By Danny Chan
Once you have purchased the practice management software that meets the challenging demands of both your clinical and office administrative needs, the next obvious step is to ensure that your staff are adequately trained to maximize its use and functions. Centaur Software Development Co., the company that gave us dental4windows (D4W) – namely Australia’s most popular practice management system – keenly understands that owning a sophisticated software package is but the start of an exciting journey towards reaping the benefits of a computerized practice. That is why whenever Centaur rolls out a new product or version upgrade, the launches are inadvertently accompanied by their introductory training seminars.
“These fully customizable teaching programs have been designed to equip new and current D4W users with the most updated knowledge to utilize our systems to their fullest potential,” says Sina Burgo, Centaur’s Training Manager.
“The courses are hugely popular and have been very well received since we began in the early 90s,” she attests.
Indeed, Sina’s training gigs are in high demand from D4W’s international clientele base, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, where her seminars are booked solid, usually weeks in advance. She currently heads Centaur’s training department that employs 5 full-time staff at the Sydney office and 11 part-time trainers around Australia and New Zealand – a team that she says just keeps “getting bigger and bigger”.
As the person who designed the courses – which she now co-runs with Veronica Emerson, her Training Supervisor – Sina makes a natural spokesperson for the seminars.
“Besides learning new applications to help streamline routine functions like appointment scheduling, recall/ reporting, charting and treatment planning, the courses also improve patient satisfaction in the longer run, through faster and more efficient front desk services,” plugs Centaur’s training guru.
Sina believes that training should be considered as one of the most important aspects of any practice management software package; the costs of which, she says, needs to be factored into the overall budget when purchasing a new system.
Acknowledging that D4W is the easiest practice management system to learn, Sina believes that D4W users should see the training/seminars as a cost-effective solution, especially important in gaining an overview of how different features of the system can be used and linked together.
“It is more effective and time-efficient to learn the entire package from an experienced trainer than trying to figure out a specific task or function on your own. That may only give you a myopic view of the system.”
Catering to different standards and types of users, the curriculum is divided into two programs:
Initial Training, as the term suggests, is designed for those completely new to D4W or users with prior knowledge of the system but wish to update their skills to incorporate features and functions available in the latest versions of the software.
Revision Training mainly caters to those who require a refresher course, for those who have installed new modules or even if new staff is hired.
Depending on the modules they purchased, Sina recommends that new D4W users undergo between 8-15 hours of training, while refresher candidates only require about 4 hours.
Course fees are charged at a standard hourly rate of $160 (including GST) for up to three persons. Minimum hours, recommended by course trainers at time of purchase, also apply depending on the modules purchased and number of attendees attending the training sessions – which are normally arranged on-site at clients’ surgeries.
“We always recommend that trainees are grouped together according to their computer experience and/or position in the practice. However, this is not always possible and all trainers do their best to accommodate trainees with varying skill levels.
“As for New Features seminars, we encourage only persons with D4W experience to attend, as we are not teaching them how to use the system per se, but where to find – and how best to use – the new features.”
Currently in full swing is the latest installment of New Features, organized in conjunction with D4W Version 11’s release last October. D4W users stand to benefit from tutorials featuring an array of version 11 upgrades, in particular two brand new modules – ‘Document Manager’ and “Media Suite’. Seminar attendees can also look forward to learning current applications for enhanced features in ‘Appointment Book’, ‘Patient Details’, ‘Charting’, ‘Treatment Plan’, Treatment’, ‘Accounts’, ‘Letters’, ‘Reports’, ‘Security’, ‘Recalls’, ‘Queries’, ‘Banking’ and ‘Items’. Sina reveals that course modules in the pipeline include ‘Hicaps Connect’, ‘Medicare Claims’, ‘Treatment Plan Quotes’ and Eftpos Links.
No stranger to the concept of skills upgrading and self-improvement, Sina has herself attended over 20 study courses ranging from ‘Management’ and ‘Supervisory’ to ‘Documentation Writing’ and ‘Assessment’, just to name a few. She started as a dental assistant, before assuming a more administrative role as practice manager at a dental surgery owned by Dr Frank Papadopulos, who is the creator of D4W and Centaur’s Founding Director. Twenty years on, while she still manages the surgery on a part-time basis, Sina’s involvement with Centaur’s training arm – which she was tasked to set up – has grown significantly.
Her multi-faceted role as Training Manager includes the input of data (design/ procedures/ features) into the D4W system; creating course materials; writing bulk of ‘How To’ documentation with assistance of Training Supervisor, writing and updating user guides; creating feature specifications; and testing new features for D4W.
On top of having to keep abreast of new features regularly added to the system and scheduling sessions to accommodate busy trainees, Sina lets on that one of many hurdles she has to overcome is that of tempering the client’s expectations.
“I have to explain to – and sometimes convince – some clients that I am only responsible for training D4W users, and not some other programs or hardware issues.”
Despite the occasional hang-up, Sina derives great satisfaction from her job:
“Knowing that I have tried and hopefully succeeded in helping someone run a smooth and efficient practice is what keeps me going.”
Of course, it always helps to have positive feedback, as Sina proudly reports:
“Based on our findings, most of our attendees say they are “extremely happy” with the trainer and training. We conduct an evaluation survey amongst those who completed their training – it includes five questions that score a total 40 marks. To date, our average score for this calendar year, for all trainers combined, stands at 38/40.”
What the survey does not reflect are the follow-up sessions that Centaur provides after the training, when D4W graduates return to the workplace and put their skills to the test.
“Many of our clients report fantastic results because our sessions are hands-on and designed to prepare them for real-world situations. However when required, we are always happy to help with after training. If the trainer is available, they can often spend a couple of hours on-site as the practice goes “live” on its first day of use just to ensure all goes according to plan.
Clients who purchased the ‘Support and Maintenance’ package for D4W can contact the support department for assistance at any time. Meanwhile, to keep users up to speed with the latest upgrades, helpful information on new features can be found on the company website (www.centaursoftware.com.au) following each new build release.