How 1 DSO is spearheading holistic care

Roseland, N.J.-based Abra Health Group, a dental and medical support organization, is focused on bringing holistic healthcare to patients in underserved communities in 2024. 

The organization was founded in 2008 and comprises several dental clinics, primary care offices and surgical centers throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The group most recently opened its first co-located dental and pediatric primary care facility in Newark, N.J.

CEO Michael Skolnick, DMD, recently spoke with Becker's about the company's growth goals for 2024 and their strategies for providing holistic care. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is Abra Health Group's core focus?

Dr. Michael Skolnick: Our focus is bringing excellent care to underserved communities. While we are primarily focused on dental, we believe dental health is important for overall oral health and the goal is to build a best-in-class organization that's serving a community that doesn't usually get served very well.

My wife is a pediatric dentist and I'm an orthodontist. We met in dental school and the evolution happened organically. We were always focused on children, and so we had strong relationships with local pediatric primary care groups. Over time, as those relationships developed, we saw a great synergy there and were working with a lot of the same payers. We knew the healthcare services space really well, so we felt confident that we could provide the same level of [primary care] service that we were doing for the dental groups as well. The surgical centers were also an organic development because when working with children, especially in underserved areas, a lot of the cases have severe dental caries and end up needing some form of sedation. We found that we couldn't get the operating room time we needed, so when the opportunity presented itself, we purchased a surgical center.

Q: What are your organization's top priorities for 2024?

MS: Currently, we're in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We are looking to continue to expand in those states as well as expand into Connecticut. Our [newest] location, it's the first time we've co-habitated primary care and dental, so we're really excited to see how that performs and try to incorporate that potentially into all of our locations moving forward.

Q: What strategies are in place to achieve your expansion goals?

MS: The strategies are really to identify areas where there's an underserved population, a high density of patients, and continuing to build large platform offices. We do look for some strategic partnerships when we're trying to enter into a new area, but most of the time we are building de novo offices. We have already outlined communities that we think would be well-served with our model and [we have] to find the right opportunities to enter into them. 

[Expansion] begins with doing a demographic study to figure out where our population that we serve really is, looking at density, looking at underserved communities, and then doing a study of the competitive landscape. We prioritize which communities we'd want to enter into first. Our preference is always a de novo model because of the unique nature of the way we practice and the large platform offices with separate clinical areas. So while we do look for strategic partnerships, it's usually with the intent of building our facility with this partner.

Q: What are some of the challenges facing dental organizations today?

MS: I think everyone has been experiencing the same challenges, which is inflation, higher cost of goods [and] wage inflation. It has seemed to have abated, but there was definitely serious staffing shortages in 2022 and in the beginning of 2023. We had a lot of difficulty finding hygienists and dental assistants, but that seems to have calmed down for the most part.

Q: Are you concerned about these economic challenges when thinking about building new offices?

MS: Yeah, definitely. With our model, the larger offices, it is a big capital investment. So we do have to be really confident when entering a market. Whereas, if you're building a smaller practice, there's a little bit more leeway for failure. With us, because of the size of the commitment and the investment, there really isn't. We have to be very confident that this is going to be a great market for us.

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