The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice Of The DSO Industry – Episode 69

DSO Veteran, Maria Fuertes, Director, Practice Heros at Carestack, and Alisha Gerrard, Practice Hero at Carestack & Office Manager at Wasatch Dental Association, join Bill Neumann on the Group Dentistry Now Show. Maria and Alisha discuss:

  • Carestack’s Practice Heroes program
  • Challenges with dental software conversions
  • Growth of DSOs
  • Whole-body dental practices
  • Much more

To find out more contact Maria Fuertes – [email protected] or Alisha Gerrard – [email protected]

If you like our podcast, please give us a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review on iTunes http://apple.co/2Nejsfa and a Thumbs Up on YouTube.

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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Full Transcript:

Bill Neumann:

Hey. I’d like to welcome everyone to the Group Dentistry Now Show. I’m Bill Neumann. And, as always, we really appreciate everybody listening in, whether it’s on Spotify, or Apple, or Google, or watching us on YouTube, or somehow finding us through search and ending up at groupdentistrynow.com. We appreciate the listeners and the viewers. Without you, we wouldn’t have a show. And, of course, without great guests, we wouldn’t have any viewers. Really excited to introduce two wonderful guests here today. We have Maria Fuertes. She is the director of the Practice Heroes Program at Carestack. First off, Maria, welcome to the Group Dentistry Now Show.

Maria Fuertes:

Thanks so much, Bill. Thanks for having me. I’m happy to have been asked here.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, that’s great. That’s exactly right. And we don’t want to forget about Alisha Gerrard. She is with Wasatch Dental, I think I got that right, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, and she is an office manager there. Welcome, Alisha.

Alisha Gerrard:

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Bill Neumann:

This is going to be a great conversation here. What I don’t want to do is I don’t want to forget the backgrounds of both these ladies, so let’s talk a little bit about what they’ve done. We’ll talk a little bit about Maria’s background. She’s going to fill in any of the blanks. She has 23 years in the DSO industry. She has so much time in the industry it wasn’t the DSO industry when she started. It was the group practice industry. She worked at various DSOs and group practices. Started out at Western Dental and Orthodontics, and then she spent some time over at American Dental Partners and various operational roles. And then she was at a startup dental group practice in Massachusetts. She did all sorts of things there from operations to strategy and different campaigns. And now she’s at Carestack, and while she was at the startup in Mass., that’s where she really found out about Carestack and made that transition. Maria, there’s a lot of blanks to fill in there, and I don’t want to mess anything up, so I’m going to let you fill them in.

Maria Fuertes:

Okay. Well, thank you for that, Bill. I’ve been in the dental industry, and it’s the industry that has fueled my passion today. As Bill said, I began at Western Dental Orthodontics managing the Denovos, progressing to managing multiple locations. I started out as a manager, guys. I was the manager, a biller and receptionist, at times, the sterilization tech. It was like drinking from a water hose, especially coming from retail, the Disney Stores. So moving forward, I was an operational leader at Riverside Dental Group, which is an affiliate of American Dental Partners. And that’s where I led the orthodontic business of the group. I then grew to manage the 28 [inaudible 00:03:22] practice, as well as managing the entire specialty part of the business.

Maria Fuertes:

At Riverside, I was there for 16 years. And that is where I really honed my skills as a business strategist, a leader. I had formal training at American Dental Partners through their consistent coaching for managers peer review, and I attended their leadership institute for five years. As I left Riverside, I grew revenue, the specialty part of the business especially at 49%, and we did that organically as an operational leader. We were formally trained to read financial statements and we’re going to talk about data today, so that’s part of that. We grew the business through data, which helped us fine tune patient care, improved our AR, and increase revenue. And, as a leader, we were always looking for areas of opportunity.

Maria Fuertes:

Moving forward, I moved from west coast to east coast to New England Management Services as director of operations there. Overseeing six practices, then we quickly grew to 11 within a year and a half, integrating five practices. And that’s where I came across Carestack, because, at that time, we had different softwares and we wanted to go cloud based. That’s, basically, my experience in a nutshell. There’s a lot of stuff in there that I can tell you that I have been grateful to have been in those positions, which grew me to the passionate leader that I am today in helping others share my knowledge, especially through Carestack through the Practice Heroes Program.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. A lot of great experience. A lot of varied experience, for sure. From Western Dental, when you were there, what, as far as number of locations, can you talk a little bit about that?

