The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice of the DSO Industry – Episode 32

Rudy Wolf joins the podcast to discuss how DSOs are in a unique position to thrive during this challenging time. He talks about improved focus, instilling confidence in providers, understanding that quality of output is paramount through improved clinical diagnostic skills, and the principles of a valued retail experience for the patient. If you are grappling along on the path to recovery and want to take control and focus on value, this podcast is for you!

Rudy Wolf Jr. is the Director of Sales, Strategic Accounts for Planmeca USA leading the team that supports the group practice, government, institutional, and education business segments. Rudy has over 15 years serving the dental community including as Henry Schein Regional Manager from the Greater Denver area and most recently as the Zone General Manager for Henry Schein in the Southeast. Rudy has served his local community as a member the board of directors of the Dental Lifeline Network and Kids In Need of Dentistry and his nation as a United States Marine. Contact Rudy Wolf – [email protected] or visit https://info.planmecausa.com/grouppractices/

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.

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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Bill Neumann:

I’d like to welcome everyone to The Group Dentistry Now Show. I’m Bill Neumann, and our guest today is Rudy Wolf. Rudy is with Planmeca. Rudy, welcome to The Group Dentistry Now Show.

Rudy Wolf:

Thank you, Bill. Glad to be here.

Bill Neumann:

Glad to have you. So Rudy Wolf Jr. is the Director of Sales, Strategic Accounts, for Planmeca USA. He leads the team that supports the group practice, government, institutional and educational business. Rudy has over 15 years serving the dental community, and he was with Henry Schein prior to being at Planmeca, as a regional manager for the greater Denver area, and most recently, as the zone general manager for Henry Schein in the southeast. Rudy has served his local community as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dental Lifeline Network, we have that in common, and Kids in Need of Dentistry, and he has served our nation as a United States Marine.

Bill Neumann:

So first, thanks for your service to the country, Rudy. We appreciate that.

Rudy Wolf:

Thank you.

Bill Neumann:

Rudy, tell us a little bit about Planmeca. I mean, I think most people here know who Planmeca is, but they might not know all the products and services that Planmeca offers. And then maybe after that, tell us a little bit about your special markets team.

Rudy Wolf:

Sure. Thanks again, Bill, for having us. Greatly appreciate it. But Planmeca is based in Helsinki, Finland, and Planmeca is typically known as a technology company. But Planmeca is also an entire office, so chairs, cabinetry, Steri-Center, things like that.

Rudy Wolf:

We are very focused on building relationships with our customers, so understanding what they are looking for, and so we listen to what they look for. A lot of development goes into our product. About 10% of our annual revenue goes back into R&D. We’ve got over a hundred engineers over there in Finland, 500 global patents, and continuity of ownership since since 1971. So the same gentlemen has owned since 1971. Planmeca here in the USA, we’re we’re based in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, so just outside Chicago, and very unique in the fact that we are the largest privately held company in the dental industry.

Rudy Wolf:

So a little bit about the special markets team that we have at Planmeca. Planmeca’s focused over the past year on building this team out in this important space in the dental industry. So we’ve built a team of a few folks, one person in the east, Greg [Petroski 00:03:00], who spent some time at a competitor of Planmeca and understands the industry very, very well. And then somebody in the west, named Darci Wingard, who understands the group practice space and what they go through on a regular basis. And then we’ve rolled in the education and government team as well.

Bill Neumann:

That’s great. Well, it sounds like Planmeca in the past year, two years, has really started to double down and focus in the group practice DSO space.

Rudy Wolf:

No, absolutely. It’s been a big focus as the industry has changed a little bit and groups have become more prominent. It’s something we’re dedicated to in the years to come.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, that’s great. And so we’re going to talk a lot about what you’re experiencing with your DSO and emerging group customers, what you see, whether it’s maybe not necessarily out there in the field, but through Zoom meetings and talking virtually to some of your DSO and group customers.

