How 4 leaders are overcoming dental staffing, supply chain and RCM issues

Four leaders shared their thoughts on the biggest challenge their organization is currently facing during Becker's Dental + DSO Review Virtual Forum on Oct. 14.

During the forum "Best ideas to overcome dental staffing, supply chain and RCM issues," organization leaders discussed current challenges and strategies to address them.

Below are their responses, edited for brevity.

John Merandi. Chief Operations Officer at Southern Dental Alliance (Kennesaw, Ga.): The pressure of staffing costs and shortages has been challenging. We are trying to focus on certain opportunities so we have the best service. Each of our offices operate as individual entities; however, at this time we're pulling everyone together. If we have a team member out at one office, we have to be resourceful so it doesn't have a significant impact. There are a lot of challenges right now, but there are also great opportunities. We're trying to find those opportunities to expand, even if it's challenging, which it is. We're asking, "What are the areas we can focus on to help a line?" We may not be able to recapture everything, but we can bring practices to a healthy, normal state. This is a chapter we're dealing with, but that's just what it is — a chapter.

Arnelle Lloyd, DDS. Chief Dental Officer at Greater Philadelphia Health Action: The staffing shortages aren't just for our dental staff, but throughout our company. We haven't hired a new dental hygienist in about two years and recently lost one of our hygienists. As a public health organization, we now have to compete with private practices. We've had dentists start doing some of the hygiene work. When I was in dental school, we learned how to do all the hygiene work, and that's what I told them. So we're adding one or two of those appointments a day for dentists, so not to overwhelm them, and it's making a big difference.

Priyanki Amroliwala. Senior Manager of Talent Acquisition at 42 North Dental (Waltham, Mass.): Staffing challenges are severe. Everyone is struggling with dental hygienist staffing. We have created a flex team that's essentially our own little temporary agency with our own hygienists. These are hygienists who can pick a couple of hours or shifts here and there. We are actively using and adding to that list. Whenever we have a hygiene need, we just reach out to people on that list. It's cheaper than hiring from another agency and a bit faster — these people are already on our payroll, employed by us.

Cindy Roark, DMD. Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer at Sage Dental (Boca Raton, Fla.): The biggest challenge is riding the waves of the variant. As COVID-19 surges, and team members are out — not necessarily because they have COVID-19, but have kids who can't go to school, etc. — you have to manage through that. We might go from an average of one person out to 17 people missing, which is a very different proposition in terms of delivering care. To manage and project what it will look like when or if the next variant spikes, we've created teams of people who are almost pop-up assistants or support. We put them two weeks here, two weeks there. We've kept that stable and it's really the only thing that's allowed us to keep operating.

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