Maria Fuertes:

Sure.

Bill Neumann:

I mean, they’re pretty massive now.

Maria Fuertes:

Yeah, sure. I actually started Denovo for orthodontists in an office. I think Western Dental, at that time, was forward with respect to hiring retail leaders, or retail managers, as well. I was at Disney Stores and wanted to try something totally different, because I always loved helping people. And saw an ad in the paper, that’s when people looked in the paper back that. And I thought it was very innovative of them to be forward in hiring people in the retail leadership role, because we had a lot of operational background, if you will, already instilled in us. Taking that sales process and insuring about the customer experience in Disney, then transferring that to the patient experience at Western Dental. It was a win-win for me.

Maria Fuertes:

I started out overseeing a Denovo practice for them. Moved to another practice, if you will, that was already static. I was always the one that they actually went to, to take a clinic, or a practice, if you will, and take it from where it’s struggling and turning it around. At that point in time, then I was overseeing two practices. And then I was asked to take this one practice that I had met the orthodontist who recruited me to go to American Dental Partners with him, which where I grew his orthodontic business, if you will. That’s where I started in Western.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. Great stuff. Let’s move onto Alisha Gerrard. Alisha, again, is, and we were talking a little bit about this before we started to record, she’s technically the office manager there. But, as we know, that can mean a lot of different things. She has 11 years of dental industry experience. And she started her career as a dental assistant, and then worked her way out of clinical and then up to office manager. When she made that transition, she actually earned her master’s degree in healthcare administration. So love to talk a little bit about why you decided to make the move from clinical to business, and then from there, why’d you decide to get your master’s?

Alisha Gerrard:

It’s actually a very interesting story. It’s not what I had planned. I’m 18, I don’t know what I want to do with my life, my friend’s a dental assistant. She’s like, “You should be a dental assistant.” I’m like, “Okay.” Found a program, 10 weeks, did my training, became a dental assistant. I was with my first dental office for just a few months, and then I actually met a doctor who worked at that office who was in the middle of buying a practice. I chose to take that route. He bought the practice, and I just started as his lead dental assistant. And slowly… I stayed with him for about five years. Slowly over that whole five year course, I just went a little bit more into the front office space, but I always still just the dental assistant. But they started having me doing insurances, and scheduling, and all the good front office type of work.

Alisha Gerrard:

Then I had decided to go back to college, and I was either going to do dental hygiene, and then I decided to do radiology tech. I actually, at this point, they couldn’t give me part-time hours, so I transitioned to another dental office, very similar, single doctor, small practice. And I was their part-time front desk person, and I mostly dealt with a lot of the insurance. My official title was insurance coordinator at that time, while I was going to school. I did all by prereqs. I got into the radiology tech program. I was just weeks of starting, and the current office manager at my office, she had to go to a different place. And so, my boss calls me and he’s like, “Hey, do you want the role? You’re clearly good at what you do.” And I was like, “Let me think about that. Let me get back to you.”

Alisha Gerrard:

Because that changed my entire outlook on what my career would look like, and was actually in the process of training at another job so that I could leave the dental office, leave dental altogether, and have a night and weekend job. Because when you’re a radiology tech, and you’re in school, you’re working at a hospital doing all your clinical hours just like a nursing student. So you’re busy Monday through Friday nine to five. You can’t hold a normal job. So I talked it over with my now husband, then boyfriend, and I decided to take the position. Immediately, within a few days, I was the office manager. I went to my college advisor and I was thinking, “Well, I guess there’s business school.” I don’t want to have done all this school for nothing. I was just a few credits shy of my associate’s, so I just said, “Well, maybe I’ll just do my bachelor’s in business. That’s always a good safe middle ground.”

Alisha Gerrard:

They said, “Have you actually ever heard of healthcare administration?” And I was like, “No, what’s that?” Never knew how much administrative personnel there was in the medical field. I ended up transitioning and I got my bachelor’s in healthcare administration, and then, by some of my professors, I was pushed to get my master’s. So then I got into the master’s program, did that, and I did that at the same time as I was doing full-time office managing. It was a very, very busy few years, but very well worth it. And then I thought I would jump ship and go straight to hospital when I graduated. I actually graduated the month after COVID became a thing. So due to the pandemic, it derailed my plans. There was no healthcare job openings for administrators or managers, because everyone was scrambling around trying to figure out this whole COVID thing. And there was such a big focus on COVID testing, and vaccines, and all of that.

