lighthouse 360
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Every Story Has Two Sides

Demandforce has apparently noticed how many of their dental clients are switching to Lighthouse 360, and has been mailing their own "Lighthouse 360 vs. Demandforce" comparison out to dental practices across the nation. We're actually quite happy about that, and we'd like to make a few comments about it.

Most Important

In their comparison, they have totally ignored all the items we've been pointing out on this page for over a year (scroll down a bit to see them all). We suppose that's because they STILL can't do them - auto-confirmation (except for one little-used version of Dentrix), family messaging, true recall messages, postcards, automated phone calls - all the things that make a dental patient communications system so valuable to a dental office.

Now, a few words about the things they chose to talk about...

Townie Choice Award

If you're a Townie, check out this recent topic in the Message Boards: "Demandforce = biggest headache of my dental career" - very revealing! Another topic, titled "Demand Force Regret" - the title speaks for itself. Or this one: "Demandforce vs. Lighthouse 360", which begs the question, if Demandforce is the Townies' Choice, why doesn't one single Demandforce user come to their defense?

Practice Information Sent Around the Web

They send your practice information to more than 90 websites, to help your search engine results. Well, guess what? So do we. And so do about 3 other companies in the patient communications business. And we all use EXACTLY THE SAME SERVICE to do it. Yes, it's a great thing for you, the dentist. But everybody does it.

Facebook and Twitter Automation with Timely

Or, you can do the same thing, for free, with hootsuite. In either case, YOU still have to write the posts, and that's the hard part, isn't it?

Fully compliant two-way text message, ability to send targeted emails in real time... yeah, we do that, too.

700,000 visitors to their review site? Looking at reviews of auto repair shops, and hair salons, and a bunch of other businesses that don't help you, as a dentist, one bit. (And by the way, we had over 12,000 visitors to our review site last month - all of them looking for or reviewing dentists!)

In the immortal words of country singer Toby Keith, "Is that all you got?"

We'll stick with our comparison, as is - see below. We hope you'll look at them both, then decide for yourself.

Every client we've ever had is a dentist

We Don't Do Auto Repair Shops, Spas or Beauty Salons

When you become a Lighthouse 360 client, you get more than just another vendor - you get a new member of your team. From the beginning, you'll work with people who have worked for years in dentistry, or with dental offices. You'll never have to explain what a "prophy" is, or why it's important to know when each patient had their last one.

The three founders of Lighthouse have been managing a dental office, consulting with dental offices, or creating dental office software for an average of 20 years. Our trainers are either RDH's, or they have at least 15 years experience training dental software or working in dental offices. A large percentage of our support staff have experience supporting various dental PMS's. In short - we know dentistry. And it shows.

Speaking of trainers - you'll have your own, all to yourself. We don't do "webinar style" training for multiple offices at the same time. That would be a lot cheaper - especially if a dental office, a beauty salon and a muffler shop can all be trained at the same time - but we know how important it is for you to get all of your questions answered - questions about recall, and pre-medication reminders, and patients who are always 15 minutes late.

We understand just how crazy things are in a dental practice sometimes, so we're constantly looking at ways to make you more efficient. Automatically marking appointments 'confirmed' in your PMS; printing and mailing postcards for you, so you can forget about that tedious job; ditto for confirmation phone calls; giving you access to your schedule from your phone.

We know dentistry. We know you.

Appointments Not Confirmed Automatically

We know... that your front desk is a busy place, and that on most days, you need all the help you can get. That's why we pioneered automatic confirmation. Why would you choose to have to mark every appointment 'confirmed' manually, if you could have it done totally automatically, within minutes of the patient confirming? We do it automatically, for responses to emails, text messages and automated phone calls (a message type not even offered by Demandforce).

NOTE: Demandforce recently announced that they would do automatic confirmation in Dentrix G5. But no other versions of Dentrix, and no other PMS.

No Recall Data = No Recall System!

We know... that a robust recall / recare / continuing care system is critical to most dental practices. That's why we know every patient's last recall date, their next recall due date, and whether or not they're scheduled for their next recall visit.

But believe it or not, Demandforce doesn't know any of that information! Their "recall system" is based on last visit date, rather than recall due date. You're a dentist, or you work in a dental practice - we don't need to explain to you why this is such a critical shortcoming! In fact, it may be the single biggest shortcoming of Demandforce.

Compare that with the Lighthouse 360 recall system, and you'll see what a huge difference this is. If recall is important in your practice - you might not need to read anything else about Demandforce to know it's not what you want.

Ignores 20 - 50% or More of Your Patients

We know... that you want a solution for ALL of your patients, not just the ones who have embraced email and text messages. Since Demandforce sends only these two message types, they can't reach all your patients. Not even close in most practices. (Statistically, only 59% of patients provide an email address to their dentist, and only 46% provide a cell phone number with permission to text. 23% provide neither.) That means your manual systems - printing and mailing postcards, and making confirmation telephone calls - still have to be done. While it saves a little time to have fewer postcards to print and mail, it doesn't eliminate a task, doesn't do away with the need for someone to know how to do it, to remember to do it, to have time to do it, etc.

