COVID-19 led to fast and fundamental changes for dental offices’ engagement and communication workflows with patients, adjustments that created a more positive experience for both parties.
Everything from pre-appointment tasks to how a patient checks out was forced into a digital transformation. In some cases, practices even introduced teledentistry to make the appointment itself virtual. Offices that have adopted new tools to digitize their administrative tasks have found these changes were necessary and are likely a key to their future.
Here’s how the technological journey advanced for practices.
Introducing digital communication
While offices were closed in the early weeks of the pandemic, practices identified scheduling and check-in as two prime areas for improvement. These workflows could be digitized to improve efficiency and allow the practice to safely accept patients in a COVID-influenced world. It turned out this was the beginning of a much larger digital transformation.
In a lot of cases, it began with small steps, like text messaging patients to confirm appointment times or to let them know when it was safe to enter the office, enabling them to skip the waiting room. Those solutions allow practices to optimize their schedules, a process improvement that maximizes the number of patients who can receive in-person treatment in a safe and socially distanced environment.
Text messaging is a convenient way to point patients to complete check-in online, modify appointments, and even direct a patient to make payments using an online portal.
Data shows that 85% of people prefer text message communication from a company over a phone call, and SMS open rates are as high as 98%. This way the patient is truly receiving the information from the practice, rather than letting a phone call go to voicemail or disposing of a mailer.
tab32, a full-service technology platform for dental practices, announced closing a Series B round led by Spark Growth Ventures, a leading technology VC firm “on a mission to support gritty and exceptional founders.” The fundraising round is the culmination of five consecutive years of 100% year-on-year growth, including two straight years of profitable operations, and comes on the heels of tab32 signing several national dental service organizations (DSOs) as clients.
The new capital will support tab32’s continuing commitment to driving technological innovations and enabling the dental industry. The company’s cloud-based solution with proprietary Open Data Warehousing is the first in the industry to pioneer a standard model for data storage, sharing, and reporting, giving dentists and practice administrators a single source of truth for all patient information. With seamless real-time synchronization across all devices and access points, tab32’s platform is a true game changer supporting the dental industry’s rapid digital transformation.
Far more than just dental practice management software (PMS), tab32 delivers cloud connectivity and data interoperability tailored to the needs of the $130B dental support organizations (DSOs) space — a fast-growing market now attracting over $1T in private equity investment. Today, up to 20% of dental practices are DSO-affiliated, a proportion that could grow to 65% by 2025. tab32 is powering that transition by enabling DSOs to more effectively serve dozens or even hundreds of dental practices, and provide operational support within a unified cloud platform that streamlines key functions including patient engagement, billing, imaging, and teledentistry.
As dental practices grow and providers grapple with an explosion of patient-related data, tab32’s platform also comes with robust machine learning capabilities that provide critical business intelligence. This enables capabilities such as automating workflows (auto-booking incomplete treatments, for example), conducting multi-location aware analytics on business growth and profitability, and tracking in-depth dental key performance indicators.
“It’s rare to see a startup achieve rapid and consistent organic growth while maintaining profitability, and tab32 is a true stand-out among the businesses we’ve had the opportunity to partner with,” said Hem Suri, founder and managing partner of Spark Growth Ventures. “Kiltesh Patel and the tab32 team are pioneers in the dental technology world, which can greatly benefit from cutting-edge digital innovations to drive material improvements in not only patient care but also the business performance of dental practices. We’re excited to be doubling down on our partnership with tab32 as they enter a new phase of rapid growth.”
“Ever since our founding, we have been laser-focused on solving the pain points facing the dental industry and helping them reap the benefits of the latest cloud technology,” said Kiltesh Patel, CEO and co-founder of tab32. “Our growth trajectory and profitability bear testament to the market’s huge demand for cloud-based, end-to-end solutions. We’re looking forward to continuing to leverage Spark’s expertise, experience, and advisory as we continue to expand.”
The new funding will enable tab32, which currently has 65 employees, to double its headcount across its offices in the United States and India. The company will also continue to invest in R&D to optimize and build out its AI infrastructure for dental intelligence.
By Ryan Hungate, DDS, MS, a practicing orthodontist and founder and CEO, Simplifeye.
The pandemic changed the way healthcare providers ran their businesses and prodded them into adopting digital technology to better communicate with patients. While the changes may have been made out of necessity, now many healthcare practices are making the changes permanent.
Digital technologies such as website live chat, online appointment booking, telehealth visits, and contactless payment processing have proved to be popular with patients and a time-saver for staff members.
Digital Transformation and Automation in Healthcare
According to the Labor Department, four million people quit their jobs in April 2021. In the healthcare sector, that’s left many practices short-staffed. Hiring is very competitive, and remaining staff members often feel overwhelmed and overworked.