Alisha Gerrard:

I just stuck it out, stayed at the dental office. And then I was introduced to Maria through Carestack, because we had just recently transitioned from our legacy software to Carestack about an opportunity to be able to help them in their Practice Heroes Program, which we’ll talk about in detail a little bit later. That’s how I am where I am now. It’s a strange, weird thing of events, but I feel like that’s a lot of people’s stories.

Bill Neumann:

Yep, certainly in dental. Yeah. That’s a great point, unless you’re somehow related to a dentist, you don’t normally think about the industry. It’s somewhere you go to get your teeth cleaned, and hopefully that’s all you do there.

Maria Fuertes:

Yeah.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s talk. I think I’ll ask Maria this question, and Alisha, certainly, comment on this, but what both your experience in the dental industry, and then, Maria, yours in the DSO, the group space. Let’s talk a little bit about just experiences and maybe some head scratching moments.

Maria Fuertes:

Well, one thing I can say, Bill, is that I’ve worked in dental organizations on both coasts, East and West, and I had experienced many head scratching moments. However, I’m taking those to the grave. But in my experience, in both coasts, there are several things that, I want to just say, talk about high level, that seems to be a constant. It’s a symptom of doctor leaders that are reluctant to be the leader. They’re reluctant to make important decisions or would rather have other leadership partners to make decisions for them, and deliver the message to the rest of the practice organization. I’ve seen it where they don’t want to step into clinical leader’s shoes to do the work, to be present and engaged with the practice and organization for the good of the whole, if you will.

Maria Fuertes:

This creates challenges and cultural alignment, which is bad for business. And then something else that I have experienced throughout my career in this space is that dental practices don’t see their dental practice management software as their business intelligence. I mean, they only use their dental software at surface level, scheduling, treating and billing. Done right, your software is your competitive edge, not a necessary evil. It can truly be a game changer and, as we know, data, this is intelligent data, not data for the sake of data, because that serves no purpose. But your dental practice management software is creating opportunities for revenue growth, clarity, better decisions and insights for you and your staff.

Bill Neumann:

I think that’s a great point, and I know, Alisha, you have your background. You’ve had the paper charts, and then you transitioned over from paper to almost the legacy practice management software then to cloud based. You certainly have experience there. Let’s talk a little bit about what is 100% cloud based software, like Carestack? What does that mean? And why is that so important?

Maria Fuertes:

Let me. Definitely Carestack is a powerful practice management software. We have features that are built-in to ensure you have everything you need to manage day-to-day operations of your organization, which is scheduling, charting, and billing. But there are features that are built-in that takes the place of a third party apps, like patient engagement, text to patients, online scheduling forms, text to pay, check-in kiosk, curbside check-in. I mean, on demand education business analytics and tele-dentistry. All of this is in the cloud. That is what a cloud based management software define.

Bill Neumann:

I mean, that’s something I’d love to talk a little bit more about, and maybe talk a little bit about the client-user interface. And, Maria, you can certainly talk about that, and, Alisha, as well. But I’m curious, you mentioned it earlier, practice management software, you use it at the surface level, or I would say, a lot of groups, and a lot of practices do, and that’s it. They’re taking advance of 10% of maybe what the potential is, and you mentioned it being the competitive edge. Probably not really being used by the majority of groups, and the majority of practices out there.

Maria Fuertes:

Yes.

Bill Neumann:

Talk a little bit about that, and then I’d love to just hear that perspective.

Maria Fuertes:

I want to say that our software is definitely different from other cloud based software. I mean, I talked a bit about… I touched base on the built-in features, but there are several areas that sets us apart from all other cloud based and legacy software. I think the DSOs, and MSOs, and group practices can scale easily with Carestack. I know, because I was a former client of theirs, as well. You develop efficiencies while using the software, and we have components and features in Carestack that can help you optimize your day-to-day tasks and operations. Of course, there is heavy lifting in the front, but when you go through implementation, we help you through that. We also make users efficient, getting more done with less clicks.

