Does your software have an expiry date?
February 16, 2017 at 10:00 AM
Your practice management system could be a ticking time bomb, and you might not even know it. Unless you read this blog post, that is.
Some practice management systems are written in old development languages that are no longer supported by Microsoft, and may stop working properly on future versions of Windows. A common development language historically used was Microsoft Visual Basic 6 (VB6). We approached a contact at Microsoft about the continued use of software written in VB6 and he said: “Microsoft will do nothing specifically to stop applications written in VB6 from working, but we expect these applications to ‘wither on the vine’ over time.”
The problem that software developers are faced with, in terms of these old development languages, is that there is no easy way to port these old applications into more modern development platforms. Basically these older systems need completely re-written, which is a costly and time consuming exercise.
How to check if your practice management system is written using an old language
If you aren’t sure what language your practice management system is written in (and let’s face it – that kind of info is normally in the boring fine print) you can find out quickly and easily.
Simply call your practice management system provider and have a chat to them. They will be able to tell you what language your system is written in, and give you an idea of how it will last as well.
You will need to be aware that some long-standing practice management systems have parts of their products written in older languages, and parts in more modern ones. This means you need to make sure your provider isn’t pulling the wool over your eyes – and that the whole product is written in a language that will serve you well into the future.
Do be aware that some practice management systems have at various times announced the retirement of their products, then backtracked. The safest option is to do your research.
How this could affect your firm
If your practice management system is written in an old language, you will need to be aware of how this could affect you.
While your system could continue working for years to come, it will likely be going downhill in terms of performance and compatibility. It is not in the commercial interests of any business to spend time and money developing and supporting a product that will soon become redundant.
The largest issue, apart from the fact the system won’t be moving forward in terms of functionality, is that when the product does become unsupported, you could very quickly be left in the lurch with a product that no longer works.
What can you do about it?
If your practice management system is written in an old development language you have two options: Cross your fingers and live with the risk, or remove the risk from your business by upgrading to a modern system.
If you choose the first option, as many will, and your system stops working your run the risk of finding your organisation at the end of a long queue of other firms wanting – needing – to convert to new systems, and having to wait.
The low-risk route is to start looking at the options for your firm now, before it becomes urgent. Make sure it will fit your firm now and well into the future, and make the move before you have to.