Dental Office Software is Terrible

Even the Mac OS software port is terrible
Even the Mac OS software port is terrible

Marco Arment was recently featured in a series of videos for the YouTube channel Computerphile. It was mostly about how he got his start at tumblr, and about his current efforts as an indie app developer.

One portion of the second video really got my attention. (I listened to it several times so that I could quote exactly what he said, because it’s so on the money.)

Here’s what Arment had to say about dental office software:

If I was making software for dentists to run their office from—which, by the way, if you’ve ever seen dental office software, it’s—wow, that could use some interface help [emphasis added]

No joke: dental office software is utterly horrid.

It’s almost as if the worst UI designers of the Windows world in the 90’s got together and created ten different versions of the crappiest office software possible. (That’s likely exactly what happened.)

Moreover, every office uses a different software suite, so transferring patient records between offices is almost impossible. (No biggie—that’s what digital x-rays are for, I guess.)

This is merely a glimpse of what the average dentist has to look at in between seeing patients:


Pretty great, don’t you think? 😑

I’ve long pipe-dreamed that I could develop my own dental office software. I’d make it fundamentally different from every other software suite.

For instance, why not just put a big search box in the middle of the window? Why do we have to know the patient’s full name in order to locate their health record? Is MySQL that decrepit? (No, it’s not.)

And why does every dental office software UI look like Microsoft Word at its absolute worst?

The answer to these questions is that dental office software doesn’t have to be this terrible. It’s that way because dentists allow it to be that way.

If the average dentist was as discerning about their office software UI as they are about their tooth preparations, we wouldn’t have this problem.

But the average dentist doesn’t care about UI polish. For better or worse, they’re concerned with more important things, like maintaining a high level of customer service and customer care, and/or keeping their business afloat—tasks easier said than done.

As much as I hate to admit it, my advocation for better-designed dental office software is basically asking dentists to care about a solution to a problem they don’t have.

So, maybe someday I’ll stop waiting for someone else to build the perfect dental office. Maybe I’ll do it myself?

(I guess I should go learn about MySQL now.)