Maria Fuertes:

I mean, gone are the days of… Alisha, you can talk about this after I ask you this question, but you don’t have to download any paper forms, if you will, like downloading the schedules, or the routing slips, if you will, in getting yourself prepared for the next day. There was efficiency that you learned every day, and you learn how to optimize your day-to-day tasks while using the software. We also have, out of the box reporting, that is pretty robust. We’ve had finance teams and DSO group practices that they were able to identify, right away, the reports that were useful for them. I didn’t need to know how to use SQL to, basically, conform my recourse to turn out numbers, if you will, so we can gauge and measure how we’re performing.

Maria Fuertes:

We also empower users with data. Our clients can use data from making wrong choices. I’m all about KPIs, and analytics, and the data that comes out of our software. We also give control to users, where we keep our features configurable to user preferences. Clients like to stick to their workflows that are working for them. At times, Carestack can supercharge them too. And then also through the implementation process, which we’ll touch base on. They also find that, similarly, the workflows look antiquated, because now you’re working Carestack. I tend to use the analogy of I drive a Subaru. There’s nothing about Subarus, but it’s almost like getting another higher level of Tesla, if you will.

Maria Fuertes:

And, of course, what sets us apart is we have the Practice Heroes Program, and our clients receive a white glove treatment throughout their implementation journey. Alisha, coming from a client-user interface, how is it different from legacy software as you used in the past?

Alisha Gerrard:

Yeah. There’s a million things I could say about how awesome Carestack is, but I’ve got two points that I really wanted to just hit home on. One is that Carestack is just super innovative. Most other softwares, like we talked about before, they’re very surface level. They just do the basics. They help get you by. They, basically, just help you transition everything you did on paper to a computer, end of story. And some other legacy softwares, I feel like, they’re starting to want to become more than that. So they’re really good at talking the talk, but I don’t feel like they’re good at walking the walk.

Alisha Gerrard:

And Carestack does talk the talk, as well as walk the walk, in terms of keeping up with the times, and pushing out updates that actually make sense, not just fixing something on the backend and you have no idea what that update even did for you. Prior to Carestack, I came from a legacy software, and even when I go into it now, because I still have it on my computer, it just feels like a dinosaur software. It feels like we’re still stuck back in 1995. Every time I go look at that software, they just really haven’t progressed and grown with the industry. DSOs are such a newer thing, but they’re going to be the new thing more so than the private practices of what dentistry has been for the past X amount of years. And we need a software to conform to that.

Alisha Gerrard:

And Carestack is so innovative, that I feel like they’re just the answer to be able to keep up with the times. They do listen to their clients. Like Maria said, they actually do help you along the way. You don’t just buy software and they just say, “Here’s a manual. Good luck. See you later.” They help you every step of the way. Their implementation process, their training process, the resources they have, all of it is very rigorous, because they want you to succeed and be able to use the software to the ability that it was built for. One thing that I really, really love about Carestack is they actually listen to their users, their clients, in terms of what somebody wants to see, how this would make my life easier. They’re constantly pushing updates out that are actually practical updates that it’s going to make your life a lot easier.

Alisha Gerrard:

And just a quick example of that. COVID happened, the whole world shutdown, and then we were slowly opening back up. And what did everybody do? They started doing curbside pickup. They started doing curbside check-in. No longer are the days where you just walk into a place free for all and just do what you’re there to do. And Carestack pushed out an update immediately called, curbside check-in, and that was specifically from COVID. And so, that’s just one great example of how quick and on the ball that they are with being innovative, and making sure that they’re up with the times. Because they truly do want their clients to succeed. And I just had never seen that in a different software.

Alisha Gerrard:

Point number two is Carestack is truly a one-stop shop. I was able to, not only just replace my legacy software, but, of course, because legacy softwares aren’t really up with the times, we always have all these add-on softwares that we pick, because want to text our patients. We want to push out reviews automatically. We want to be able to send claims electronically. So we have to subscribe to five or 10 different programs to do what Carestack does. That was actually my biggest push of why my office went to Carestack. I wasn’t even really looking for it, but it was suggested to me, and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this makes so much sense. This is mind-blowing.”

Alisha Gerrard:

Now that I have just Carestack, I don’t got to deal with a server. I don’t have to deal with one program updating, and that completely throws off my connection of all of my other programs. And then I got to call my IT guy, have him come up, spend hours on the phone with support with all the different companies that I subscribe to. I mean, just all of that mess and complication is just completely gone. And then there’s just even more, like the analytics. I never really had an analytics software before, but now that that’s built-in to Carestack, I couldn’t imagine not having that. How would you even succeed in a world like we are in today without that competitive edge, like you talked about, Maria?