And if you're just starting out with an automated patient communications system, chances are you don't have email address or cell phone numbers for very many patients at all. If that's your situation, Demandforce isn't going to be doing much for you during the first several months, while you start the process of collecting email addresses and cell phone numbers.

Lighthouse 360 can reach 100% of your patients, starting on the very first day, because we can use email, 2-way text messages, automated phone calls, postcards and letters. So you can completely eliminate some of your most time-consuming tasks, and get all the benefits of Lighthouse 360 in your very first month.

Demandforce may tell you about their service that locates email addresses for patients, for only $0.99 each. All we can say about that is that you might want to talk to someone who has used this service - ask them how many email address "matches" were found for people who were in fact NOT the correct patient.

What About Reviews On Google?

We get it.... you'd love to have a ton of 5-star reviews showing up in the Google search results. Who wouldn't? Many offices signed up for Demandforce because at one time, they had the ability to get patient reviews prominently displayed in the Google search results. But on July 21, 2011, that changed, when Google dropped ALL reviews from third-party sites from the search results pages. While the reviews still exist, and if you look hard enough for them, you can still find them, the obvious benefit of having Google know about them is gone. If you're interested, click here for more details about reviews and SEO, etc.

Erroneous Messages

We realize... it doesn't take much to upset some patients. Like sending a message that's out of date, because the patient changed an appointment since the last time your data was updated. With Demandforce, data is synchronized from your PMS only once a day. That means, on a regular basis, they will send messages to patients that should not be sent.

Here's why:

  • Data is synchronized at 7:00 p.m., for example.
  • At 8:30 the next morning, John Doe calls and reschedules his 2:00 appointment that afternoon.
  • At 1:00, John is going to get the Demandforce text message, reminding him of his 2:00 appointment.
  • At 1:01, John is going to call your office, wondering why you're telling him he has an appointment at 2:00, which he obviously rescheduled this morning.

Your patient's time is wasted calling you, your staff member's time is wasted apologizing to John, and your patient's confidence in you and your systems goes down a notch. That's kinda the opposite of what you want to happen, isn't it?

How do you prevent this? Simple: synchronize data more often. Lighthouse 360 does it every 10 minutes, all day, every day. We call that TrueTime Data, and no one else has it.

Who are they trying to promote?

The email below is an email from Demandforce. Notice how many times "Demandforce" is listed in this email - more than the dental practice! Do you want your patients getting emails that advertise Demandforce more than your practice?

Now take a look at Lighthouse 360's end of year benefits email. Notice there is no mention of Lighthouse 360 anywhere on the email. We believe that all outbound messages to your patients should come directly from you, without any sort of advertisement.

Can't Handle Unusual Situations

We know... you use your appointment book in ways that its designers never even dreamed of! But Demandforce won't be able to send a custom message for any of these situations - situations that Lighthouse 360 handles easily:

  • New patients - asking them to arrive a little early, or to click on a link to fill out forms before their visit, or an embedded map so they can find you, etc.
  • Appointments that aren't really appointments - you're just blocking out time for a patient for... something!
  • Patients who require pre-medication.
  • Patients who are always late, and you want to tell them their appointment is 10, 15 or 20 minutes earlier than it really is.
  • Appointments that are seen in a different location than your office - a hospital, a nursing home, a satellite office, etc.
  • Appointments for sedation dentistry, with special pre- and post-appointment instructions.
  • Different information in the messages depending on which doctor the appointment is with.
  • A reminder for an ortho check patient to bring their retainer.
  • An appointment during winter months, so the messages can display a special note about snowstorms. (Yes, we've really done that for a client!)

Simplistic Appointment Confirmation System

We understand... that an appointment made 6 days from now is different from one made 6 months from now - and it should be reminded / confirmed differently. A different schedule of messages, different types of messages, different potential patient responses. But Demandforce uses exactly the same schedule of emails and text messages for every appointment, regardless of how far in the future it was scheduled, and every message looks like every other message.

They don't send a "Save the date" message after an appointment is scheduled. (Probably because they synchronize data only once each day, so they wouldn't be sent in a timely manner.)

Emails have only one response the patient can select: "Confirmed". A significant percentage of patients simply won't confirm from an email they get two or three weeks before the appointment, because they're so accustomed to getting your phone call a few days before the appointment, and they still want some kind of near-term reminder.

That's why Lighthouse 360 gives the patient another option: to receive another email a few days before the appointment. This is something patients must want - because 41% of them select it in the Lighthouse 360 system. The result: patients respond to more emails, and they get exactly the number of messages they want.

No Focus on Dentistry

We know dentistry. We know you - the dentists, office managers, hygienists, assistants and administrative team members who make a dental office such an amazing, complex, wonderful thing. We know your patients - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em! Because dentistry is all we do, and all we've ever done.

Demandforce is designed to work in a bunch of different markets, as diverse as automotive, spas and salons, chiropractic, optometry... and dental. The fact that they don't even extract each patient's recall due date from the PMS (and therefore simply can't have a real recall system) is enough to demonstrate that. If you already use them, you're probably already aware of all of these issues. If you're just considering them, understand that they don't make much of a distinction between a perio prophy and a pedicure.