Q&A with James Nick, Chief Revenue Officer, Dental Care Alliance
Where are the greatest opportunities for DSOs?
DSO’s have a unique opportunity to improve the efficiency of this industry. This is a major benefit that the consolidation of a single or small group of practices into DSO’s can bring to the market. For example, improving (or automating) interactions between dental office and insurance company. Having previously worked for a major insurance company, I can genuinely say that there was not a deliberate attempt to make running a dental office more difficult. However, now viewing operational process from the DSO side, it sure seems like that sometimes. Credentialing, billing, and insurance verifications all pose administrative burdens that individual dental practices can have a difficult time navigating with insurance companies on their own.
For example, I went to CVS to get a flu shot recently – I told the person at the desk in the pharmacy what I was there for, and my name and birthdate. Although I had never been to a CVS pharmacy before, within a few seconds she had verified my insurance and let me know the flu shot was fully covered by my medical insurance policy and I would not owe anything. I never even shared the name of my insurance carrier or my health insurance ID cards. This is the type of effortless and real-time interaction we should expect for dental as well. We must make this easier for patients and office staffs alike. It’s 2020 now, both are going to demand it.
Another opportunity is the ability to leverage the vast amount of data to develop models that help advance the patient experience and get us to a truly Practice-First culture. This a major focus for DCA in particular. For example, we can use data to predict the probability a patient shows up for a scheduled appointment, or the probability that a patient visiting an office today will ever return. Think of the value this information could have if we can provide that to our affiliated practices in real time to help them optimize their operations. We can potentially identify pain points before they happen and make practice management easier on our affiliated practices. This support is a big part of what we mean by developing a Practice-First culture.
Lastly, DSO’s have the same opportunity every business works toward – growth. The dental industry is ripe with opportunity for us and other DSO’s because supporting our affiliated practices means they can focus fully on the patient. Everyone in our DCA Support Center is there to make our affiliated practices more efficient and improve, which allows our office teams to develop experiences that create lifelong patients. The opportunity is immense and I’m excited about the future growth.
If you could solve one challenge in the dental industry overnight, what would it be and why?
As an industry, we have a major opportunity in improving more lives by getting more people into the dental office each year. Over half the US population does not even see a dentist over the course of a year. This means a dental office’s biggest competitor is not other dental offices, but rather non-consumption in general. Consistently, the most common reasons given are perceived high cost, lack of convenience, and fear/anxiety. But these patient objections all boil down to one thing that if changed overnight would have a huge impact – the system has been set up around the provider, not the consumer. Most industries are set up with the consumer at the center of everything. Dental and most of healthcare is not organized that way. Although there have been some advancements recently, the dental industry still has a long way to go.
Back to the example of my flu shot at CVS mentioned earlier. There was a small wait (5 minutes) while they prepared to administer the flu shot. During that time, I went over to the front of the store and a different employee took my picture for a passport renewal. I received and paid for that picture, went back to the pharmacy and my flu shot was ready. This is one of the best examples of convenience in health care I have experienced. It won’t work just like that everywhere, but there are similar applications we could all develop. I left CVS a happy patient and customer that night.
What has been most successful in terms of expanding?
In a word, I would say balance. Perhaps some would call it diversified growth strategy. We have been successful at growing all aspects of our business – same-store or organic growth, expansion via denovo office openings, and lastly growth through new affiliations or acquisitions. In our case, all 3 need to be successful and growing. It’s always exciting to affiliate with new offices and providers who bring fresh ideas and perspectives on how to be successful. We look for providers and practices that align with a focus on the patient experience, clinical quality, and an orientation for growth. It improves our DCA support team as well as other affiliated offices. But we cannot solely focus on new practice growth or we will have done a disservice to our existing affiliated practices. We have the support infrastructure needed to achieve healthy growth for our existing practices as well. That is why we see it as absolutely critical to grow all three aspects of our business together.
To find your local DCA-affiliated practice, click here.
Founded in 1991, DCA is one of the largest multi-branded dental support organizations in the U.S. with more than 320 affiliated practices in 20 states. DCA-affiliated practices provide patients with a wide range of dental services including general dentistry, endodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, and periodontics. DCA provides dentists with clinical autonomy, career satisfaction, and growth opportunities by reducing day-to-day administrative responsibilities so they can focus on providing the best clinical care to each patient.
As a dentist that is actively engaged in entrepreneurship and leadership programs, I have seen many different businesses respond to this unprecedented crisis that we are all living through. DCA, thanks to its strong leadership, acted much more rapidly to COVID-19 than others and has continued to lead the way for affiliated offices more effectively than, in my opinion, any individual or group of dental practices.
Having a support center that is constantly evaluating the situation and guiding us how to respond and communicate to our teams has been key to navigating this crisis. I believe that, due to the immediate response and ongoing direction we are receiving from the support center, DCA offices will come out of this environment much stronger. From support on HR issues to working with clinical leadership to document the new PPE and infection control protocols that we will implement, the guidance from DCA has helped our office stay way ahead of the industry.
Additionally, knowing that the economic burdens that come with this type of event have been eased by DCA’s strong industry partnerships, breadth of knowledge and access to capital allow us to focus and respond as positively as possible to imminent situations, rather than react in ways that would not be beneficial for the long-term.