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CS Dental Employee
CS Dental Employee

What Problem Are We Solving?

PracticeWorks Version 8 delivered many long asked for changes (a new, more accurate way to pay providers on collections, easier printing options, credit card insurance payments, and scheduler updates). Overall the feedback was "WOW" and "I can't believe it, I've been waiting for this!". There was also feedback that questioned why we made certain decisions (the schedule time tracker for example). Recent comments on this post illuminated how our design and implementation of a solution sometimes fall short. In this lengthy discussion I'll focus on two things:

  • How we craft solutions to workflow problems.
  • How the new Print functionality works in PracticeWorks v8 and higher.

Before embarking on any software changes, the Analysis & Design team asks “What problem are we solving?” If we are not clear on the answer, failure is certain. Once we identify and analyze the problem, solutions are crafted. Ideas (complete with mock-ups and prototypes of workflow) are discussed with users and feedback is recorded and incorporated.

When the analysis and design process ends, development turns the vision into reality. Along the way more feedback is solicited and changes made if necessary. Updates in the recent Carestream releases have followed this pattern. Our new Care Management Platform was built from the ground up with this philosophy.

Unfortunately, no solution meets every user’s needs. The schedule changes in 8.1 are a great example. I’ve received so much positive feedback in emails, telephone calls, and face to face conversations. But I’ve also gotten requests to change the schedule back to the way it was, green background and all! The delivered solution solved some user’s problems; for other’s it did not.

Turning back to the discussion referenced earlier, what problem did we set out to solve with the updated Print option?

Before I answer, let’s review how printing in PracticeWorks functioned prior to Version 8.

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As originally designed, printer setup was performed in the PracticeWorks Configuration screen, known as the “green screen”.

PracticeWorks Configuration Screen (green screen)

Reports, statements, etc. each have their own setting, resulting in dozens of possible configuration settings. These settings are stored in a configuration file on each machine. 

When printing from PracticeWorks v7 and lower, the options Print to Printer and Print Preview were displayed:

 Pre-PracticeWorks v8 Print Dialog

Absent is the ability to change the printer the document is sent to. My assumption is the original design thinking was to speed up the printing process. When an office had only one printer this was a safe, and most likely efficient, method for printing. As we all know, many offices have more than one printer. With the advent of PDF writers, the Print to File option became very popular. Here is where the original design breaks down.

An additional pain point occurred when a printer was replaced or another printer was added in the practice. This caused staff and IT to spend significant time just to print from the software.

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Now that we've reviewed the original PracticeWorks print setup and function, let's ask the question I mentioned earlier; “What problem are we solving?” Based on user feedback the problem we were solving was

“I want to select a printer “on the fly” without going to the green screen.”

The solution we delivered looks like this:

PracticeWorks Print Dialog V8

We took it a step further and provided the “Save document printer settings”. This allows you to save the default printer choice, along with any changes to the Advanced printer setup. These two options allow you to change all printer settings without accessing the “green screen”.

When comparing both solutions, accomplishing the Print or Preview tasks requires the same or fewer clicks.

Print = One click in the original and updated settings.

Preview = Two clicks in the original, one click after the update.  

In hindsight, I now see one confusing aspect of our design. The “Save document printer settings”  This option refers to the printer selection and the options available from Advanced. It does not refer to the buttons (Print and Preview).

I learned from the discussions is there was another problem we were not aware of; the need to preview by default the report.

Again, going back to our original problem “I want to select a printer “on the fly” without going to the green screen”, it’s easy to see how we missed it. During conversations with users the Preview first option never came up. In the future I plan on expanding the number of users I speak to so things like these get captured.

Special thanks to nateinmaine‌ and sonyap‌ for their feedback and ideas. 

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For completeness, one new option under Advanced need clarification.

PracticeWorks Version 8 Advanced Printer Settings

Display this screen when printing 

During the design process we realized there was a method to the madness of the original print design. When printing insurance claims or statements, some users didn’t want to see any print screen. When that’s the case, uncheck Display this screen when printing” and no printer prompts will appear for the specified document.

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