Bill Neumann:

So let’s, I mean, we have to address the elephant in the room, I guess, which is the COVID-19 crisis, and really how it’s changed the way not just people do dentistry or DSOs do dentistry, but every industry’s really had to make a shift. So we do look at DSO and how they’re really uniquely positioned, but there’s been some damage done to the industry. I mean, practices have been closed down, maybe just emergency only versus the hygiene checkups, so trying to get patients back now to the practices safely.

Bill Neumann:

But let’s talk about your thoughts on that, from a marketing perspective. How do you get in more patients? Is it about more patients? Let’s talk a little bit about what you’re seeing.

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah, sure. No, so I think everybody’s focused on those challenges, right? The instability, everybody’s trying to regroup after, I don’t know, six or eight weeks of lost production. That’s been a big deal for many, and they’re seeing the fall schedule empty. So patients are … There’s a fear in patients of, “Hey, do I come back?” The patient population has that fear of coming back to the dentist. And I get it. We can’t deny that there’s been things, losses in the production or in the community.

Rudy Wolf:

When you think about systemic health and there’s a big community of people that have systemic health issues, and how do we treat those? But when you asked me how I think groups can get back into that, I think it has to do with stop looking at waves. I think people are looking at waves of the business, and in the fall, what’s going to happen as kids go back to school and patients go back to work? What does that look like? And what does that wave … I think we need to focus on what we can do now, what we can do right now with our current patient base.

Rudy Wolf:

So do we need more patients? Most people think we do. We need more patients. I think you don’t necessarily need more patients. You need to do more care. So we need to embrace different levels of care. We need to nurture the clinicians and the staff that we currently have and the talents that they have, and give them the tools to better diagnose. If we can provide them with better tools to diagnose, that will lead to more advancement in treatments, it could lead to more dentistry within the practice and taking care of the patients that we currently have.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So the patients that are coming back, that aren’t fearful, how do you make sure that your clinicians are engaged? Talk a little about that. And then at the DSO level, how your clinicians are more productive with those patients, what are you seeing there and how do you help guide them?

Rudy Wolf:

Well, I think every group dedicates a lot of time to recruiting and finding the right clinicians. So are you putting your team in a position that they can diagnose things to be able to produce that dentistry? Do they have inferior equipment or incorrect equipment for the purpose? Or from a workflow standpoint, do they have the proper equipment for workflow so that they’re able to maintain things?

Rudy Wolf:

And remember, a lot of it’s about confidence and it’s about building that confidence over time. When they have adequately trained staff that are comfortable with technology, they appreciate the value of increased views of anatomy in a 3D image, or maybe it’s same day dentistry, there are a lot of things that can be done to treat more dentistry within that group practice space.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Let’s tie into that. So we’re talking about comfort with technology, diagnosing. So where are the opportunities for investment that really yield return? Because we know, okay, we haven’t had patients in for six, eight weeks, this year is probably not going to be like 2019. So if we’re going to invest, where are the smartest investments and how are we going to yield that return quickly?

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah, no, so good question. For Planmeca, our approach is a little bit differently in that we serve a full solution of integrated dentistry, I’ll call it. But ongoing support, education, we partner with our dealer partners, and creating a culture in commitment to reinvesting. As I mentioned before, a lot of what we do, we improve products and we’re obligated to improve those products. We’re not obligated to stakeholders. As I mentioned, privately owned company since 1971 with that continuity and ownership. So we don’t offer silos of standalone hardware or equipment. We provide smart offices.

Rudy Wolf:

And just some examples, the Compact I3, so the Planmeca Compact i3 is a unit that it could indicate to the hygienist the last time it had been flushed, centralized infection control dashboard to help in a corporate quality control. When you look at dental chairs, they’re programmed to personal settings for the dentist, so for them to be programmed to be able to come into any operatory, to be able to produce dentistry, repeating that across any location. Or built-in connectivity, protocols or maintaining consistent, repeatable care across locations for the patients, so no matter what location a patient visits, they’re going to receive that same care.

