Craig Haynor, Co-Founder and CEO of FeatherPay, joins the Group Dentistry Now Show to discuss the future of dental payments. This is an audio-only podcast.
Our discussion focuses on:
- How FeatherPay benefits practices
- The key insight that led him to start the company
- The importance of “consumerizing” the patient’s payment experience
- How FeatherPay drives efficiencies in practice operations
- Data-driven dental payment insights
You can also read two FeatherPay articles recently published on Group Dentistry Now:
- Tackling the Problem of Affordability in Dental Care
- The Digital Shift in Dental Payments: How to Tell if Your Practice is Ready
Our podcast series brings you dental support and emerging dental group practice analysis, conversation, trends, news and events. Listen to leaders in the DSO and emerging dental group space talk about their challenges, successes, and the future of group dentistry. The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice of the DSO Industry has listeners across North & South America, Australia, Europe, and Asia. If you like our show, tell a friend or a colleague.
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Hey, I’d like to welcome everyone to the Group Dentistry Now Show. I’m Bill Neumann, and as always, thanks for listening in. We appreciate it. Whether you’re on Spotify, Apple, Google, we definitely appreciate our audience. Without you, we wouldn’t get great guests like our next guests that we have here, Craig Haynor. He is the CEO and co-founder of FeatherPay. They are a healthcare billing and payment technology company, primarily focused in the oral healthcare space. So, Craig, welcome to the Group Dentistry Now Show.
Hey, Bill. Thanks for having me. It’s a pleasure and honor to be on the show.
Yeah, this is going to be a lot of fun. I really enjoy talking about technology that is influencing the group practice and dental space. And it’s something that technology’s here, and I think it’s overwhelming for a lot of our audience because there’s AI, and there’s this consumerization of dentistry. They’ve always been consumers, but I think now, we’re realizing that we have to treat them more like customers than patients. And I think dental practices and DSOs do it too, where you have to treat a patient like a customer and not just like a patient, and that’s, I think, where you can come in and talk about your solution and FeatherPay. So, would you mind talking a little bit about your background and just how you created FeatherPay and what it is?
Yeah, sure, Bill. So listen, my background is, in the last decade or so, 15 years, building e-commerce technologies and services, and a big component of that is meeting that consumer expectation on all points of a consumer journey. And so, fast forward. Here we are with FeatherPay, and FeatherPay fundamentally is a billing and payments platform. And so, we are a one-stop solution for practices seeking to consolidate all the ways they want to present and collect payment from patients, and so we can be deployed as a single, comprehensive platform or in parts for unique billing needs across any practice or DSO-size organization. We can accept any method of payment from cash, credit, check, debit, HSA, FSA, payment plans, third-party financing, buy now, pay later, ACH, and all the cool, modern, digital wallet stuff that we’re all using more and more these days, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Venmo.
And so, you think about, most importantly, what does all that mean when presented intuitively to patients at those points of care is we consumerize that payment experience for them, and ultimately, that makes it easier for patients to pay. And the net result of this, a couple years in, what we see with our practice customers is really three key benefits. One, financial improvements, so more payments lead to more revenue and profit. The second is significant operational cost savings, and so fewer vendor relationships, technologies, and services to support. And we often provide even lower merchant card processing rates for our customers. And then, lastly, back to that consumer side of things, we are a world-class patient experience. And to your point, Bill, it is a consumer experience that we’re all driving today, and this leads to happier, healthier patients, who are generally less prone to churn. And so, at a high level, that’s who we are, what we do, and how we add value.
So, wait. Step back a second. What do you see dental practices and DSOs doing now? How are they processing payments currently? And really, what does it look like when FeatherPay comes in, and how do you help organize and streamline that process? Because I’m kind of curious. I’m sure you’re seeing all sorts of different things out there and be great to hear what you’re seeing.
Yeah. So, for context, let’s briefly identify those ways practices, to your point, present and receive payment today. It’s generally before, during, and after care, just from a hierarchical perspective. So, before care, you can think case acceptance scenarios, out-of-pocket estimates, copays. During care is generally those ad hoc services that arise during a hygiene appointment, like teeth whitening or some emergency care we didn’t even realize we needed, as patients, because the pain wasn’t acute. And then, after care is, generally speaking, that long tail of patient AR liability that just happens. And so, you think about all those points of payment. These are often serviced, today, by numerous technologies and/or service providers. And so, for example, the scheduling tool might accept a credit card for copays, and the practice system, as we know, can swipe a credit card, generally at a front desk, for ad hoc services.