To alleviate the issue, many practices are turning to automated workflows to replace manual tasks.
Appointment scheduling is one example. For years, healthcare practices including dental and optometry offices urged patients to call the practice to make an appointment. About a third of phone calls would end up going to voicemail or patients would hang up while on hold. If the patient did reach the scheduling team, the phone calls would often be time-consuming, and only about half would end with a booked appointment.
Now healthcare practices are utilizing 24/7 live chat services to engage website visitors anytime of the day or night. Live chat provides instant gratification for people seeking answers to questions, provides excellent customer service, and can facilitate appointments either by scheduling directly into the practice management system software or by collecting the relevant details and sharing them via a HIPAA-compliant method with the practice’s scheduling team, who can then follow up and finish the appointment process.
Online appointment booking, which is also called direct scheduling, is another way to automate the scheduling process. People are used to booking restaurant reservations and travel plans online. Before the pandemic, many healthcare practices were hesitant to adopt online scheduling technology. Now, they see the value of it. The healthcare team can establish parameters such as which days and times they want to allow online scheduling, the types of procedures, and even which healthcare providers are eligible for online scheduling.
Families at Dr. Deb Peters’ practice, Peters Family Dentistry in Grand Rapids, Mich., became used to receiving emails from Dr. Peters. Sometimes she’d send updates about changes in the practice and other times she’d pass along some of her favorite recipes. In fact, the ability to send personalized newsletters was one of the reasons that Peters adopted Solutionreach for her practice within the last decade.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, suddenly Peters and her staff found that these emails were an even better way to keep in touch with families and clients about how to contact a dentist in an emergency, how a telehealth appointment would work and what the office would look like once it was allowed to reopen.
The staff realized that relying on social media didn’t necessarily mean they’d reach the entirety of the clientele. Instead, finding the option to include video in the newsletters opened a new portal to the patient experience.
“I think initially, people were being overrun by everything on social media. I knew how many followers we had, but it was well short of my patient families, so we wanted to reach them all where we knew they’d see us,” Peters says. “We utilized the newsletters, again, to tell them we were opening but also to share with them a video clip that we had made about the changes in our office. So they can look at it, but also read about it so we’re trying to come at our patients from whatever way they want to get the information. The thing we liked about Solutionreach is when you put it into the format, it looks professional.”
What Peters wasn’t counting on was how many of her clients would forward those newsletters to their friends. While many practices saw at least a 6% drop in revenue during the pandemic, Peters Family Dentistry saw more patients in 2020 than it had in 2019. By embracing the patient relationship management technology that the practice already enjoyed through Solutionreach, the office was fully booked when Michigan reopened after a 10-week closure.
“Probably one of the greatest compliments was when one of our newsletters would be forwarded to a non-patient and then that person would become a patient,” Peters says, “So I would say that that was a great form of validation that our patients were feeling cared for.”
The near future in dentistry we must consider the near past first. COVID-19 was an extreme challenge for dental offices for two reasons. The first reason was the supply of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was limited or not available in dentistry. Hospitals and the medical field take first priority in the supply of PPE during an epidemic. Secondly, patient care dropped significantly as offices temporarily closed and patients quarantined.
The near future of dentistry looks bright from my perspective. Dental offices across the country are reopening, supplies chains are catching-up to overall demand and dental supplies are reengaging in trade-shows / events. In fact, I will be attending the International Dental Show in Germany with Delta Dental in September.
As president of Orthodontic Care of Georgia, we have seen a massive increase in patients. The state of Georgia opened faster than other states and the result was quickly realized. As Founder of Smile Perfected, we have seen substantial growth over the past quarter, which can be attributed to more and more dental practices opening and the need for oral health care increases.
Some of the challenges our dental service organization (DSO) faces is employee recruitment for the new boom in dentistry. Doctor, auxiallies, RDH and dental assistant jobs are in high demand. The challenges patients face is returning to the dental office after potentially a year away from recommended dental maintenance. Periodontal disease and tooth decay will all see increased frequency as patients return to their dentist. The other challenge as an orthodontic group is the ever growing “do-it-yourself” mail-in aligners. The in-person examination and direct treatment planning by an orthodontist, for the patient’s entire dentition, is something dentistry should require.
As for practice advancements on a microscale, dentists and dental professionals need to be prepared for a continued and ever advancing technology boom in dentistry. The modern dental office should stay on the cutting edge of dentistry by investing in available oral scanning and 3D printing and other state-of-art tools. This will help patients of course, but beyond that the value of the practice will rise.
