Pacific Dental Services
How a Smart Tech Decision Helped This Leading Dentistry Company Continue Caring for Patients Even During the Lockdown
RingCentral’s API platform has given us all sorts of ways to improve our own operations.
Director of Infrastructure & Operations, Pacific Dental Services
MILLION IN COST SAVINGS
Phone infrastructure in need of a checkup
Going to the dentist can be uncomfortable, even scary for some patients. But Pacific Dental Services® found a way to vastly improve the experience—and they’ve become one of America’s fastest-growing private companies.
Most of the hundreds of thousands of dental practices in the US are small businesses. The dentists who own these practices have to devote so much of their limited time to administrative tasks that they have little left to focus exclusively on their patients. Pacific Dental Services® created a business model to help these practices streamline their operations—including billing, staffing, IT, marketing, even integrated dental specialties—to allow dentists more time to focus on patient-centric oral health care. Because of this, PDS-supported dental practices are the providers of choice in the markets they serve.
The company’s unique approach has clearly worked. The DSO has earned a spot on the Inc. 5000, Inc. Magazine’s exclusive ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies a remarkable 14 times. Inc. Magazine has also named the company among the “Top Ten Heroes of the American Economy” in recognition of PDS’ ranking as one of the top job creators in the healthcare industry.
Pacific Dental Services® has expanded its reach to over 800 dental practices in 22 states, and they’re signing up dozens of new practices each year. They’ve also won a slew of awards for innovation and outstanding care. By any metric, the company is succeeding in its mission to help dental clinicians create happier, healthier patients. The company’s growth has been so rapid, in fact, that until recently PDS never found an opportunity to take the same amount of time and strategic planning that they provide to their dentist partners… and apply it to the company’s own IT communications.
The irony was not lost on PDS. The organization developed a successful, repeatable process that improved the operations of hundreds of its supported dental practices across the United States. But the company’s own communications infrastructure was becoming more complicated, and less streamlined, year after year.
Small dental practices have been slow to adapt to new technologies. As PDS opens up to 90 new supported dental offices each year, one challenge the DSO has faced was that they couldn’t integrate these practices’ disparate, outdated communications systems into a centralized, companywide environment. This often led to frustration as team members tried unsuccessfully to reach coworkers in other locations.
As Rich Brownlee, the company’s Director of Infrastructure & Operations, points out, “Some of these dental practices were still using old answering machines with cassette tapes to record voicemails. That type of IT infrastructure wasn’t going to scale.”
Putting other communications tools under the magnifying glass
Phone service wasn’t the only area of PDS’ IT communications environment that needed an overhaul. “Over time, we acquired several different video conferencing tools and instant messaging apps,” Brownlee explains. “The disparate chat apps led to all sorts of confusion, and people often had trouble joining meetings from certain devices or if they missed an update of the conference software.”
We had a mix of phone systems, offices working with different telecom providers… and lots of communications headaches.
Director of Infrastructure & Operations, Pacific Dental Services
Cloud communications improves operations across the board
When they signed up for all-in-one communications from RingCentral, PDS solved these challenges. The cloud platform allowed the company to give their team members and owner dentists a virtual phone app they could use to take and make business calls from any computer or mobile device.
RingCentral also allowed PDS to create a centralized communications environment where any team member could easily find a coworker through a company directory and reach that person via a simple direct-dialing system.
The company also used RingCentral’s built-in team messaging to streamline their internal support operation. Previously, if a team member or a clinician needed help, they’d have to submit a ticket, which went into the support team’s queue. With the team chat feature, PDS team members can now message the Service Desk in real-time, and then the support agents can message each other to quickly figure out how to resolve the problem.
As Michael Brown, the company’s IT Enterprise Operations Manager, explains, “The messaging tool is improving our ability to have first-call resolution for our team members, owner dentists, and patients.”
Although these changes were a vast improvement, they are only the first of many benefits PDS realized after switching to RingCentral.
Leveraging APIs to improve operations further
PDS’s technical team also tapped into RingCentral’s open API platform, integrating their communications solution with many other productivity apps to improve the company’s workflows.
In one example of this, the company integrated RingCentral’s SMS text feature with an app for healthcare practices that removes protected health information (PHI) from digital messages, to help the provider stay on the right side of patient privacy law.
As Brown explains, “Thanks to an API integration with RingCentral, we’re able to monitor and inhibit PHI from the texts we send to patients, which keeps up HIPAA compliance.” Those SMS communications themselves have proven extremely valuable to PDS’s business. “Because we’re able to send out automated text reminders to patients about upcoming appointments, we’ve seen a significant drop in patient no-shows, and that makes a real difference in our bottom line,” Michael continues.
An easy transition to teledentistry in the COVID-19 era
Because PDS already had a unified, cloud communications solution in place when the pandemic led to stay-at-home orders, PDS’s network of supported dental practices were well positioned to quickly begin offering teledentistry services to patients all over the country.
Today, patients can easily schedule teledentistry appointments with a PDS-supported dentist. 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. PDS credits their cloud communications platform—and the video conferencing in particular—for enabling their dentists to provide care for patients during the lockdown.
“I’ve heard from a number of patients who were so happy, and even surprised, they had a chance to see their dental provider at a time when almost all other services were shut down,” says Brownlee.
And, as Brown adds, “Our supported dentists are well positioned, using RingCentral Video, to do face-to-face follow-ups with their patients. I think that’s key to helping us improve that personal relationship between the dentists we support and their patients, which is really what the whole PDS model is all about.”