And many practices are outsourcing AR or have staff calling patients for collections, as time permits, and if a practice is taking payments on its website, it’s usually another, entirely separate, disconnected solution. And so, the answer to your question is they’re doing a lot of things, across a number of bespoke relationships, and so many technologies and services and those relationships, they all add up to a significant cost for a practice to manage. And it’s frankly untenable. And most acutely, on the cost side, to be clear, for example, is that each of those solutions is a unique, merchant credit card relationship and fee structure. And so because the practice cannot consolidate all of its card volume through one merchant services provider, it can’t negotiate the best rates, and further, some of those vendors we discussed, they have, let’s say, a soft monopoly and charge relatively high credit card processing rates.
But what can the practice do, if it needs that technology or service to deliver value to its patients? Our perspective is this whole situation is not very democratic, and it goes back to the insight we had, to start the business, which is let’s enable practices to take that power back, to consolidate their payments, to lower cost, to improve billing efficacy, to mix and match payment options on the fly, to drive specific outcomes in their business and practice, at a given point in time. That’s the power to the practice and the patients, as we look at it, how things work today and how they can work tomorrow with a solution like a FeatherPay, Bill.
That’s great. Yeah. So, some key insights. Why did you start the company? What were you thinking, and what did you see that … And why focus on dental?
Yeah. So, unlike many of the great guests you have on this podcast, we are outsiders. None of us came from oral health as a background or industry. We came at this as frustrated patients and parents of patients. Our observation was, at a high level, boy, it’s unnecessarily difficult to pay for care. And we thought to ourselves, look, the technologies exists in other industries and some segments of healthcare, to be clear. There’s got to be a better way, but for some reason, our observation was that those capabilities simply had not permeated into oral health. And so, as entrepreneurs and industry outsiders, we were and continue to be very humble in all we do not know about the space. In the first year, Bill, we took our time. We learned about practice operations. We met with practices, staff all across the organization. Within those, we learned a lot about the landscape of existing technologies and services most practices utilized.
We looked for the change management issues of adopting a new capability or technology like a FeatherPay so that we can understand how to gracefully implement that change and glide a product like ours in, with minimal disruption. And after about eight or 12 months of really getting to the whiteboard, our real insight was that most patient engagement platforms and practice systems, which drive most practice operations, to be clear, have not kept up with the pace of technological innovation found in other places. And so this, as a net result, has led to a significant disconnect between the patient’s expectations and practice capabilities, and so, Bill, to be clear, we observe that this is no fault of the practice. In fact, most of the practices we met and meet today want to innovate on that patient experience. They want to meet that patient expectation, but unfortunately, given the tools they have to work with today, their hands are tied. And Bill, that is really why this company exists.
Frustrated patients, I like that, and parents of patients. Talk about the importance of consumerizing. Talk about that patient payment experience. Why does it matter so much?
Yeah, Bill, this may be the critical question and not just for oral health, to be clear. This is a big opportunity, not problem, opportunity all over the place. And so, think about it abstractly. All of us, as consumers, as people, we’re all so busy with our lives. We have so many competing interests for our valuable and finite time, so in practical terms, this means that patient engagement with technologies and services must be great. And when we say great, in this context, what we mean is, we got to meet patients where they are, conveniently, in their time and space, on their device of choice, and most importantly, we must enable them to pay for care in the way that is most convenient for them. And as most of us know today, based on the conversation we just had about technologies and capabilities today, practices are unfortunately not able to meet that expectation.
And so, there are knock-on effects of that, and there’s data out there on this. And we looked at one study that showed about 50% of patients polled said they would leave a healthcare provider over a poor payment experience, and incredibly, 20% already had. When you think about that, that data, it’s shocking when you consider it just for a couple of locations, let alone a large DSO, at scale. So, you take that data at face value, and you sort of think about how a practice can appreciably reduce patient churn simply by innovating in that patient billing and payment experience. It’s just too great an opportunity for us, and so subsequently, we thought about it from an enterprise perspective, that getting this right will yield, for these practices, a fundamentally more durable practice and business that’s more attractive for investment and acquisition. So, there’s a lot at stake here, and it all boils back down to really nailing that patient consumer expectation through a technology like FeatherPay.
