Tomorrow’s scheduling today
Let’s start in the front office. Office managers and care coordinators aren’t just a pivotal point of contact for the customer; they’re a pivotal part of the business. They collect payments, book follow-up appointments, and ensure the dentist’s time is being applied efficiently. But the traditional manual chart audits, scheduling, recall and marketing process that practices employ generally result in suboptimal patient retention, lead generation, and chair usage.
With an AI boost, front office staff can:
Turbo-charge their daily efforts to bring more patients with real treatment needs into the office and more same-day treatment,
leading to improved practice-wide patient health and better financial outcomes for the practice.
Roshan Parikh, DDS, former head of dentistry for Walmart and a strategy consultant for DSOs, has seen first-hand how practices that are using AI to make clinically-informed business management decisions are benefiting.
“They look at tomorrow’s schedule and see, Roshan is coming in at 8 a.m. He needs two crowns done but they we’re treatment planned for whatever reason. Because AI can flag that before the patient comes in, the clinical staff can be ready to deliver same day treatment – leave more time on the doctors schedule, make sure supplies are on hand,”
Roshan Parikh, DDS, president of dntl bar and former head of Walmart Dental.
Without AI, the scenario that Parikh describes would have required a tremendous amount of foresight –– not to mention clinical insight –– on the part of the office staff. AI performs that work automatically. Naturally, the same kind of AI business intelligence software can also automate more the traditional chart auditing efforts that go into prep for patient visits, providing, at a glance, information on which procedures are scheduled, what’s been deferred, what’s already been approved by the insurance company, and how much time the practitioner typically needs to complete it.“
You know if the person who has the 12 o’clock appointment needs to get her crowns done today because her insurance terminates tomorrow and she’s on a fixed income,” Parikh explained.
Merrit Dake, CEO of Rock Dental Brands, a network of dentist offices in Little Rock, Ala., calls those “efficiency gains.” Dake said those gains lead both to better patient care and to cost reduction. “Very often people come back for something that was missed or they didn't have enough time that day and now it has festered into an issue.”
Optimized call lists that prioritize urgent cases can get patients the care they need before it festers while ensuring the dentist’s schedule isn’t complicated by the need to treat an unforeseen issue.
“You can win the day easier and with less brain pain using the data you already have,” Roshan said.
The back office, back in black
For high-level insights, when diagnostic AI is applied across a practice or a DSO’s entire patient population, then cross-referenced with a PMS, these systems allow practice owners to assess quality of care, make staffing and purchasing decisions, and adopt more strategic lead generation practices.
AI can, for example, see if a particular dental assistant is responsible for a majority of the inadequate digital impressions that result in restorations getting returned and remade. Equipped with that insight, the practice might arrange for a refresher bootcamp on proper intraoral scanner operation. Or, if the AI software detects a rise in patients with malocclusion or missing teeth, the practice might consider getting Invisalign-certified or bringing in an implant specialist one day each week.
“If you’re thinking about adding a periodontist versus an oral surgeon or an orthodontist, you can look at what percentage of your current active patients have missing teeth or proposed implants versus what percentage have malocclusion,” said Parikh.
In the future, those technologies might also allow new providers or clinical support staff to take on more responsibility, because technology is providing a guiding hand, said Dake. In some cases, hygienists or assistants might be able to do a simple filling, as some can in Arizona, lowering staffing costs for practice owners and plugging a talent gap. “I think the biggest issue right now is that there are not enough providers for the people,” Dake said.
When less experienced staff can take over routine treatments, costs are lowered overall, more patients are able to get care and dentists are able to focus on more complicated and more costly procedures, improving ROI on the providers delivering the care that most demands their expertise.
And just as call lists can be optimized to get patients with urgent treatment needs in the door before their conditions worsen, they can also be optimized specifically toward recalling candidates for higher-value treatment. A computer vision system linked to a PMS can surface patients who have been putting off big-ticket treatments––treatments that, thanks to AI diagnostic validation, insurance carriers will approve and patients can trust.
“The AI would already populate with some confidence what the pathologies are within the X-rays. I can look at these findings as a reference before I see the patient and feel very confident when I say, ‘You need two crowns and two fillings,’ that their insurance company is likely to agree,” Parikh said.
This is particularly true in conjunction with Ai-assisted payer workflow. “The treatment plan has these blue check boxes where the procedure codes are and when the AI on the carrier side sees the X-rays, I can be pretty sure it’s going to see what my AI system saw and notify the carrier that the treatment is warranted, so I can tell the patients with a high degree of confidence that they’re not going to get balance billed. And naturally patients are much more likely to accept treatment when they know that their insurance is covering it. In a way, this takes a lot of antagonism out of the provider-carrier relationship: The treatment isn’t just recommended because I see it. The AI had verified it for both me and the carrier. So we’re all three sitting at the same side of the table.”
Not only do these clinically-qualified leads fuel high-performance recall and reactivation campaigns, they facilitate a steady stream of referrals to specialty office. Plus, when speciality offices employ these technologies, the referral stream can flow both ways––something that doesn’t frequently occur in the traditional dental care workflow. This builds goodwill among generalists and specialists that can increase the volume of new patients for both categories of providers.