How VideaHealth, Heartland Dental completed the largest dental AI rollout

Heartland Dental has taken a notable step toward improving patient care after implementing VideaHealth's artificial intelligence technology across its more than 1,700-practice network.

The two companies spent less than 10 weeks completing the rollout, which marks the largest dental AI rollout in history.

Tim Quirt, DDS, senior vice president of clinical operations for Heartland Dental, and Florian Hillen, CEO of VideaHealth, recently spoke with Becker's to discuss the rollout process and how AI can be used to improve clinical care.

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

Question: What was the process like to complete this rollout?

Florian Hillen: You have to think about roughly over 1,500 locations within 10 weeks. That's hundreds of millions of X-rays, thousands of dental providers who need to be onboarded and so on, so it was a massive undertaking. Both companies put together dedicated project teams with very clear roles and responsibilities on how to work together and had several meetings in person to plan for it and then throughout the rollout, which was incredibly helpful. This was a true partnership between both companies. 

There's a phase zero, which is preparation, and then there's phase one, which is installation. That is all the technical installations in all these locations. Then there's phase two, which is the onboarding, where we did webinars of people explaining what it is and so on. After that came phase three, which is the change management phase. That's roughly around eight weeks or so ... Then comes the last phase, which we are in now, which is continuous support and success. Everyone thinks about the product as a status quo, but this product is changing all the time. So you need to find a good process for how you introduce new features. The last thing is retraining and onboarding new people because we have to understand that this is a fluid workforce. Obviously, we all hope the dentists and hygienists stay as long as possible, but sometimes they move and you hire new people, so you need to have processes for this as well. We were very good at aligning these phases together with Heartland and then customizing processes and solutions in terms of our teams, but also in terms of product.

Dr. Tim Quirt: Sometimes you look at it and it feels like an overnight success, but we've been working with Florian and VideaHealth for five years now, basically. That was never the intention initially. It was just, what does this look like? What do our supported doctors want? That's what we wanted. We wanted supported doctors and the teams to have a starring role in what we were doing. So they have helped give a lot of feedback, and we enjoy knowing even the most negative of feedback because we want to know how to make this better and easier, not just from the product side but from the rollout side and the change management side. It's been quite a long time of town halls, webinars, lectures and pilots. Once we engaged clinical champions throughout the country, that made it a little bit easier to roll things out even faster, because we knew what everybody wanted. We wanted to create pull in the offices, not leadership shouting from the mountaintop saying, "Hey, use this. It's awesome." We want them to say, "We heard about this. We think it will add value to your practice. When can we use it?" VideaHealth, Heartland Dental and Henry Schein together did a great job over the years just talking with each other and saying, how do we make this the absolute best product and experience for supported doctors? That's what really created the push. People wanted it, and it's time.

Q: How has patient care changed at Heartland since the rollout?

TQ: One of the greatest gifts we can give as a doctor is patient acceptance of treatment. We diagnose and treatment plan with the goal of improving our patients' health. That's one of the greatest things AI has enabled our supported doctors to do — reinforce their diagnostic philosophy and accuracy while enhancing patient case acceptance. It's not necessarily about trying to make a doctor feel bad that they potentially might have missed something in the past. Ultimately, are we giving our patients the best care we possibly can? This is just light years ahead of anything we've had in the past. Yes, you will find areas that you potentially would've missed in the past, but what you're also doing is being able to communicate with a patient any type of issue they may or may not have very clearly that they're now saying, "I see it, and yes, I should take action on that," and that's one of the best things.

Q: How do you hope to see patient care continue to evolve with the use of the technology?

TQ: Yeah, there are multiple avenues. I think we're both on a mission, one, to make dentistry easier but also more rewarding. AI definitely does that. In the future, we'll be able to potentially show progression of disease earlier, which will be another consideration for patients in understanding recommended treatment if they are able to see what could happen if they don't treat something early. We’re aligned that doing something sooner, and the least in dentistry is the best dentistry, and I think you can do that with AI. It's a goal of dentistry and medicine to do no harm, and I think AI is definitely creating avenues for us to be able to do things as soon as possible so they don't become painful or more expensive.

FH: One of our values is continuous innovation. While we have over 30 FDA-cleared detections and over 30,000 dental clinicians and we recommend diagnosis and treatment for over 15 million patients at this point, having analyzed half a billion images already, It's just the start of the AI revolution. It's not about the technology, it's more about identifying together with partners like Heartland Dental, what are the challenges [dental professionals] are facing in their day-to-day and how can we solve them? Always start with the problems and the challenges people have on the ground, not the private equity company or anything, but the people on the ground. How can we make their job easier to deliver better patient care? That's actually our mission. That's also where Heartland, VideaHealth and Henry Schein are absolutely aligned. From there on, we start, and I think that's our guiding principle.

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