A lot of our audience would be interested in finding out about the efficiencies. How is FeatherPay driving efficiency in the practice or the practices? How does that work? And I’d love to hear your thoughts on, you’ve got … especially of office managers, front desk people, that are really the ones that would be handling this payment processing. Let’s talk a little bit about that, and we’ve got the turnover issues where you’ve got staff coming in and out everywhere, but in dental practices, in particular. So also, maybe not just on the efficiency side, but talk about the ease of use because, again, you have some people coming in from outside the industry that have no idea, maybe coming from a retail environment, maybe not. So, I’d love to hear your perspective on that.
So, a couple thoughts on that, and what I’ll weave into here, some data-driven insights that we’ve learned, a few years in. And so, back to the point about how does it work today? It’s so many bespoke technologies and services, and to your point, staff turnover and training, it’s a very, very costly exercise. And so, our approach to this has always been to bring as much of those capabilities into as intuitive a software interface and layer as you can. And so, with some case data to really answer the question about various practice staff operations and what can be beneficial, in terms of a product like a FeatherPay, a few things that might be insightful. We delivered, through a case study we did recently with one of our customers, 7 to 7 Dental, down in San Antonio, Texas. By the way, big shout out to an amazing and forward-thinking, patient consumer-centric team.
And so, 7 to 7’s intention with FeatherPay was really twofold. First, to simply and intuitively present all the ways their patients can pay for care, in one, simple interface, delivered ideally remotely to a mobile device, before care is delivered. And then, secondarily, to simplify the administrative burden for staff across all those billing and payment related activities. And so, after about 90 days, we saw a few different things that were pretty beneficial, and a lot of this maps back to practice operations. First and foremost, to that point, is they experienced a roughly $100,000 annualized labor cost reduction by reducing those numbers of disparate solutions and billing and payment-related vendor relationships. They brought things like refunds, across all method of payment, into one, central interface, as opposed to doing that across eight different locations and three or four different people. They consolidated that down to one person, who could do it from one place.
Second thing they saw was, now that they could simply and easily present all the ways patients can accept care, and a specifically remotely in a case-acceptance scenario decision, they saw a 27% increase in collected revenue. They also saw a 10% increase in same-day care, and again, that’s by that easy means for the patient to pay, in chair, by the way, for ad hoc services and to really think through some of the higher-cost treatment plans, in an instrument and experience that presented all those ways they could pay. And then, lastly, and this is my favorite data point that we gleaned here, as a bit of a productivity nerd, they saw a 13% increase in productivity, in terms of patient time in practice. So, they effectively reduced patient time in practice by over 13%. So, what that means is, there was more vacancy in chairs, which meant they could schedule more patients. That’s just math. More chairs, more vacancies is more patients and more productivity and more revenue for the practice.
And so, you sort of wrap all that up, and you say, “Now, people, in-practice staff, have less interfaces and technologies and service providers to engage with, so they’re just more productive folks across all these various ways that you want to present and collect payment from patient.” And then, on the patient productivity side, you see a faster patient experience in practice. You see more payments up front, before the patient is even in the practice, which by the way, increases their likelihood to show up for that appointment. And you see higher revenues and ultimately profits to the practice because of all that.
Talk to some of the people in our audience that are managing these office managers, front desk people, regional managers, COOs. Do you have a dashboard? So, is there a way for them to measure how effective FeatherPay is at the practice level? As they start to scale up, you might have somebody that has 10 locations, 50 locations. How does that work?
So, there’s a lot of data wrapped up in billing and payments, and we do a couple different ways we come at this. We provide what we call an executive overview, which is, okay, point in time. What’s happening in the practice? And remember, we’re not talking about insurance. We’re talking about over-the-counter payments. This is cash. This is fundamental to the flows of cash flow into the business, and so we provide that summary view at a glance. Which is to say, your practice leader, your person responsible for these parts of the business, can log in and very simply see how am I getting paid? Through which payment methods? What will flow into my sweep accounts, overnight tomorrow, so I can pay my bills and continue to invest in practice operations, staff, etc?
We also have very granular views on things like the AR capability, numbers of AR invoices sent, numbers of statements collected on, how are patients paying, time to payment, so you get an effective understanding of the productivity of some of those remote and digital points of engagement that all of us, as patient consumer, want more of today so that you can think about, how do I optimize that? And optimizing may mean one thing, for one practice, and a different thing for another.