Alisha Gerrard:

I’m more productive, and I have yet to call my IT guy to come fix a computer issue. And I have been on Carestack for almost two full years now. So two full years without having to call your IT guy, compared to he probably came out to my office every other month for years prior to that. Huge, huge difference, so there were have it. It’s a one-stop shop and super innovative.

Maria Fuertes:

I think what I would like to add to that, that was great, Alisha, because you are a client-user. What I would like to add to that too, Bill, is that we’re an agile company. Case in point, COVID happened and they quickly started scrambling. What can we do to make the user interface better for our clients, as well as for the patients? Not only did you have curbside check-in, but you had the text to pay, because it was touchless payments. They really listened and they’ve taken our engineers and we really look at it from the good at a whole team level, as to the results of it at the patient, and the patient experience end, if you will.

Maria Fuertes:

One of the things too that Carestack does that I think is different, we have our clients have their choice, if you will, like going to market, instead of saying you’re going to only use this merchant processor. You have a couple to choose from. Or if you want cloud based imagining, you have a couple to choose from, so they’re not relegated to just use one merchant processor, or one imagining software. We call it a marketplace type of program, if you will. Those are the things too, I think, that separate us from the rest of the pack.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, really interesting. You have some options, which is great. I think I probably know the answer to this question. The real question is, why Carestack now, if somebody’s using another platform, whether it’s cloud based, or whether it’s legacy, or something like that? Why would somebody move to… Again, just hearing the functionality. I mean, that, to me, would make a lot of sense.

Maria Fuertes:

Right.

Bill Neumann:

Not using different subscriptions going on, and things to plug in, and update at different times. And sometimes they talk to each other, and sometimes they don’t. I don’t want to answer the question for you, but tell me a little bit about why somebody now would even entertain, possibly, using Carestack.

Maria Fuertes:

Well, that’s a loaded question. I mean, I don’t know if Carestack is [inaudible 00:25:54]. You may have some challenges with it. Basically, it’s about change. Do you have an appetite for change? I mean, Bill, if you switch from Apple to Android, which is what I have, how will you handle that change? Change management is what hits the pause button more times than what I’d like to see, especially more so now that I’m sitting on the other side of the spectrum. I mean, I’ve seen decisions made not to change software, because their teams have been suing the same software for many years. There is this fear that people will leave if they go through the conversion, let’s say, or change it all entirely.

Maria Fuertes:

I’ve watched groups going through the pain of having to download multiple reports, because they’re on different systems to get to a number that they can confidently sign off on their P&L. I’ve seen struggles in efficiencies and consistencies when it comes to a group’s practice operating cycle. People tend to develop habits or workarounds and they’re all different workarounds in using their software now. People know that to grow you need to innovate, so everything is going cloud based. However, fear and having to change is what stops them to doing what’s good for the business, and what’s good for the whole. I mean, change can be messy, but it doesn’t have to be. I’ve been there and done that.

Maria Fuertes:

And, as I mentioned again, the area of opportunity that I’ve experienced is that the dental software is not recognized as a business intelligence of a practice and organization. And once again, why Carestack now? Carestack can be for you now, if you’re willing to go through that change.

Bill Neumann:

Great point there. Here’s the next question. The ideal client, or the ideal practice, or group of practices, give me an idea of what that looks like.

Maria Fuertes:

Well, Alisha is an ideal client.

Bill Neumann:

It sounds like it.

Maria Fuertes:

All joking aside, our ideal clients are those that want to scale, and want a dental software that have all the components of attributes that can scale with them. They’re clients that they’re experiencing third party software fatigue. They’re clients that want to innovate, become more efficient, and shed workflows that are antiquated. And most importantly, clients that want to work smarter not harder. I mean, Alisha, what are your thoughts in this, especially from a Practice Heroes perspective?

