24 Aug Case Study: Dental Health Centre, Kingstanding Road, Birmingham
From Paper to Pearl: Diving into Digital Dentistry
Case Study – Dental Health Centre, Kingstanding Road, Birmingham
The Dental Health Centre on Kingstanding Road, Birmingham, ‘serves the needs of the local population with a patient centred focus in a training environment’. With seven active surgeries, 16 staff and two principals it’s a fairly big practice. Until the introduction of Pearl Dental Software in August 2018, the practice had run for 23-years on a paper-based management and appointment system.
In 2018, principal dentists Manjit Dhindisa and Ashok Takhar decided that the practice needed a software system to streamline operations. After a careful review of available systems, they chose Pearl Dental Software from BHA Limited.
“We were a paper-based business, and we knew we needed to computerise to become more efficient and flexible,” said Ashok. “We needed a system that would be easy to learn as we had to take our organisation and our staff from 0-to-100% computerised. Everyone needs to be comfortable with the software and see benefits of adopting the new digitalised way of running previously paper based tasks. And it had to be reliable in day-to-day operation. It’s no good if it doesn’t work.”
As the search progressed, Ashok and his team realised they needed to satisfy a number of other requirements that emerged after discussions with several suppliers. For example, they needed a system that could provide multiple access points both within the practice and away from it, such as at home. The pricing structure also needed to make sense..
“The system needed to have sensible, transparent licensing and prices that work the way our practice is organised,” explains Ashok. Because we’re a teaching practice we wanted to be able to access the system in the board room and at home, not just in the surgery. And because many of these points are accessed occasionally, we didn’t want to be charged for a full licence for each access point as you are with some systems.”
Flexibility is key
The teaching issue was a real problem for some software licences. “The licence needed to be as flexible as we are,” he continued. “Transparency of the pricing model that was based on the actual work that could be done and didn’t monetize the flexibility we built into our working environment was essential.”
Pearl meets these objectives very well. It doesn’t ‘charge’ users for every point on the patient (and trainee) journey. Every practice does things differently, so why be restricted by the way your software supplier charges you?
Because of the way Pearl is licenced, Ashok says, “We don’t have to worry about our software supplier ramping up the charges because we choose to access the system in the boardroom, or from home, or because we add an extra computer on reception. BHA charges per-surgery.”
Training is clearly a critical issue for Ashok. “We are a training practice so we need to be able to look at things in different places, such as our boardroom. But I know of many teaching practices that have to review cases in the surgery to avoid being penalised by their software supplier because of charging for an extra access point.”
The flexibility of access afforded by Pearl was brought home to Ashok on a recent trip to New York. “I took my PearlPad tablet with me and was able to check what was happening and resolve minor issues at the surgery while I was thousands of miles from Birmingham. I wonder if it’s possible to do this via a Windows-based mobile phone? Maybe a future development? For me, being able to help resolve and pre-empt problems while away from the practice gives me great personal freedom and comfort.”
The Dental Health Centre has also seen other benefits since introducing Pearl. “Being able to reduce staffing by one FTE on reception was an immediate cash benefit,” says Ashok. But it’s the flexibility that has impressed him the most. “Our paper-based system required custom printed stationery, and was limited to this week and next-week’s bookings to keep it manageable.
“Pearl has allowed us to become much more flexible, and to streamline the patient booking process. There are now fewer gaps, and the process is more elegant and ergonomic. What that means is it is so much easier and quicker to manage, make and amend appointments while you’re on the phone to the patient as you don’t have to faff with paper or to look-up information. Bookings can be made or changed in one patient contact instead of several. And if necessary, more than one person can access the booking system at the same time.”
An issue that any ‘paper-based’ system will face is managing claims for NHS work. However, The Dental Health Centre has found NHS form transmission and sending claims, checking, amending and modifying claims to be simple with Pearl. “It is an easy, neat and well thought out process,” said Ashok.
Support and development
An area that is difficult to evaluate when choosing a software supplier is how they deal with support and development. Ashok’s team has found BHA’s approach to both is excellent, even with issues that are not strictly problems with the software. A recent example is when the NHS transmission system itself had problems receiving claims digitally from software suppliers. Pearl worked with the NHS dental services to identify, address and resolve transmission issues with very little disruption to dental practices. “Their [the support team] accessibility, willingness to engage, and desire to learn from us is great. They treat clients like stakeholders [in the BHA business]”
Another operational consideration that doesn’t always get attention during selection and implementation is the load a system places on the IT infrastructure. This was pointed out to BHA Limited by Ashok. “Something important about the software is that it doesn’t use a lot of ‘juice’. It uses a desktop app that isn’t resource heavy. Neither does it use a large amount of data bandwidth, so it isn’t a drain on your internet connection. How you plan your IT infrastructure is therefore dictated to you far less by Pearl than by some competitors.”
This means that Pearl is also simple to manage. The off-site backup is easy to maintain and the data encryption gives you peace of mind. The automatic updates happen regularly and are really fast, which again doesn’t place a heavy load on your IT resources. Pearl is always up-to-date with the latest features!
“This means is that you can work with your hardware supplier/installer to create the best IT infrastructure for your needs. You can make sure it delivers for YOU, not because that’s what Pearl requires to run. ,” said Ashok. “Essentially, Pearl doesn’t add extra complexity to your IT infrastructure, it simply fits in around your other IT requirements.”
When asked to sum-up Pearl Dental Software and the project to implement it and train his staff, Ashok had this to say; “I wondered would it work? It has worked and it’s been reliable in the way it works. It is easy and intuitive to use. You can start by just dabbling without making too many blunders. It’s consistent across the team and accepted by all of them.
“It [the implementation project] wasn’t as bad as I expected, and has streamlined the practice, and enabled me to get a grip of what is going on objectively, as opposed to just having that gut feeling. Pearl is also much less resource intensive than our old manual system.
“For me, the project has been a terrific success. Our practice is now easier to run, easier for patients, and easier for the staff. Pearl simply let’s us run our practice the way we’ve always wanted it to work. What more could you want?”