How 1 new DSO will prioritize value to fuel growth

Danbury, Conn.-based Archway Dental Partners is focusing on making smart, value-driven partnerships to expand its network this year.

Dental Associates of Connecticut built on its 53-year legacy by launching Archway Dental Partners in January. The dental partnership organization aims to partner with dentists across all specialties in the Northeast.

CEO Adam Richichi recently spoke with Becker's to discuss the DPO's growth so far and what to expect from the organization this year.

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

Question: How would you describe Archway Dental Partners' mission?

Adam Richichi: [It's] the embracing of the intersection between general dentistry and true integrated, interdisciplinary care. We don't just slap specialists into practices who come in with a suitcase ready to place implants. We are a truly integrated model, whether our specialists are onsite with our general dentists or they are available nearby. It's our promise that every general dentist and every patient has access to the full spectrum of specialty care. We like to say we can do everything that exists in dentistry and we do that well at scale. [We're also] led by our doctors. I'm a non-dentist, but I've been in dentistry for 23 years and really made a career of collaborating with clinicians on how to build a great dental organization. Our dental leaders, which we have across each line of service, work really closely with us to make sure we're building an organization that's great for patients and providers.

Q: In what ways does Archway Dental Partners stand out from competitors?

AR: A few ways. First, extreme unwavering respect for the practice of dentistry. That means we are practices led by dentists, we make every attempt to make the right decisions so our practices are the ideal place for dentists to practice their craft, not just, they have a job, they clock in and out and make money ... We want this to be a place where they know they can see their career starting and ending at retirement. We always say we look at our doctors' careers from residency through retirement. We're very serious about that, and over our lineage, we've retired many successful dentists. That focus on the clinician really guides everything else we do — the technology we buy and integrate into the practice, the quality of the materials that we use, the look and feel of our practices and who we will bring into the office as far as supportive team members. We do everything we can to make sure that doctor feels they can practice their craft to the best of their abilities.

Every DSO has some form of, I hate the term but corporate support apparatus. We built ours over the last decade to suit the needs of today. Our centralized team, which is out of Danbury, Connecticut, supports all functions of dentistry — revenue cycle, marketing, procurement, compliance operations — all those functions are there in our central headquarters such that our offices can just focus on what really matters most: supporting the doctor and taking care of patients.

Our culture, which I can take no credit for doing anything other than protecting because it was created 50 years ago and just got better and better, is the most pervasive in the industry. Having been in the field for a long time, we have a clinical, organizational and leadership culture that could be cut with a knife, and it's all wrapped up in what we care about — the patient, the provider and quality leadership. You can walk up to any one of my 500 people and ask, what's important to Archway? And they're going to say some variation of, we take care of our providers, we take care of our people and we are good leaders. I don't just mean myself, I mean leaders across the organization.

The last piece is we are partnership focused. We don't shy away from bringing in partners through either associate tracks of partnership or through affiliations because such a large portion of our dentistry was done by owner doctors, which meant a lot of people really cared about what was going on. We want more of that, not less of it. We believe we should all have the same skin in the game, make sure those cultural values are upheld and we're all steaming to the finish line the same way. Organizations that shy away from bringing in partner dentists send a message that we don't want to send. We want to send an inclusive message that we're here to support and really be true partners.

Q: How would you describe Archway Dental Partners' growth?

AR: We have been on a responsible growth pattern over the last seven or eight years since I took the helm as CEO back in 2017 of making sure we're making smart partnerships and smart integrations with the right kind of practices, not just going out to buy and integrate just to buy and integrate. That means we don't grow as fast as some of our peers, but we make smart decisions and we make sure that if we're going to add a practice to our portfolio, that means we are going to add value to them and they're going to add value to us. If we can't do those two things, we don't do it. So yes, we've been able to identify great partner and affiliate practices across both general dentistry and specialty care over the years. Over the last year, I'd say we've probably been the most acquisitive. We've acquired five practices so far this year with a good seven to 10 ahead of us in our pipeline ... We take great pride in how we go through that integration process, which slows us down appropriately, as it should.

We do really well at driving organic growth in the practice because of our specialty care model, our ability to drive patient traffic in a healthy way and our ability to be collaborative with our dentists to focus on their careers and their individual practices. So our organic growth mission is really powerful. The second part of it is being acquisitive and still partnering and acquiring practices. We don't have a goal on dollars to acquire or the number of practices to integrate. Wherever we can continue to add value and find that quality practice, we'll continue to do so. We are the largest provider of care in the state of Connecticut. I'd like that to be true for Massachusetts as well. I'd like us to be the good guy DSO throughout New England because that's what we always have been in the state of Connecticut. So that will bring our growth ambitions to follow suit.

Q: What trends in the DSO field are you following right now?

AR: Consolidation trends are what we always talk about, but what I think has been really interesting are the best practices, the technologies and the vendors that are supporting the scaling of group practice. So that's automating solutions to make it so that we could do the same quality dentistry but make the backend administrative business more reliable and scalable. For being a very old bird, we're a very innovative organization and I am passionate about trying to keep us on the very cusp. It is a tough time to do that because our industry is really flooded right now because the need for technologies is so great everyone's flooding the market with those types of solutions to the point where it's noisy. There are a lot of masters of none out there and it's a tough time to be a customer, but we have to be smart in where we choose to seek out certain vendors and technologies to help automate and scale our business and [see] where it's not worth the risk or maybe you build it yourself.

I'm a clinical-minded CEO and I think digital dentistry is something we stopped talking about a lot over the last few years because of all the sexiness of the rest of the DSO space, but there are advances that are changing how we deliver care. We will always be on the forefront of that. We were one of the first practices to have an iTero scanner, which is probably 20-something years ago, and we will continue to be those trend setters. Those trends continue to be exciting and I think it's beholden upon us to want to have really high quality organizations that deliver better care. We're making our organizations places where people want to practice their craft. You have to be on the cusp of clinical technology as well. Particularly with 3D-printing technology, I think it's going to change dentistry in a way far more meaningful than CAD/CAM technology.

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