Alisha Gerrard:

It’s really just all of those things. I’m the personality type, where I don’t want to stay stagnant. I love the mantra, work smarter not harder. I love trying to find easier ways, more efficient ways to do something. And I love to grow. Sure, I was annoyed by some stuff my software did. Sure, I was really annoyed by having to keep calling my IT guy, and having all my subscriptions not talking to each other all the time properly. But the main driver was I wanted to grow. I wanted to help my dentist, my doctor, grow as big as possible. He’s not within a year of retiring, so he has time to be able to make that change grow, become as successful as he can be before his retirement age does come.

Bill Neumann:

Well, you know it’s interesting. I would love to ask this question, and I’m sure that it’s not one answer. But let’s talk about challenges. When somebody’s converting over, practice management software wise, and I guess there’s a couple different conversions. You’re using something else and you’re going to convert over to Carestack, or there might even be that integration, where you’re a DSO that might be using Carestack and you’re acquiring a practice that isn’t using it. That’s where the integration, how do we convert that one practice? Let’s talk a little bit about that, Maria, and what challenges you see.

Maria Fuertes:

Well, I’ve worked with a number of different practice management softwares, and have gone through five software conversions with a couple of them involving a large organization of 150 employees. That’s not even including the doctors. I think it’s important to strategize pre-implementation with your teams, and ask yourselves a question prior to that. If we were do to a do-over. If you were to ask yourself that question, you can then drill it down to, what processes and systems are working for us? And what isn’t? Do we have a firm foundation? Do we have processes that are antiquated, or we need to reconfigure it? Because whether you go through Carestack, or not, I’ve seen this time and again, Bill, where people that don’t have the firm foundation, or they think that it’s just business as usual, and probably they’re experiencing pain of AR issues, billing issues, scheduling issues. They don’t actually face it head-on and come up with a strategy in getting them fixed, if you will, building that foundation.

Maria Fuertes:

Coming on board into a conversion, whether it’s Carestack or any other software, if you don’t have a firm foundation, if you don’t have a solid processing system in place, definitely that will be a challenge for you. I always talk about strategizing prior to that. Asking ourselves a question, if were to do a do-over, what should be be doing differently? Our team really helps you through this by doing a deep dive on your workflows, basically. It’s like an hour and a half. We just don’t want to say, “Okay, here are the keys to the car. Now, you drive.” But we want to know how you want to drive that car. Alisha, you’ve gone through it yourself. What has your experience been, and challenges, coming from a legacy software to Carestack?

Alisha Gerrard:

To be honest, I didn’t run into a lot of challenges. And I think the reason why was I was so eager to change, and I was very proactive. And the implementation team at Carestack helped me become even more proactive throughout the entire transition period. It’s a pretty rigorous migration process, where you’re meeting with your implementation team on a weekly, sometimes more than once a week, basis, because you want to figure out these are the features I want to use. These are the features I don’t want to use. This is the customization I want in my notes, or in my scheduling, or in any of your workflows. As long as you’re proactive about that, and eager to jump in, I had no challenges when it came to that.

Alisha Gerrard:

I always do get asked, though, did I have challenges with bringing my team along with me, because-

Maria Fuertes:

I was going to ask you that. I was going to ask you that question, because-

Alisha Gerrard:

Yeah.

Maria Fuertes:

Yeah.

Alisha Gerrard:

That’s where the biggest challenge usually is, because, like Bill said, people have been using their software forever. And how you said, they don’t really want to change. I, personally, was on that legacy software before for 10 years, or just shy of 10 years, and all of my employees, that’s the only software they knew. They were a little bit hesitant to change, but the key things of what I did was I kept it very positive. I kept it very engaging. And I kept hyping them up. Knowing what I knew about Carestack, and knowing what I knew about the legacy software, I would constantly be comparing them during this whole migration process and implementation process. And tell everybody, “Oh my gosh, this is so cool that Carestack can do this feature. Think of how much time that’s going to safe us. Think of how many mistakes we’re not going to make.”

Alisha Gerrard:

And then I would also compare them and say, “Their scheduling is literally exactly how you make an appointment in the legacy software, so there’s really not a huge difference, in terms of how it’s used. There’s just a difference in terms of the depth that Carestack has.” I was just constantly hyping them up. Constantly getting them excited. And the most important thing, Carestack has a section called, Carestack University, and it has modules. It has videos. It has quizzes. It has questions. It has little scripts you can read. And you can assign certain employees to do certain modules that applies to whatever their job description is, and I made sure that they got those training modules done before we actually went live with Carestack, and that was key.

