In the world of dental care, technology has emerged as a transformative force, changing the way practices operate, connect with patients, and grow their brands. Philip Toh, the Operating Partner at The Smilist, a Dental Support Organization (DSO) based in the Northeast region, has pioneered strategies that use technology to scale his organization and revolutionize the patient experience. In this episode of How I Grew My Practice, we delve into the insights and strategies of leveraging technology to effectively scale a DSO.
Background and Vision: Philip Toh's Journey with The Smilist
Philip Toh is the co-founder of The Smilist, a DSO that aims to redefine dental care through technology and patient-focused strategies. With a background in business and healthcare distribution, Philip entered the dental industry and identified a gap in patient care. Dentists, he observed, often had to juggle clinical work with non-clinical responsibilities like marketing, HR, and finance. This realization led Philip to envision a new approach where dentists could focus solely on their clinical duties while an expert team handled the business side of the practice.
Enhancing the Patient Experience Through Technology
One of the cornerstones of Philip Toh's strategy is to enhance the patient experience through technology. To achieve this, The Smilist leverages a range of technologies to streamline processes and improve patient engagement:
- Online Scheduling: The organization employs NexHealth’s Online Booking tool to allow patients to book appointments conveniently, reducing the reliance on phone calls and freeing up staff to focus on patient care. "We're able to enhance that patient experience and modernize it. It's not like back in the day when somebody made a restaurant reservation, they would call the restaurant. Now, nobody wants to call the restaurant, they just book it online” says Philip.
- Insurance Verification and Claims: Technology helps automate insurance verification and claims processes, minimizing the time staff spends on the phone with insurance companies. This ensures a smoother patient experience and allows staff to dedicate more time to patients.
- Chatbots for Patient Interaction: The Smilist uses chatbots that interact with patients for appointment confirmations, rescheduling, and more. This automated system reduces phone traffic and enhances patient engagement.
- Data Utilization for Customized Care: The Smilist recognizes the potential of data to deliver personalized care. By analyzing patient data, the organization aims to offer tailored education, communication, and services to patients.
- Streamlined Billing and Payment: Philip envisions a future where the patient checkout experience mirrors the convenience of services like Uber. Patients can anticipate costs, and payments are handled seamlessly, eliminating the need for traditional checkouts.
Change Management and Integration: Ensuring a Smooth Transition
Integrating new technologies into established practices can be daunting, especially for staff who are accustomed to existing workflows. The Smilist's approach to change management focuses on collaboration and empathy:
- Integration Team: The organization assigns an integration team comprising experienced professionals who understand the challenges and intricacies of dental practice. This team works closely with staff to facilitate the transition, answer questions, and provide hands-on support.
- Clear Communication: The integration team emphasizes effective communication to alleviate concerns and build trust. Staff members are guided through the transition and empowered with the knowledge they need to embrace new technologies.
- Gradual Transition: The integration process is gradual and collaborative, ensuring that staff members feel supported and are not overwhelmed by sudden changes. This approach fosters a sense of community and teamwork.
- Flexibility and Customization: The Smilist recognizes that every practice is unique, and solutions may need to be tailored to each context. Flexibility and customization in the integration process ensure that staff can adapt at their own pace. "Our skill is being open-minded and flexible, adopting new technologies all the time, and looking over the horizon to advance the patient experience,” says Philip.
Building a Community of Excellence
Philip Toh's vision extends beyond technology; it encompasses building a strong community and fostering a culture of excellence. The Smilist achieves this through various means:
- Internal Communication Channels: The organization utilizes tools like Slack to create internal communication channels, allowing staff from different locations to connect, share experiences, and collaborate.
- Regional Events: The Smilist organizes regional events to bring staff together, not just for business discussions but also for social interactions that foster a sense of camaraderie.
- Cross-Location Training: Staff members are sometimes offered the opportunity to train at different locations, creating connections and enriching their understanding of different practice dynamics.
- Focus on Culture: The organization places significant emphasis on maintaining a positive culture that aligns with its values. This contributes to high employee satisfaction and retention rates.
The Future of Dental Care: Leveraging Data and Innovation
Looking ahead, Philip Toh envisions a future where technology and data play an even more crucial role in shaping dental care:
- Data Utilization: The Smilist plans to harness the power of data to offer personalized patient experiences. By analyzing patient information, preferences, and behaviors, the organization aims to deliver tailored care and communication.
- Seamless Patient Experience: Philip envisions a streamlined patient experience, where appointments are seamlessly booked, costs are transparent, and checkouts are automatic. This approach aims to replicate the convenience of modern digital services.
- Continued Adaptation: Recognizing the rapid evolution of technology, The Smilist intends to remain agile and adaptable. The organization will continue to explore new tools and strategies that can further enhance patient care. “We're in a dental technology renaissance, and we want to focus on leveraging the best tools available to deliver a better patient experience,” says Philip.
In conclusion, Philip Toh's journey with The Smilist exemplifies how technology, when integrated with a patient-centric approach and a strong community culture, can revolutionize the dental care industry. By leveraging data, automation, and innovation, The Smilist paves the way for a future where dental practices can thrive while providing exceptional patient experiences.