, Manama, Bahrain
Sahar Khattab, Toronto
Sanjay M. Ardeshna, London
Shalin V. Desai, West Pennant Hills, Australia
Tim Castrisosm Roseville, Australia
Wael O. Elbokle, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Yyousra Ibrahim Galhom, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Thank You to the 2014 Annual Session Sponsors!
DENTSPLY Tulsa Dental Specialties
J. Morita USA
Sirona Dental, Inc.
Henry Schein Dental
Treloar & Heisel, Inc. and Medical Protective
About the Communiqué
The Communiqué is distributed four times a year in print and seven times a year electronically to 7,000+ AAE members. Its mission is to promote communication among AAE members, leaders of the AAE, ABE and AAE Foundation and AAE Affiliate organizations; encourage coordinated activities; inform the membership of developments in the endodontic specialty and dental profession; and raise awareness of AAE events, products and services. The AAE Membership Services Committee serves as the Communiqué Editorial Board. Visit www.aae.org/communique for back issues.