Rudy Wolf:

But if you talk about enhancing the patient experience, I think that’s the big thing, is the patient experience. As I stated before, the patients see a big value now in their everyday life. They’re smarter, they’re able to research, they able to do things and figure out what technology is best for them, whether it’s in their retail life, it’s dentistry or whatever the case may be. So what better form of service or value could you do for them to respect that time, than same day dentistry? So if you could scan, you can mill in one visit with a Planmeca FIT system, does that help the patient? Does that perceive value? And practitioners know the ability and they can easily improve patient confidence this way, and bringing back a smile in a single visit, really. If they have the confidence, results will increase productivity, more dentistry and better dentistry for the patient.

Rudy Wolf:

But Planmeca has some proprietary technology that I’ll hit on real quickly, built into 3D imaging. And a few of those that I’d like to just mention or talk about is the Planmeca CALM technology, Planmeca Ultra Low Dose, and then the extraoral bitewing. So I’m not sure if you’re familiar with those, but every dental assistant, as you probably know, when they take an X-ray, they basically have one opportunity to get a really good shot. Many factors can inhibit this, whether it’s movement or whatever the case may be, but it slows down the appointment time, slowing productivity, reducing the amount of dentistry that they can see with substandard views of the anatomy or whatever the case may be.

Rudy Wolf:

But retakes cost time, or cost time and money. And so most importantly, though, it’s repeated radiation if they have to take that again. So Planmeca CALM technology, it’s an algorithm that corrects patient movement in the CBCT acquisition, in order to get a precise image with just taking one shot. So there’s no need for repeated takes, repeated radiation to the patient. And this can be difficult at times.

Bill Neumann:

I think that’s a really important point. I mean, if we focus on that for a second, I mean, one of the unfortunate outcomes of COVID is that you have a lot of dental assistants and hygienists that aren’t necessarily coming back to work. So you’re training new dental assistants, and to have a product like CALM, where the learning curve is less, that there’s less user error, chance of user error, I think those are the types of things that really need to be considered going forward, as you’re training this new generation of assistants and hygienists to use equipment.

Rudy Wolf:

No, you’re absolutely right, Bill. That CALM technology is something that Planmeca, again, developing to help the patients, to help the staff, the ease of use, to be able to get that shot in just one take. But when you think about that, if you don’t have a technology like that and you don’t get a proper image, you’re now re-exposing the patient to more radiation. Not only the patient, but then you’ve got staff and things like that.

Rudy Wolf:

So to your point, definitely, as patients or staff comes in, if there are turnover with assistants or hygienists not coming back into practices right now, how do you get them up and running as quickly as possible so that your practices are? And that technology can absolutely help them.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. So let’s talk a little bit about expectations. So what are you hearing out there? So what are your thoughts, and then what are you hearing from some of your customers, the DSOs, and maybe some of the smaller groups? What do they think is a realistic recovery? What are they seeing? What’s the expectation throughout the year?

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah, you know, it ranges across the board. We work with groups from three to 10 locations, all the way up to the larger DSOs that are hundreds of locations. So it varies. I will tell you that those groups that were heavily involved in communication with patients, educating them on either technologies that they’ve purchased throughout the past few months to help in reducing radiation, reducing the infection control concern, those are the practices that have excelled or gotten back to pre-COVID type numbers.

Rudy Wolf:

So it varies. I will tell you, 89% is probably where a lot of people say, “Hey, if I can get back to there.” We do have a few groups that are back up into pre-COVID numbers, and there are some groups that we’ve talked to that haven’t necessarily gotten there yet, but they’re for looking ways to do that. So how do they do that? Through some of the technologies that we have, that they can build that value and that confidence between them and the patient, we truly believe that we can help them in that space.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. So I mean, you’re working with a lot of these groups now. I mean, you’re on … So you’re working specifically with the education of the clinicians, the clinical operators, right? But then you’re also working with the C-level negotiations as well. So kind of everything from the negotiations down to, “Hey, this is how you use our products.”