Practice advancements on a macroscale are two-fold. Capital investment firms and DSOs are looking to invest in or buy small group and single ownership dental practices. This is a direct result of the overall long-term value dental offices present and the current financial state of smaller practices. This is an advancement for a couple reasons. One is because it gives smaller dental practices access to much needed capital to grow their office with the ever increasing costs in technology and supplies. The second is a robust organization will help improve the overall day-to-day running of the practice by access and large pool of talented dental professionals.
In my work, I talk to dentists from across the country who are preparing for career transitions. Some are retiring and taking the next step on their long-planned path, but others face outside forces that make them rethink their priorities and goals.
The reasons can be positive, like spending more time with loved ones or pursuing other passions. Other times, it is a significant life change such as health issues, divorce, or burnout.
It can be too easy to get overwhelmed by fear and stress, but that can often lead to rash decisions that cause regret. It’s human nature and all too easy to panic when facing change.
Luckily, the dental industry has many options. You need to explore the choices methodically and evaluate all the information. The first step, consider asking a trusted colleague or family member for their opinion. They know you best and can be an objective listener.
Here are two tales of what happens when “life happened” to two dentists without transition plans.
Ignoring the problem
Dr. Arthur’s dental practice thrived on complex, intricate cosmetic procedures. His stellar reputation among local practitioners resulted in patients waiting months to book an appointment. He had enough business to bring in an associate or partner but preferred working solo. He felt no one could meet his exacting standards.
In his early forties, he began to experience numbness in his dominant hand. It was worse on days when he performed more prolonged procedures. He tried anti-inflammatories and icing it, but mostly, he ignored it.
After four or five years of this, his condition deteriorated rapidly. He could no longer hold a handpiece, and a hand surgeon diagnosed him with advanced carpal tunnel.
Vyne Dental, a leading provider of revenue cycle, claims management and electronic health information exchange for all-sized dental practices, announces that it has acquired Operability, LLC, and its OperaDDS patient communications and engagement platform.
With more than 14,000 combined users in the United States, OperaDDS facilitates end-to-end transfer of information between dental practices, provider, and patients via automated email, two-way text messaging, custom paperless forms, and encrypted email services.
OperaDDS automatically texts or emails dental patients with appointment reminders, new or expired electronic forms, and other important communications from their dental provider. In addition to texting or emailing customized, paperless forms for completion, OperaDDS allows patients to quickly complete these forms on the practice’s website, or in-practice via tablet or kiosk.
Dr. Bryan Laskin, the founder of Minneapolis-based Operability, LLC, is joining Vyne Dental as a strategic advisor to ensure OperaDDS’ continued success as it is paired with Vyne Dental solutions, including Vyne Trellis.
Vyne Dental recently released Vyne Trellis(™), a comprehensive, web-based dental billing platform designed to help dental practices improve and manage their revenue cycles, exchange encrypted health information, and determine a patient’s insurance eligibility and benefit coverage levels in real-time.
Pairing Vyne Trellis with OperaDDS creates a unique integration, in the dental space, between the traditional revenue cycle and patient engagement workflows, with the goal of elevating the dental practice-dental patient relationship through robust patient interaction and engagement.
“For the past year, Vyne’s Dental’s mission has been to become a leading provider of fully automated revenue cycle management solutions in dentistry,” said Steve Roberts, president of Vyne Dental. “With the previous acquisitions of Renaissance Electronic Services, LLC, Tesia Clearinghouse, LLC, DSO Data, and now this exciting, new technology, we are one step closer to accomplishing this goal.”
Launched in 2011, OperaDDS has focused on elevating the dental industry by embracing technology and putting patients first.
“I’m passionate about helping doctors grow their practices and improve their patient satisfaction by embracing technology,” said Dr. Laskin, a practicing dentist, technologist, and entrepreneur. “OperaDDS’ innovations are being used by thousands of dental practices across the country, and through this integration, I’m confident that we’ll be able to tackle many more of dentistry’s most significant patient engagement and revenue cycle challenges.”
The acquisition of Operability, LLC further establishes Vyne Dental as the industry leader in end-to-end information exchange and communication management solutions for healthcare, Roberts said. Vyne Dental currently helps more than 74,000 dental practices manage their revenue cycles, send encrypted communications, and position their practices to thrive.
Henry Schein One, a subsidiary of Henry Schein, Inc., announces that it has acquired an 80% ownership position in Jarvis Analytics, a software company that develops comprehensive business analytics tools to help dental practitioners and their teams use data to diagnose problems, strengthen decision-making, and improve business performance.
Dallas-based Jarvis Analytics was founded by Steven Maroulis in 2017. Maroulis will continue to manage Jarvis Analytics and lead the Henry Schein One Dental Analytics business as executive director. The expected 2021 financial results from Jarvis Analytics are immaterial to Henry Schein One. The acquisition will be neutral to Henry Schein’s 2021 earnings per share and accretive thereafter. Additional financial terms were not disclosed.
