Cheap practice management software?

I am continually being asked by practice owners why Pearl Dental Software is so inexpensive, well before answering that question let’s see what the prices are. 

For a one surgery practice the cost is £39 + VAT per month regardless of the number of computers on which Pearl is installed. 

A typical sole practitioner may have a surgery PC, a reception PC and an Office PC networked together. 

There is a one off charge of £275 + VAT for on-site installation and training; we throw in data transfer from existing packages free of charge as well as automatic links to radiography software.  So, I think you might agree there is cause for the question! 

The answer to the question is … ‘I don’t really know!’ certainly we do not spend your monthly payments on sales staff and exhibition stands. 

A big stand costs tens of thousands to hire and there are several regional dental exhibitions each year, sales and marketing staff are just an enormous reoccurring expense. What I would say however is that the Pearl product and support is not compromised in any way by the price. Pearl has always been written in house and we have been improving and rewriting it for some 18 years.  We support it ourselves and do not have any telephone queuing system to let you know how important your call is!  Monthly charges pay only for the programmers of the product and the support for it from the same people.

Our latest re-write has come about from the years of feedback from doing installations, training and from comments made by existing Pearl users during support calls. We log every ‘wish list’ item and try to include ideas in new releases; we can program software very quickly because of our combined expertise and because of the extensive software library routines kept.  I have always done the installations and training myself in order to keep abreast of what practices really want.

What practices really want is this:

  • A program that is so simple to understand and use that it could almost be used without training.
  • Total reliability.
  • Clinical software that works in the way that dentists’ work – you do not want to change the way you chart to suit our program.
  • The power to do those things it is impossible to do manually such as calculating average waiting times, counting treatment types or sending a text message to everyone who failed to reply to a recall and do not have a future appointment booked.

We spent 13 months on our latest Pearl re-write to create a system that you would have designed yourself given the opportunity.  We incorporated the clinical information required by the Steele contract should it go live in 2014.  The most important requirement here is the rapid entry of clinical data at chairside. Charting can now be found on a tab on the patient record, there is no time delay accessing this information. Charting is done by calling out items to the dental nurse using a circular sweep around the mouth from upper right to lower left. The dental nurse clicks on a tooth and then picks the symbol required from a pop-up menu.

When completing a course of treatment there is a simple ‘Work Flow’ to follow:

1 – Defects    Plot any new defects that have appeared.

2 – Proposal  An automatic examination entry starts the treatment plan on the same screen, you add to this any un-chartable items like X-rays and then you plot proposed treatment – this builds up the treatment plan as you chart.  The final part of this stage is to print an estimate for private only patients or an FP17DC for NHS or mixed NHS/Private patients.

3 – Tick Work Done  This is the final stage.  At this stage you tick the work done and the charting automatically reflects the work you carried out.  Billing is done automatically and a final NHS claim is produced when you have completed all the proposed treatment or if the patient FTAs.

Treatment notes may be entered at any stage and an unlimited library of auto-text may be saved to facilitate note writing.

A number of suggestions were made for changes to the diary. These were intended to make it even easier to transfer from a paper diary. We have incorporated these features suggested; ‘Outlook style’ diary, colour coded treatment types, colour coded reserved times, side by side diaries to improve the booking of dentist and hygienist appointments, week views, practitioner changing shift patterns etc.  Much loved features like automatic diary searches have been carried forward into the new program.

Patients’ accounts, debt chasing and reporting remain largely unchanged apart from the introduction of a much requested feature.  Where a patient has several bills for a variety of items such as Private bill, an NHS bill and a sundries bill, the new ‘auto-allocate’ feature will break down the payment into 3 separate account entries. In this way your financial reports will reflect the breakdown of receipts without the hard work of manually allocating payments at the reception desk.


So, all in all I wonder what paying more could possibly buy in terms of practice management software.  If you wonder the same please check out our website or call us on 0800 027 2406


Paul Baker

Managing Director

Baker Heath Associates Ltd.


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