And when you think about the ability to have all of those various ways I talked about FeatherPay can collect payment, cash, credit, check, financing, etc, etc, you have the ability to customize your payment stack granularly, down to the location level, to drive the most effective outcome, whether it’s top-line conversion, say, of high-cost treatment plans or profitability for AR and billing in collections. You can do that, now, in one, central interface, and our dashboard drives the insights that provide the action for you to go and do that. That capability, both the insight and the ability to, on the fly, change your payment stack does not exist in this industry, outside of FeatherPay. We’re very proud of that piece of our business.
So, yeah. This is pretty interesting. You’re really the only ones out there, doing anything like this in dental, right now. What’s been the reception? Is it something that is … Obviously, from a patient perspective, it’s needed. I would bet the office managers and the front desk people are thrilled to have a solution like this. I’d love to get your feedback for what are people saying? You talked about 7 to 7. What are some of the other customers out there saying about a solution like this?
Sure. So, a quote I heard, a few weeks ago, was, “Where have you been all our lives?” It was pretty interesting. Yeah, look. Feedback overall, very, very good. The one thing, and I want to be balanced in this answer to you and be intellectually honest, the way practice operations are today is how they have generally been for over a decade. So, whenever you implement a technology, and it’s not just us. There are many out there who are exploring the space and bringing new capabilities into practice operations. It’s a change management exercise, and so it’s not doing more work. It’s doing different work and yielding, on net, a more productive workflow, generally, but you still have that moment of new training, new capabilities that you can bring into the practice.
Now, when we thought about how do you take the jujitsu, if you will, of change management fear and pain and turn that into positive momentum back to the practice, what we do is, we work with our customers and practices to help them understand not necessarily how you’ve done things and how we are slightly different, but how you have done things and how much is changing for that patient and staff expectation, in terms of capabilities and workflow, and how our technology can totally unleash how you can run your business.
I am humbled and honored, every month, hearing two or three different, anecdotal data points from our customers, on how they’re using the technology to create a patient experience that we never would’ve thought of. So, it very, very well received overall, and as I said, I want to be balanced and say that this industry, like many others, is going through significant change and disruption, and so with that comes some headwinds.
Sure. Yeah. That’s very honest, and it’s a great point. I think a lot of it hinges on that education. So, how do you onboard? How do you educate? How do you make the team feel comfortable with this? Could you talk a little bit about that? What does it look like when somebody’s onboarded? What does that process look like? Hey, we’re interested. Let’s get it going. So, what happens after that?
Yeah, look, from an onboarding perspective, pretty straightforward. So, we’re a technology company. We’re going to work with you on how you’d like to deploy our capabilities, and as I said, we’re a holistic, end-to-end platform, or we’re modular. Some folks may approach us, and they just want to simplify and digitize that AR experience and get off the phones and be sending text messages. We can do all that very simply. So, the training and onboarding is a little bit different, based upon the scope of how a practice may want to deploy us.
But from a numbers perspective, we can sign with a customer, go through training, onboarding, setup, the merchant underwriting for credit card, and be up and running in one to two weeks, in an ideal scenario.
Sometimes, it can take a little bit longer, just corralling the kittens, if you will, across numerous locations and training and getting everybody in the same room together. But generally speaking, all things running on all six to eight cylinders, we can be set up in less than a month, for most practices.
This is great, Craig. All right, so if people want to find out more about this, because I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of folks, whether they’re the doctor-owners of some small groups or operations CFOs, how can they find out more about FeatherPay? How can they get in touch with you or one of your team members to get a demo and see if this is a solution that may work? And it sounds like it’s not one size fits all, so somebody may want to use one piece that FeatherPay offers initially, right?
Email me anytime, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go to our website, click on the schedule a demo link. I personally conduct all initial discovery and product demonstration meetings, and so as I said previously, we’re humbled and inspired by this amazing industry and the folks that are operating it. And I personally love meeting and learning more through the folk that are doing that hard work, day in and day out. So, that’s how you can reach me and us, and we’d love to learn more about practice issues and opportunities, so please, reach out.
Okay. So remember, that’s featherpay.io. We’ll drop the URL in the show notes and Craig’s email address in the show notes, as well, and reach out to him. And they have a couple of great, educational pieces that they’ve done with us on Group Dentistry Now, so I’ll make sure we link those up in the show notes, so you have access to those. But Craig Haynor, CEO of FeatherPay, thanks for joining us today. And as always, thanks, everybody, for listening in to the Group Dentistry Now Show. Until next time, I’m Bill Neumann. Appreciate you listening in.