“This partnership further demonstrates our commitment to offer the latest advances in technology through Henry Schein One, making it possible for dental practices to improve nearly every aspect of their business management,” said Stanley M. Bergman, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Henry Schein. “We look forward to a strong partnership with Jarvis that will enable dental teams to use data more effectively to build a better business.”
Dental practices have tremendous amounts of data stored in practice management systems, such as Henry Schein’s market-leading Dentrix®, Dentrix Ascend, and Dentrix Enterprise, as well as systems for patient relationship management, finance, marketing, and more. Unfortunately, many dental practices do not yet consolidate and analyze this disparate data. Jarvis simplifies the collection of data from multiple sources and organizes it so the information can be presented in real-time reports, dashboards, and other methods. Jarvis’ analytics tools can also help identify the impact positive changes may have on projected revenue, including hygiene recall, patient retention, case acceptance, and collection.
Dental visits… We know we need them and we know all about them. But do we really? Is it true that regular checkups are enough to ensure proper oral health? Are dental X-rays so harmful as they are believed to be?
In a recent DentaVox survey, we checked the awareness of 11,029 respondents globally of popular myths and facts about dental visits. See what they think and how it compares to experts’ statements.
#1: Going to the dentist will always be painful: MYTH
When asked about their first association with a dental visit, a lot of people are likely to think of pain. 13% of DentaVox survey respondents, for example, are convinced that absolutely all dental visits are painful.
Well, going back in time, that would actually be true in most cases. But nowadays, modern anesthesia, medications, relaxation techniques such as aromatherapy, acupuncture, and similar tremendously help combat aching experiences. Above all, remember that the earlier your dentist detects a dental issue, the less painful your treatment will be.
#2: I can go sick to a dental visit without informing the practice: MYTH
The COVID-19 pandemic has really made us think twice about going to work sick. Once considered bravery, this habit is getting more and more related to lack of social culture and care. Over 60% of our survey participants also pointed out that going to your dentist while you are sick without informing them in advance is not appropriate as well.
Interestingly, another 20% do not see anything wrong with that. Experts warn that dental treatments generate aerosols that increase the risk of diseases transmitted by the airborne route – e.g. the flu. If your dentist is informed in advance about you being sick, they can decide whether your treatment can wait or whether they could take additional hygiene measures to prevent contamination.
#3: If I visit the dentist every six months, my teeth will be fine: MYTH
An astonishing 75% of surveyed people believe that visiting the dentist once every six months guarantees perfect oral health. But what about the time between those six months?
Although absolutely crucial, bi-annual dental checkups are not enough to keep your teeth healthy. See the five basic tips for good oral health.
Vyne Dental, a leading provider of revenue cycle, claims management and electronic health information exchange for all-sized dental practices, announced the launch of Vyne Trellis, a comprehensive, web-based, dental billing platform designed to help dental practices improve and manage their revenue cycles, exchange encrypted health information, and determine real-time eligibility of patient benefit coverage levels.
“My personal experience with Vyne Trellis has been outstanding. As I have worked in dental claim submission for more than 10 years, Vyne Trellis has, no doubt, been the easiest and most user friendly one to work with,” Vyne Dental customer Katie Billings, account coordinator at Reed Family Dentistry in Millington, Tenn., said. “I highly recommend any dental office in need of a claims processing program, to use this one. I can’t say enough positive things about this program and what it offers.”
Vyne Trellis™ offers several new powerful revenue cycle and claims management options to dental practices. The platform’s features include:
Web-based user interface to support and simplify secure, remote billing teams and workflows.
Real-time benefit plan eligibility verification that reduces manual time practice employees spend interacting with payers — practice billing and claims managers receive verification of patient benefits in real-time through the Vyne Trellis web-based platform;
An electronic attachment submission solution that boasts connections to more than 800 payers across the country; A feature-rich portal that integrates a practice’s submitted, processed, and paid claims — and any supporting claims attachments — to each patient and their respective payer; and
Validation capabilities that identify potential errors, such as a missing insurance subscriber number, claim form information, and patient and provider information, before submitting documents to a payer — helping prevent rejected claims, speed adjudication and create efficiency across a practice’s revenue cycle.
An additional benefit is dental practices’ ability to enroll in Vyne Trellis’ Electronic Remittance Advice (ERA) Benefits and Features Option. Through it, they receive electronic remittance advice through Vyne Trellis. Available in electronic format, the individual ERAs are populated alongside a patient’s claim in Vyne Trellis, allowing billing managers to easily identify outstanding patient balances.