17 Jan Oh my Lord! They use Pearl!
Oh my Lord! They use Pearl!
(by Cary Cray-Webb)
About 10 months ago my husband and I set-up a new PR business (Precision PR) which specialises in imaging technologies and their use. As a dental nurse, I thought one obvious area to focus on is dentistry.
Last March, I wrote an article for our website called ‘Oh my God! They use Exact! Since then we’ve been working with BHA Software on their Pearl dental practice management software, so I thought it would be a good idea to update my article.
New job, new software
When I trained as a dental nurse I spent 18 months working for the largest chain of UK dental practices, and although I worked at two locations 30 miles or so apart, they used the same software; Carestream CS R4 (still known widely as Kodak R4). However, shortly after I qualified I was offered a job nearer to home for a smaller organisation (16 practices) with an excellent reputation for staff development.
“Great,” I thought. “Smaller organisation, bigger practice with wider variety of work. Just what I need to set my career on the right track.”
All seemed good. I liked the building, my new colleagues, journey to work, everything. Until I came to nurse for a new dentist on my own for the first time at the new practice. I think he heard me say; “Oh my Lord! They use Exact.”
During my interviews and induction training I discussed the software installed at my new surgery. However, it hadn’t dawned on me that Software of Excellence Exact does some things differently to R4. In fact, from a nurses perspective, it does a few things very differently.
Systems for dentists and practice management software
Dental surgeries these days depend so much on practice management software that it has become totally embedded in everything nurses and dentists do.
These amazing software systems manage appointments and workloads, patient records and even the X-Ray imaging equipment we use everyday. So it was a real shock when I realised I was using a system completely new to me that does some very fundamental tasks differently to the system I had ALWAYS previously used.
I somehow survived my first day of nursing. I came home after work, cried a bit, then found some on-line training courses. Next day I got my dentist and practice manager to show me the things I couldn’t understand from the videos. Now I’m perfectly happy using Exact – though arguably Exact is easier for dentists and R4 better matches the needs of dental nurses.
During the last year, as Precision PR has got off the ground (and swallowed all my free days and weekdays) I’ve been introduced to Pearl. Okay, so I’m getting paid to write this article, but I’m amazed that the system isn’t more widely used – by independent dentists at least.
I’ve moved my nursing job and still use Exact, but (as a nurse) I wish I could use Pearl. It seems to work really well for both dentists and nurses, helped by the very responsive feedback system that BHA uses to gather ideas from users. I know it doesn’t do some of the back-end reporting that big chains (like my current employer) need, but BHA will be making some announcements later in the year that will address this area.
Nurse and machine in perfect harmony?
Today we all rely totally on computers, even in work as complex, skilful and professionalised as dental surgery. The place where that reliance fails is the user interface – where man (or dental nurse) meets machine.
Carestream R4 and Software of Excellence Exact are by far the most common systems for dentists in use in UK dentist practices. I’ve learned how important these systems are to my work as a nurse. But I feel their key weakness is that neither sees the patient journey as a whole.
I’d like to think that all designers of practice management software take the time to consider how fundamental dental nurses are to their products – especially ones using their product for the first time. The same goes for dentists, receptionists and other professionals – we ALL have a part to play in dealing with and helping our patients.
The point is…
As a part-time PR professional my work in this field has given me a perspective on how diverse the dental software market is – there are dozens of systems for dentists available. I find the way the software market’s two biggest players have developed their products is fascinating, and even as arguably the UK’s 3rd biggest player, Pearl still has a relatively small market share.
Small software businesses have to be far more innovative and more responsive to the needs of their customers, where as bigger players focus much more on the needs of large corporates.
Being in the Pearl ‘camp’ two days a week, I’m pleased with the way the product supports all professionals and the whole patient journey. As an Exact user three days a week I can also appreciate that product’s strengths.
As a practising dental nurse I focus on the patient’s well being, the clinical environment and assisting my dentists with the procedures they carry out. I need to be able to ‘not think’ about the computer system I use – it has to just work the way I do. Or do I mean that I have to just work the way it does? It’s hard to tell.
All I would ask is that if you are specifying, purchasing or designing a new practice management system, please take a holistic approach. The patient’s journey should be paramount, and if that were always the case for all systems then no-one would get a huge shock when they first use a new one.
About the writer
Cary Cray-Webb is a dental nurse. She qualified in 2015 and currently works for a ‘big-two’ corporate chain having started nursing at ‘the other one’. In between she has also worked for a small chain, and has gained experience at four very different practices. .Cary is also a director of Precision PR Ltd. You can contact Cary by email at Cary@precisionpr.co.uk