The dental software industry has grown considerably over the past several decades. There are currently well over 40 commercial vendors that provide dental practice management, electronic dental record systems, and dental imaging systems for dental offices.
Approximately 90% of all dentists in the U.S. now use computers in their practice. Dental informatics, a subfield of health informatics, is focused on the application of computers, telecommunications, and information science to improve all aspects of dental practice, including management, clinical care, education, and research. Use of electronic dental record (EDR) systems can boost a practice’s bottom line, while directly benefiting patients.
Practice Management Systems are now installed in well over 80% of dental offices in the U.S. Electronic Dental Record (EDR) systems are currently installed in approximately 40%-60% of dental offices.
Some of the leading commercial dental systems companies include Dentrix, Patterson Eaglesoft, Easy Dental, SoftDent, and PracticeWorks. But there is a small but growing number of open source alternatives like Open Dental, Open Molar, Dental Clinic Management System, an vxDRM Plus.
Aside from EDR systems, there is also a lot of of activity within the dental informatics community focused on personal health record (PHR) systems, Health Information exchange (HIE) networks, dental imaging, and mobile dental apps.
The Dental profession has really stepped out ahead of their physician counterparts with regards to the use of computer systems. Almost 90% of dental offices currently use practice management systems and over 70% are using other software modules such as dental imaging or electronic dental records (EDR). Physicians and medical informaticists may want to look to the field of dental informatics for 'best practices' and 'lessons learned' in implementing information systems.
To conclude, the emergence of free or low cost 'open source' dental software solutions mirrors what is happening in the computer software industry as a whole. This should prove helpful to small practices that have been reluctant to make the somewhat costly investment in dental information systems, in the U.S. and around the world.
Do you have any experience with open source Dental systems? Please share your experience or any other useful information you have on open dental solutions.