Alisha Gerrard:

Everyone was very familiar with the system, even though they hadn’t really done more than just play in it and learn about it on the date that we went live. The day we went live was actually very, very smooth. And because of being positive and proactive, I just really didn’t run into any challenges, to be honest.

Maria Fuertes:

I think what’s also important to bring us, and we talked about it earlier, it’s about the change management. Right, Alisha?

Alisha Gerrard:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Maria Fuertes:

And so, I think that through my experience, I’ve always talked about the why. Why we’re changing, because you need to get that buy-in from the rest of the team members. And what I’ve done, as an operational leader, is that I’ve taken the experts throughout my organization, and I had them become that process, be part of the process. Carestack had clinical notes that you can, basically, customize, so we took a doctor leader, he was all up in that, like, “I just would love just to do this.” Part of that task he was doing that, and he had one-on-ones with the doctors, so that they were heard as to what they want to see their chart notes to be. Same thing went with hygiene. Same thing went with billing, like our billing expert. I found a clinical dental assistant expert.

Maria Fuertes:

I mean, other conversions I’ve gone through, I did the exact same type of process, if you will. I mean, you come across people that are even crying in the parking lot type of thing. But you can’t just hide the fact that everything is going to be rosy and peachy keen at the end of the day. There’s a lot of heavy lifting in the front end. There’s a lot of managing it, like Alisha was trying to hype it up and everything. And now, we’re always going back to the why, and ensuring the fact that here’s the buy-in. And then giving them the time to learn the software, so that they can be successful day-to-day. At the end of the day, it’s your team that’s in it.

Maria Fuertes:

Well, Alisha, you’re a player coach, so you’re in it daily. As an operational leader, I had to make sure that my teams’ managers and regionals, if you will, were comfortable. And the fact is that we were having to pivot a lot through these conversions. Carestack was there every step of the way. There are challenges in any type of dental software conversion. Once again, if you don’t have any firm foundations in place, ask yourself the question, what could we be doing better? What are the areas of opportunities? If we had to do a do-over, what should we be doing different? Are our workflows antiquated? Those are things, you’ve got a fresh start, so it’s lets make it better this time. And then, of course, once again, really facing that change management, not brushing it aside. There are emotions that are at hand. You have to be able to be empathetic and to listen and hear them out. And then taking the time to coach them through it.

Maria Fuertes:

There hasn’t been a successful conversion, if you will. I think it’s successful after several months and everybody’s flying through using any type of software, including Carestack.

Bill Neumann:

Some great insights, Alisha and Maria. Maria, director of the Practice Heroes Program. Let’s talk a little bit about the Practice Heroes role, Practice Hero role.

Maria Fuertes:

Sure, sure. Well, this is definitely different than any other type of dental software out there. I can say that. What we’re doing at Carestack is taking all the experts in this space, experts from the practice, revenue cycle and billing experts, admin and clinical experts, experts in leadership and transition people that have the aptitude, and finding a way to bring them in as a part-time independent contractor as a Practice Hero, which is like Alisha. And one of the things that our job, it could be a funny thing, if you will, but our job is not to get people to say yes to Carestack, actually. It’s to make a sound decision if Carestack is a fit or not for you.

Maria Fuertes:

And so, this is what makes up my team of Practice Heroes. For example, my first hire is Alisha Gerrard. She’s a practice manager at Utah. They converted from legacy software to Carestack. She really knows the billing process. I mean, she is like the wizard, if you will. We went to the owner of the practice, Dr. Lawrence Palmer, and we said we want to bring Alisha in, only as a part-time independent contractor. I didn’t want him to think that we were stealing her away. That’s not good for the relationship. It’s important to get the buy-in from the owner.

Maria Fuertes:

We piloted the program in February and March, and really expanded it from there. It’s not just from single shingle dentists, but we’re not also helping groups. So it’s not about Carestack. Practice Heroes is a resource that’s different from any other company in the dental software space, where we have experts that have everything to do with running a practice, running the business, and that people can have access to. Just recently we developed programs that consist of webinars and Facebook Live events. These programs are not about Carestack. It’s for clients or prospective clients. One of the programs is a series called, From the Ground Up, where our target audience are startups and Denovos, and we bring in subject matter experts in the industry to cover topics from navigating and negotiating insurance companies with Chad Hendricks. Search engine optimization, this is a really good one, a cautionary tale with deployed marketing.

