Ok let's talk about software

***Long Post, entirely PERSONAL OPINION***

I remember I think it was around 2000 or so (don't hold me to that date) my brother and I were walking the AAO exhibition hall. OrthoTrac was the biggest vendor by far. I was kind of on the lookout for a new software program, and I was AMAZED at the amount of salespeople they had and square-footage they took up on the floor. There must have been 75 plus mini-consultations going on with Orthodontists, staff, salespeople, software demos, etc.

My brother said, "Wow. Maybe you should check them out. Everyone seems like they are signing up."

I said, "Those people are making a deal with the Devil!"

Now, I didn't really think OrthoTrac was the Devil. What I was getting at was one of my biggest pet peaves in life. I HATE BEING NICKEL AND DIMED!!!

When I buy a software program (or anything for that matter), sell me the whole thing for a fair price. Don't sell me the basic package for 30k then say:

"Oh you want the treatment card? 3k more."
"Oh you want imaging too? 5k"
"More than 2 workstations? 225/workstation"
"Animated cartoons with braces education? 1500"

At the time, I was using klunky old DOS Based Orthosoft. It was great and did pretty much everything for ONE PRICE! The only thing it didn't do (this was pre-email reminders, etc) was incorporate imaging.

With that in mind I hung on to Orthosoft for several more years, until finally taking the plunge and purchasing a new program. For me it was AOS (Advanced Orthodontic Systems).

So what follows are the features I'm happy with in AOS and some features I wish were better.

The Good:

1. Cloud Computing

This is the best feature of all. NO SERVERS TO DEAL WITH. So no EXPENSIVE server hardware, no networking software to have to continually upgrade, no daily backup tapes to worry about. Any old laptop can access the software from ANYWHERE. This is super-important because I don't have to constantly invest in faster, RAM hogging workstations. The software is run as a 'thin client' so it takes up very little memory and processing speed.

So the cloud computing feature alone has saved me tons of money already.

2. All Inclusive Package for One Fee (plus monthly subscription rate....)

Okay I couldn't get away from some other charges. I bought the software, which includes everything all of the other programs charge you extra for, for one very reasonable price.

I do have to pay a monthly fee, but this is mostly for licensing (from Microsoft, etc) but it also includes in it the yearly support fee, so I don't get hit with an annual fee of upwards of 3500 or more each year.

3. Small Company

This allows us to get quick answers from emails, phone calls get right through to tech support (or they return the call quickly). You don't have to fill out some "tech support case #2245-7" questionaire and wait for someone to respond.

Since it is a small company, we may miss out on some leading edge things (however we do have the ability to email all of our correspondence to GP's, Patients, etc), and there is the possibility that the company could close it's doors, but so far it seems to be clearly more of and advantage than a disadvantage.

4.  Has all the bells/whistles (mostly..)

Ability for multi doctor, multi locations (I have 2), can have patient check in/out. Good insurance tracking, recall tracking, etc.

Good appointment book, ability for doctor-time scheduling etc.

Here are some negatives:

1. No Seamless Imaging Integration

I currently use VixWin for my imaging program. AOS has the ability to import images and radiographs into each patient file, but the process is time consuming, and although the AOS program is very fast over the internet, when images are added everything slooooows dooown.

It would be nice if they could get this worked out, but in the meantime I just have Vixwin opened seperately to access images, so not that big of an issue at this time.

2. No text message/email reminder system

Don't get me wrong, AOS and Televox have provided me a pretty seamless integration for this feature, so all my patients who opt in are sent text/email reminders.

I just don't see why it can't be done with AOS only. It seems like a pretty easy feature to add, and I wouldn't have to pay 2 companies to get it done!

3. Steeper Than Average Learning Curve

Like most software programs, AOS has some aspects that are just counter-intuitive. Some of the reports, accounting and insurance set-ups, etc, took awhile to get figured out. We do fine now (bought the program in 2009), but it took awhile.

4. Not very "Sexy"

Since it's a small company with a relatively small number of users (I don't know how many), I can't go to their big booth at the AAO and get first class treatment and talk it up with all the other users. Of course this isn't a huge deal since I'd much rather save tons of $ every year, but it would be nice if maybe they would create a user's group or interactive portion of their website (which is somewhat outdated) so that Users can share information and ideas.

Okay that's about it. Whew!

As always, comments are welcome!

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