2 DSO leaders on how the pandemic forced them to regroup

Roshan Parikh, DDS, president of Dntl Bar, and Steve Higginbotham, CEO of Smile America Partners, spoke with Becker's on April 19 to discuss how the pandemic affected the growth of their DSOs.

Dntl Bar is a DSO with five New York City practices. It aims to make visiting the dentist a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.

Smile America Partners is an 18-practice DSO specializing in portable and mobile dentistry. The organization partners with more than 7,500 schools across the country to help bring dental care to children in underserved communities.

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

Question: How did the pandemic hurt or help the growth of your DSO?

Dr. Roshan Parikh: ​For us at Dntl Bar, the pandemic was a double-edged sword. On one hand, in 2020, we saw our patient volume and subsequent revenue plummet to almost zero and looked at the possibility of decreasing our workforce. On the other hand, it gave us ample standstill time and forced our hand to look at new ways to rethink the patient journey. From that point, we started to look inside Dntl Bar at how technology can help augment to create a more seamless patient experience. In that internal reflection, we set our North Star on two things: emphasizing patients' money value of time and making certain whatever changes we would make wouldn't negatively impact our [net promoter score] of 88. Programs like extending hours so we are open seven days a week, paperless check-in and forms, teledentistry or a hybridized approach to patient care, and emphasizing more same-day quadrant dentistry were all examples of how we started to reimagine the patient experience. That's just the beginning for us at Dntl Bar as we know that we will have to continue to stay ahead of the proverbial curve as the patient experience and the consumer experience become one experience.

Steve Higginbotham: As schools slowly began to reopen and our dental teams were allowed back into the classroom settings, it was difficult to provide care with hybrid schedules, high absenteeism and children who were utilizing remote learning platforms. The disruption to the traditional in-seat learning environment significantly reduced our opportunity to serve those children in need of dental care. Fast forward to today. We are diagnosing more caries disease than ever in kids due to lack of dental care during the pandemic. Schools and communities have embraced our portable programs like never before. In some markets, we have a six- to nine-month backlog of school visits and patients. As we rebuild our schedules and redeploy our clinical team across the country, we expect to significantly outpace the number of patients seen and the utilization of various treatment modalities to address the growing oral healthcare issues with this underserved population. We are ramping up through an all-hands-on-deck effort now to treat as many children as possible when school begins this fall.

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