Bill Neumann:

Any other insights you can give us as far as what you’re seeing, maybe some tips of those DSOs that are at that 100% or close to that 100% of where they were pre-COVID?

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah. I think it goes back to that value and understanding the value. When you think about procurement in a group space, they’ll concur that it’s not always about price. Planmeca doesn’t sell on price or anything. The stability for the group to reap that benefit and extending that value to the patient, comes with items that we talked about, the CALM technology, comes with the Ultra Low Dose. How do they get that value or perceived value to the patient? So how does the patient see that?

Rudy Wolf:

We have a partnership that we’ve created, not just with our dealers, but we want to have a smooth ramp up. So you talk about that CALM technology or things that can make things easier for offices to get back up and running. But what is that value that you bring to the patients? And if patients are a little nervous about coming back, and we talked about earlier, do you need new patients, or do you need to focus on those existing patients you have? What does that wave look like as the fall hits here and kids go back to school? Who knows what’s really going to happen. So if we focus on what we can do now … But I truly believe some of those things that I mentioned earlier can provide a unique offering and value to the practice.

Bill Neumann:

Well, let’s pivot a little bit here. I mean, this is … What we hear a lot is, you want to fill the books with more appointments, right? So it’s always about more. More patients, more appointments. We touched on it a little bit earlier. It’s not necessarily more patients, although that would be nice. It’s about the patients that are comfortable coming in, how do we make sure they’re diagnosed correctly, right?

Rudy Wolf:

Sure.

Bill Neumann:

And efficiently. Let’s talk a little bit though about instilling confidence among the practitioners to get them to understand that it’s the quality of their output that matters. So a lot of that has to do about the diagnosing the patients correctly. So talk about what you see, and then of course, how Planmeca can help.

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah. So I think the output is important. When you talk about not as many new patients, but there is an existing patient base, I truly believe it’s capturing the dentistry or seeing the dentistry that we’re not quite seeing yet. The fact that with a Planmeca product, you could take a 3D image for less dose than sometimes a PA, now you have more information to be able to treat the patient. So what are we missing outside of just taking a PA? Which is useful at many, many times in everyday practice, but if we can take an image with lower dose, with that CALM Technology that we mentioned, so we don’t have to retake or anything.

Rudy Wolf:

Or we could take extraoral bitewings. How do we use that technology to build patient confidence and to see more dentistry? Again, I think it’s about seeing more and you’re able to do more. Does that mean more appointments? It could, but it could be the patients that we’re just not treating yet because we don’t quite see that dentistry.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. So let me put you on the spot. So what does more mean? So what more can you see with some of this technology that you might not be able to see, when we talk about diagnosing better?

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah. So when you look at extraoral bitewings for instance, exclusive to the ProMax or Viso systems, but they can be as effective as diagnosing caries as a standard bitewing, to a patient of all ages. So we have people that use extraoral bitewings on pedo patients, all the way up to adults, but they’re able to see those caries without having to go into the mouth, put a sensor in the mouth and take an X-ray. So you’re reducing potential infection, and in the world we live in now, which is a little different than before, so can we use that technology to do that?

Rudy Wolf:

It’s more dentistry. If I can, again, as I mentioned before, take a 3D image and I can see more, whether it’s bone loss, whether there’s any other issues, underlying issues, that we might not see, and it could be all aspects of dentistry, as we talked about earlier, are we giving the clinicians or their staff … They spend a lot of time recruiting and finding the right staff, are we giving them the proper tools to be able to diagnose? And so doesn’t mean that you have to do an implant or you have to do and/or whatnot? But you might be able to see more dentistry if you’re able to see a larger field with lower dose, in that Ultra Low Dose protocol, and being able to produce more dentistry.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. That’s great. I mean, I think it’s to your point a little bit about the extraoral bitewings, and the DSOs I think are positioned well to actually not just use technology like that, but to convey to the patients and the staff, the safety factor.