Maria Fuertes:

Again, it’s not about Carestack. We don’t even review the software during these series. It’s all about being a resource for clients and perspective clients. And also, during our demos with our clients, we also are translating, if you will, because all of us have sat in seats in the trenches, if you will, in the practices, so we were able to take what their challenges are, the pain that they’re going through, and letting them know that I see what you’re going through. You can actually do it this way in Carestack. Let’s show you. Those are the things that we do. We marry the two. Alisha, you were my first Practice Hero. Why did you want to join the program?

Alisha Gerrard:

My biggest passion in life is helping people. I want to help patients, colleagues, professionals, networking contacts, friends, family, everybody. I love to help people. And the Practice Heroes Program is all about helping people. We’re helping future clients decide if Carestack is the way for them to go and making sure they really understand what Carestack is, so they can make that sound decision. We’re helping current Carestack clients to see if they can do a workflow better, create more efficient workflows, get an expert eye on a certain area, whether it’s billing, or scheduling, or any of those fields.

Alisha Gerrard:

And we also, because of the new series that we just launched, called, Dinner with Practice Heroes, we’re giving our knowledge. We’re helping anybody. It doesn’t matter what software they’re on with real-life issues, and how to navigate those, and best practices, and takeaways, and what you should be doing on a day-to-day, or week-to-week, or a month-to-month basis to make sure that your practice is flowing smooth in certain areas, whether it’s billing or scheduling, or looking forward to the next quarter. That is why I joined, because I have now have that opportunity to share and help even more than when I did as just a single dentist office manager.

Maria Fuertes:

I think you’ve also learned a lot, as well, working in this role.

Alisha Gerrard:

Hugely, yeah.

Maria Fuertes:

Yes.

Alisha Gerrard:

Yeah. I’ve been able to learn a lot, bring it into my own practice, and just make us even more successful.

Maria Fuertes:

Yes. In a nutshell, we share real-world knowledge, pearls of wisdom. We share actual items that they can take and implement in the practice the next day.

Bill Neumann:

I like a couple of points there. You talked a little bit about it’s not just about Carestack. This is sharing, so it’s not just about Carestack, it’s talking about what makes practices better. Alisha, what you found in your practice. What can make things better in your practice. Carry that over to some of these other practice. And, Maria, you touched on, at the same time, that goes at evaluation, is Carestack even a fit for you? It might not be? But this is you got to figure that out. Real interesting. As we wind this podcast down, I have this last question here, because it’s important, and Alisha touched on it really early-on in the podcast. She mentioned the DOSs are growing. This is the future. Single practice, solos, will still exist, but there’s this growth in the group practice, the DSO space. Let’s talk a little bit about what you feel, Maria, Carestack’s role is in this emerging group space, in the DSO space, as well as the industry transitions that way.

Maria Fuertes:

Sure, Bill. Well, there are three constituencies in the dental industry. One is the patient, two is the practice, and three is the payers. Carestack sees ourselves reducing the friction between payers and the practice. I mean, we want the payers to pay providers quicker, much faster, like having the ability to adjudicate chairside. If you’re thinking about this, we’re uniquely positioned to address the biggest challenges in dentistry, and through a unified cloud based platform that is intelligent, connected, and data driven solutions. We will serve the dynamic needs of the practices, patients, and payers.

Maria Fuertes:

Once again, that’s something that we’re really looking into honing in is, basically, reducing the friction between payers and the practice, and getting these providers paid much quicker, organizations paid much quicker.

Bill Neumann:

That’s great. Well, good. Alisha, do you have anything to add to that?

Alisha Gerrard:

No, I think Maria covered it. She did a great job.

Bill Neumann:

That sounds great. Well, I appreciate all the insights today. I mean, I think with this what we’ll end the podcast, but we’ll make sure that both, Maria and Alisha, your contact information is in the show notes. And if you want to have a demo of Carestack, of course, we can link that up, as well. But really appreciate Maria Fuertes from Carestack, and Alisha Gerrard for joining us today. Really informative and appreciate everybody listening in, or viewing this. Always fun. I learn so much from every one of these podcasts we do. So until next time, this is the Group Dentistry Now Show, and I’m Bill Neumann. Thanks for listening and watching.

 

 

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