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In a class of its own...

Val Gotch, Practice Manager, Apple Tree Dental Practice

I have been working withSoftware of Excellence and their EXACT Dental Practice Management Software for around ten years, six of them at my current practice. In my previous role as practice manager I was responsible for instigating computerisation throughout the whole practice, so I was able to have some input into the system we chose and we set off with EXACT from the very beginning.

At a previous practice we had used a competitor system, which in hindsight was quite poor and difficult to use. So luckily, as I was working in my current role when the practice was being built, I was again able to have some input into the system we chose after such good results, I had no hesitation in choosing EXACT again from the very beginning.

Apple Tree is part of a group of 8 practices covering a 15- mile radius, each with its own principal and manager. Our three-surgery practice has around 5,000 patients of whom 90% are NHS. 

Over the years I have been particularly impressed with Software of Excellence and their attitude to customer care. I spoke with Ben Flewett on his first day as Managing Director a couple of years ago as I had a small complaint and my experience that day perfectly demonstrates the type of company Software of Excellence is – I was put straight through to Ben and he reassured me that my concerns would be dealt with, and he’s been as good as his word. Response times are great and there is a dedicated customer service ethos, which is exactly what we are striving for in our practice. The dental market is becoming very commercial and competitive and we are only too aware that like any other customer, patients can vote with their feet; so our emphasis is all about customer care and EXACT is helping us deliver that!

Our Principal, Raj is very forward thinking and interested in the business aspects of the practice and is currently working on the THRIVE programme, which is already having an impact. For example we are now using ‘zoning’ to differentiate our private and NHS treatment, ensuring surgery time is appropriately divided between the two. We have also improved our reporting systems and I am sure in the coming months THRIVE will help us introduce even more effective and efficient measures to improve the performance of our practice.

Last year I attended a Software of Excellence Masterclass on NHS contract reform. I would highly recommend these Masterclasses, they take just a couple of hours and are very informative and interesting. The surprise for me when I attended this presentation was the importance of having an effective recall system. We encourage patients to re-book before they leave the practice, so recalls were an area that was never really top of our priorities. The Masterclass revealed the negative impact of losing patients or allowing them to lapse, which really resonated with me as I was sure that we were in exactly this cycle – ignoring patients who didn’t re-book instead of purposefully following them up with a recall strategy. This focus on existing patients instead of constantly searching for new ones was a new idea for me, but of course is complete common sense! We now use Recall Manager to manage all our recalls automatically, sending texts, emails and finally a postcard via EasyPost if there’s no response, ensuring we are maximising our existing patient base.

We are currently having a new website developed for the whole Group and are planning on introducing online booking very shortly. Although I’m a little bit old fashioned, I can appreciate why patients love online booking. People don’t have time to wait on the phone or find it difficult to call to make an appointment when they’re at work. Online booking will make us much more flexible and effectively open our reception desk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We always have a daily ‘huddle’ before surgery starts, during which we discuss everything from general news in dentistry to specific things happening in the practice. We have a Group trainer who is fully trained on EXACT and ensures everyone knows the correct procedures across the whole Group. Her knowledge filters down through each of our practices, making sure that everything runs smoothly. 

I actually don’t think I would want to work in a practice that didn’t use EXACT. All the practices in our Group use it and everyone appreciates the difference it makes to every part of the practice; clinically, as well as from a customer care and business point of view, EXACT and Software of Excellence are helping our practice Group grow.


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