Rudy Wolf:

Sure.

Bill Neumann:

So that can sometimes be taken for granted if you’re used to the technology, but it’s important, especially with what’s going on, that it’s conveyed that, “Hey, we are using this and maybe other practices aren’t. This is the reason we’re doing this, and this is safer for you as a patient.” And as maybe a new dental assistant or a hygienist.

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure you’ve had conversations around aerosols and things like that. And perfect example, not in dental, but I was playing tennis last night with an anesthesiologist and he was talking about a child patient that he went in to see, and they were rushing because the child wasn’t doing well, but it was the exposure of aerosols.

Rudy Wolf:

So when you’re using some of the equipment that we use in an everyday practice nowadays, how can we reduce or mitigate that risk as much as possible? Again, I think it goes back to that patient-perceived value and what you’re doing to protect them. And if you can do that, that’s where a lot of those groups have gotten back to that 80, 90, or even back to pre-COVID numbers.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, that’s important. So here’s another question here. You manufacture dental equipment, and a lot of other things as well, so how does Planmeca really synergize the relationship? So quality output, increased confidence, which we talked a little bit about, actually a good bit about, and then let’s talk about profitability, patient experience.

Bill Neumann:

We don’t have it mentioned here in my notes, but I also think it’s not just about patient experience, it’s also now, I think, about comfort level of staff. I think that’s something that we continue to see bubble up here, is staff not necessarily feeling comfortable. So is there a way, from a safety perspective, where you have newer staff that maybe isn’t comfortable with with using technology? So how does Planmeca really can wrap everything around … It’s not just about the technology, it’s about how do you educate, how do you make people feel comfortable, patients and staff?

Bill Neumann:

So talk a little bit about that. What’s the education process look like? What do you do in the special markets team and maybe some other people at Planmeca?

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah. So with groups, Planmeca, we serve a full solution around dentistry, integrated dentistry, ongoing support. So it’s something that we have in Chicago or in Hoffman Estates, as well as down in Dallas, Texas. So the ongoing support is there for you. And then we partner with our dealer partners for education. This is a culture that at Planmeca, it is a commitment to educating and to support for our customers. We want them to use the technology. As you mentioned, we have technologies that can help staff get up and running quickly. So those staff that are coming in, and when you talk about some of the things I mentioned earlier, with CALM or with our Autofocus technology, those are some things that can help staff to get up and running very, very quickly.

Rudy Wolf:

But we have an extensive ongoing support. Some of the things we do with groups, we’re very flexible in the way we train groups. Our Ultra Low Dose, we do have a certification for Ultra Low Dose for groups. So we do a certification for them in order to provide them with the best experience possible and to educate them on why that low dose, but getting as much information as possible, is better dentistry or better for the patient. So there are some things that that we do, and again, as I mentioned, being flexible to education is something we have.

Rudy Wolf:

We’ve brought on recently in the past year or two, as we’ve grown this team out more at Planmeca, is a person dedicated to the education space of groups. So they’re dedicated to that, whether it’s educating on site, we do webinar based trainings, we do weekly coaching and check-ins. There’s a whole sort of training that we do to support the groups.

Bill Neumann:

That’s great. I’ll just tag onto this a little bit here. We just released a survey we did of DSOs, from a procurement perspective, and I think the number was 65 DSOs that we surveyed globally, so it was most of North America, but there were European and the UK as well. And we look at, why did you choose certain products? It’s not price. Price was certainly important, but it was quality, education. Those two things in particular were at the top of the list.

Bill Neumann:

So it’s important to take a look at how do you back things up? It’s great if you have a great price point, but if you don’t know how to use something-

Rudy Wolf:

No, absolutely.

Bill Neumann:

.. really not a lot of value. I always go back to, hey, it’s patient safety, patient comfort. Production’s important, but again, it’s something that I don’t necessarily think has been thought about until COVID, is what’s the comfort level with your staff? How comfortable are they to use the product, convey to the patients the safety factor, and do they feel safe? So that’s going to be going forward for quite a while, I’m going to guess, is going to be as important as patient safety.

