The vast majority of the 200,000 dental practices in the United States are very small businesses, averaging just 1.7 dentists. These businesses have such a small support staff that the dentists themselves are often forced to spend much of their time managing the practice’s business operations, leaving them less time to devote to their patients.
Stephen E. Thorne, IV, the founder and CEO of Pacific Dental Services® (PDS®) recognized this was an industry-wide challenge. PDS built a business model to provide small dental practices a world-class business infrastructure that would otherwise be available only to large medical organizations, including expert management of HR, billing, marketing, and IT support, and even providing integrated dental specialties. PDS originated the Private Practice+® model to enable dentists to focus on their passion: serving patients. PDS also pioneered the concept of Modern Dentistry so that dentists are equipped to combine advances in the latest technology with the best operational practices and procedures, highly skilled support staff, and a commitment to ongoing training and education.
By taking over the backend operations for the dental practices they support, PDS can keep even the smallest dental practice running smoothly and successfully with little manual involvement from the practice’s dentists. And that frees up those dentists to spend more time providing patient-centric oral health care for their patients.
PDS’s unique support model has become so popular that today more than 800 dental practices nationwide rely on the company to take care of their day-to-day business and administrative operations. The company is also adding dozens of new dental practices to its network every year.
And when the pandemic led to lockdowns across the country, the dental practices supported by PDS found a way to continue seeing and triaging their patients, even though they often couldn’t come in for an appointment.
A seamless transition to teledentistry during the lockdown
PDS migrated from its legacy phone infrastructure to cloud communications a couple of years before the pandemic, so the switch had nothing to do with the quarantine. (But the company had other significant reasons for the upgrade. Read why PDS needed a new phone system.)
Because PDS had already made the switch when the stay-at-home orders went into effect across the country, they were able to use several components of their RingCentral cloud platform. The DSO was able to create a quick and user-friendly teledentistry process. Because of this, the supported owner dentists were well positioned to meet with patients using teledentistry. Patients easily schedule appointments online from their dental office’s website and receive a calendar invitation with a link to the video session. In addition, the dental offices are able to send HIPAA-compliant appointment reminders via text, because the company connected RingCenral’s built-in SMS feature with an app that automatically strips out protected health information (PHI) from digital messages. During these appointments, available for anyone with a smart phone, tablet or a computer, patients have the opportunity to be screened by a clinician from the comfort of their homes. The PDS-supported dentists can review their patients’ symptoms via live video and assess what their best course of action is. For patients needing in-office care, same-day appointments will be scheduled for them. Teledentistry has allowed PDS-supported dentists to see their patients during the pandemic when they otherwise couldn’t, due to dental offices throughout the world being limited to only emergency and essential care.
Deepening patient relationships, even from afar
As PDS’s technology team discovered, these RingCentral-enabled telemedicine sessions improved not only the company’s operations during the lockdowns but also their dentists’ relationships with their patients.
“I’ve heard from a number of patients who were so happy, and even surprised, they had a chance to see their medical provider at a time when almost all other services were shut down,” says Rich Brownlee, Director of Infrastructure & Operations.
Michael Brown, IT Enterprise Operations Manager, adds another interesting observation: “Our doctors are even using RingCentral Video to do face-to-face follow-ups with patients. I think that’s key to helping us improve that personal relationship between our dentists and their patients, which is really what the whole PDS model is all about.”
Originally published Jun 15, 2020, updated Aug 12, 2020