Why Benevis will prioritize dental care accessibility and workforce training in 2024

Atlanta-based Benevis plans to continue its mission of increasing dental care accessibility in 2024, according to CEO Bryan Carey. 

Benevis recently announced that it cared for more than 600,000 patients, 87% of whom were children and 82% of whom were Medicaid or CHIP beneficiaries. The organization also hired more than 150 dentists and 95 hygienists. Other accomplishments include the addition of a cost calculator for patients and investing in new technology for its practices. 

Mr. Carey recently spoke with Becker's about the DSO's achievements from the last year, its plans for growth in 2024 and the trends he is following in the dental industry.

Note: These responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.   

Question: What are Benevis' top priorities for 2024?

Bryan Carey: One [priority] is increasing access. In terms of access and availability, over 80% of our patients are children. With school requirements, family obligations and trying to find childcare, the best thing we could do is to be open in the evenings and on Saturdays. Some of that went away during Covid. We are going further than we've ever gone in terms of being open and accessible at times that work for families. 

The second one is investing in our clinical staff. Many providers hire dental assistants who do not have experience being dental assistants. We do as well, and we hire many who are experienced and certified to do X-rays and things, but some of the assistants really don't have any training. We started a formal training program in the fourth quarter of 2023 so that no one works their first 40 hours. They are invested in and trained so they have everything they need to be successful. We're going to be expanding that in 2024 because, like everyone else, it's a challenge to get great teammates. So we're investing to make sure we get great ones and that they stay with us.

Q: What progress has been made with Benevis' rollout of expanded practice hours?

BC: We are probably about halfway there. At the beginning of 2023, we had about 20 of our 120 offices open on a typical Saturday. That's now over 60 of our offices. It takes a lot of work because our dentists and staff have personal lives and we can't just open a sixth day, so we have to figure out how to adjust. It's been extremely well accepted by our doctors and our staff because people who work with Benevis really connect to our mission and they know that by making this shift in access and availability, we're going to be able to provide that much more care and it's going to be easier for patients to come.

Q: How will Benevis expand care in 2024?

BC: We are adding what we call expanded services [by adding] endodontists, oral surgeons and orthodontic suites. Most of our expansion is taking the existing footprint and providing more of the necessary care for our existing patient base. Probably later in 2024, [we'll] look at some places where we have truly expanded footprint, but for now, it's really trying to take [care of the] total care needs of our existing population.

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing your organization?

BC: The change in Medicaid enrollment. With the end of the public health emergency, many states have dropped beneficiaries from their roles. Almost 70% of them tend to be for administrative reasons. So a challenge for us is that people who should have Medicaid coverage in many cases have been dropped and it's an administrative burden for them to get re-enrolled. That's certainly been our most significant challenge and we've worked closely with patients, families and Medicaid agencies to make sure that those who should still be enrolled are able to retroactively re-enroll. 

The second is there are just not enough skilled healthcare workers, so it's a challenge as we expand our hours and we hire dentists to then be able to hire the clinical staff, which is why we're investing in training programs because if we are able to get them, we want to make sure they stay with us. In a recent labor report, 30% of the new hires were in healthcare. There's just such a need because of the demographics and more Americans needing care. I would say priority one, two and three is how we attract and retain skilled healthcare workers and have them know they made the right decision to come to Benevis by investing in them for their future.

Q: What other trends are you following in dental care and DSO activity?

BC: There continues to be improvement in preventive care, whether it be just the use of fluoride or the use of sealants, which we think is fantastic. A key part of what we do is focusing on nutritional counseling, preventive care and self-care. I often say if I could change one thing, I would flip fee schedules upside down so they pay more for preventive care and less for restorative care, but we continue to focus on that.

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