Rudy Wolf:

No, absolutely.

Bill Neumann:

All right, got a couple more questions here and then we can wrap this up a little bit. So again, let’s just … Any more points along how does a DSO … Most of them are struggling right now, not all, but a lot of them still are, so let’s talk about financial and clinical interests of a group. How do you get them to align as they start to recover?

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah, so as I mentioned before, and you just mentioned based on your survey that you did, and 65%, I mean, procurements, they’ll concur with you that it’s not all about price and it’s not always about price, but it’s about the stability of the group and how can they keep things up and running, the value that comes with that. How are you able to see more or do more dentistry?

Rudy Wolf:

We have added value with Planmeca. The partnership, as I mentioned before, with our dealer partners, we want to ensure a smooth ramp up for the office. The quality of equipment, you talk about warranty, things like that, we want them to maintain productivity. I mentioned education. We do customize things there, but we have a unique offering, I believe, to bring that added value to an ongoing relationship in order to serve the group of all sizes. I think these groups are looking for things to be more efficient, to reduce the risk to patients and to their staff. How can their staff be more efficient and effective in what they do on an everyday basis?

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, so I appreciate you summing all that up here. I want to bring out this last point here, because as I take a look at this, it’s interesting. Really, Planmeca is one of the organizations that hasn’t been silent. There’ve been a lot of companies, and maybe we’ve moved from the DSO and the group talk to what’s going on in the manufacturer and distribution side side of the business.

Bill Neumann:

I mean, there’s been a lot of change. A lot of layoffs, a lot of furloughs. Planmeca has really been, it seems like you’ve almost been prepared for this. Certainly you didn’t know COVID was going to happen, but you haven’t been silent. If anything, it seems to me like you’ve really been out there trying to help educate, assist the DSOs. Let’s talk a little bit about that because I mean, I know a lot of other organizations have been a lot quieter. They’re almost in protection mode just trying to stay safe, and you’ve really been out there.

Rudy Wolf:

Yeah, no, absolutely, Bill. Our marketing and education team has done a phenomenal job over the past few months in providing education to our client base, as well as those that are just in the industry. How do we do things just better for the patients or better for the staff throughout these trying times? So it’s been tough, there’s no doubt about that, but I believe that the weekly webinars and seminars that we’ve done and bringing in top radiologists to educate staff, educate doctors, to talk about Steri-enters and instrumentation on how we can help from a better dentistry as we overcome these challenging times.

Rudy Wolf:

So we absolutely have been prepared, I believe. The creation of the Steri-Center is something that Planmeca did years ago, and multiple sites, and a synchronization of multiple sites with third-party software in the Romexis platform, we’ve done a phenomenal job of trying to educate the staff, the doctors, and people in the industry on what’s going on and where we can help them. So we haven’t been silent, that’s for sure. And you mentioned, it’s unfortunate some of the other layoffs and things that have happened, we’ve been pretty good. We’ve had to do some slight things here and there, but with the leadership of Ed McDonough, our President, we’ve done a great job of really keeping the team together and doing as much as we can to help in the industry.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. That’s great, and certainly is appreciated. So Rudy, I’m going to let you, you’ll have the final word here. So anything you want to do to sum this up? I appreciate your time today.

Rudy Wolf:

No, Bill. Thank you very much. We appreciate the time also. No, we’re here for groups and we love partnering with them. We’re here to help you weather that storm and to thrive through any disruption. As I mentioned before, there are going to be some waves, but if we can focus on what we can do now … We are here to help, and please reach out if you have any questions. But Bill, thank you very much for your time.

Bill Neumann:

Sure. Thank you. Again, Rudy Wolf from Planmeca USA. I am Bill Neumann with Group Dentistry Now, and until next time, we really appreciate your time Rudy, and of course, all of the viewers and listeners. Thank you.

 

 

 

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