Challenges of Open Source Dental Software

Open source software is enjoying a resurgence in the technology sector. Open systems have significant advantages over their proprietary counterparts: low-cost, contributions from experts around the world, extensive peer review by talented coders etc. Whether it is games, security applications or even operating systems, a number of programmers swear by the open system of software development.
Not to be left behind, there are several open source EDR systems as well. It can be tempting for a dental practice to acquire such a free system as opposed to paying for closed source applications. However, the open source model poses quite a few risks that many doctors might not be aware of.

1. No clear business model

Logically speaking, since open source vendors do not charge a licensing fee or purchase price they need to make that money somewhere else. Typically this is done by charging for the implementation and ongoing maintenance in the form of a service contract. While it may cover ongoing costs, you need to ask yourself: how does the provider get a return on investment spent in designing and building the software? Free is attractive but is not conducive to sustainability in the long-term.


2. Aesthetics and design

One of the areas where open source applications lag significantly behind commercial ventures is the look and feel of the application. Volunteers who contribute to the code base are not paid and hence most of the focus is on implementing functionality rather than polish. Some people may dismiss aesthetic concerns but you need to keep in mind that users of EDR software look at the application throughout the day and badly designed software can cause a significant drop in productivity.


3. Upgrade challenges

Open source software is enormously successful in the tech space partly because it is not heavily regulated unlike the health industry. Costs of compliance, certification for EDR software etc. can be very high especially for vendors without a significant source of revenue. Changes to laws and regulations also mean that EDR systems need to be upgraded often which can be very difficult. People who are providing their expertise for free are under no obligation to continue that practice.

Dovetail EDR has been designed with inputs from practicing dentists to ensure that it is flexible and adaptable to any clinic. It can be accessed from anywhere as it is web based and upgrades are seamlessly rolled out to everyone. Most importantly, Dovetail users have access to a wide range of support options to help them get the most out of their clinical software.



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