The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice Of The DSO Industry – Episode 82

Ryan Heroy, Chief Operating Officer of BDG Dental Services, and Jay Letwat, Executive Director of Business Development at Sunbit, join the Group Dentistry Now Show.

If you are listening to our audio podcast, be sure to take a few minutes to watch the video. There is an important demo of the application process.

On this episode Ryan and Jay discuss:
– Overview of the current patient financing landscape
– How can healthcare leaders bring more innovation to patient financing?
– What is the impact of Sunbit from a production, efficiency, and patient/team perspective?
– What is the implementation process like and how does support work?

To find out more visit https://sunbit.com/dental/

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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:

Kim Larson:

Welcome to The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice Of The DSO Industry. Kim Larson and Bill Neumann talk to industry leaders about their challenges, successes, and the future of Group Dentistry. Visit groupdentistrynow.com for more DSO analysis, news, and events. Looking for a job or have a job to fill? Visit joindso.com. We hope you enjoy today’s show.

Bill Neumann:

I’d like to welcome everyone to The Group Dentistry Now Show. Hi, I’m Bill Neumann. Thanks everybody for joining us today. Appreciate you listening in or whether watching us on YouTube, perhaps. Without an audience, we wouldn’t have a show and of course, without great guests, we wouldn’t have an audience. I’m going to introduce you to two guests today. We’re going to talk about technology and patient financing in the DSO space and talk about how dynamic not only the DSO industry is, but the technology that’s influencing it today. So first off, I want to introduce Jay Letwat. He is with Sunbit. He is the executive director of business development. Hi, Jay. Thanks for being here.

Jay Letwat:

Hi, Bill. Great to be here.

Bill Neumann:

Thanks. Then we have Ryan Heroy. He is the chief operating officer at BDG Dental Services. Thanks for being here, Ryan.

Ryan Heroy:

Thanks, Bill. I appreciate it.

Bill Neumann:

I’ll run through a little bit of their bios and then I’d love you to fill in any of the blanks that I may miss. I’ll start with Jay. Jay has over 23 years of leadership experience with a career spanning over several industries, including finance and healthcare. At Sunbit, since the very early days. I want to find out how early that was. He’s focused on building strategic national accounts and introducing Sunbit’s innovative buy now, pay later financing technology solution to service providers across the US. With Ryan, who’s, again, the chief operating officer of BDG Dental Services, he was born and raised in Las Vegas. He graduated from Pepperdine University and he also has his masters of business administration. Ryan started out at BDG back in 2010, started out as a marketing director, and then he was eventually promoted in 2014 to the COO role. Looks like you manage eight different support staff departments and you also manage a couple of subsidiaries that BDG has. So Ryan, if you want to fill in any of the blanks there and then we’ll go to Jay.

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah, sure. We’re headquartered here out of beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. We have 18 dental offices in Las Vegas, and actually, we have one in Arizona as well. Like you mentioned, we do have six subsidiaries. We have a dental assisting school. We have a dental lab. We have a dental supply company. We have Dentuity, which is a dental service company, helps with the billing on that side of it as well. Then we also have a CE course called BDG Think Tank where we bring in a lot of international speakers to speak here at our headquarters. We provide those CEs to the dentist locally and internationally.

Bill Neumann:

Very interesting. Ryan, tell me if this is true or not. I seem to remember that BDG initially stood for Boston Dental Group and originally started in Boston-

Ryan Heroy:

Correct.

Bill Neumann:

… and then ended up in Las Vegas.

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah, Boston Dental Group. Dr. Ting, the owner, went to Tufts University. So our first three dental offices were Boston Dental, Fenway Dental, and Brighton Dental. It tribute to the Boston area. Dr. Ting holds that true. It’s tough. I’m a marketing guy, so it comes back to search engine optimization. When you type in Boston Dental Group, you don’t get Las Vegas listing, so we had to switch that up to BDG Dental Services and that’s been successful since.

Bill Neumann:

That’s good. Makes sense. Okay, Jay, you’re up next. What did we miss there?

Jay Letwat:

No, I think you captured it pretty well, Bill. The early days of Sunbit was 2017. Actually, I’ve been at Sunbit for almost exactly five years. I think my five-year anniversary was a couple of days ago. At that point in time, we actually had 30 merchant partners and now we have about 10,500. So it definitely was the very, very early days, but it’s been a great run, very challenging. What I specialize in is managing the dental practice and the hypergrowth. So whether it’s a single practice, multi-unit practice, or DSO, that’s really what we’re going after. That’s really who we want to serve.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s get into the questions. I know that Jay, that Sunbit’s not just involved in the dental industry, right? You cover a variety of industries.

Jay Letwat:

Correct. We focus on three major industries and really, the industries that we have selected to go after now are really needs-based versus wants-based. What do I mean by that? So we’re in the auto dealership space, we call optical, so a lot of vision groups and chains, as well as dentistry. It’s the type of verticals, industries that you don’t go there for a want. We’re not going to be financing fancy T-shirts or fancy shoes or Pelotons. It’s dentistry. Your teeth hurts, you have needs, we want to respectfully fill those needs in a quick and efficient way. Auto dealership, your car breaks down. We’re not financing the new or used car, Bill, we’re focusing on the service side. So you need new tires, you need new wheels, a battery, you need to get to work now, and that’s really what we focus on, the needs-based verticals.

Bill Neumann:

Great to know. That’s good. All right. Let Jay, if you want to start out with this. I’d love to get your perspective on, an overview of what the patient financing landscape looks like currently. You go back maybe four or five years and there’s CareCredit. That was probably about it. There weren’t a lot of options out there. Seems like there are a lot of options, but Jay, go ahead and talk to me a little bit about what you see.

Jay Letwat:

Sure. You can go back about 30 years, actually. Overall in a patient financing landscape, I would characterize it as an area which there has been a lack of innovation for probably 25, 30 years. There’s two types of solutions, typically, that are out there. They are the solutions that focus on prime patients. What does that mean? That means folks that have good credit and that typically represents about 40% of the overall American market. For those solutions, about 40% of folks will get approved. Okay? The second type of patient financing solution you have are the solutions for subprime folks. They’re good folks that have maybe issues in the past, less than stellar credit. Those typically are very onerous processes to fill out applications. There’s paper involved, sky-high APRs, really, really unhealthy for the consumer. So that’s typically what you’ve seen not even in the past four or five years, Bill, but probably the last 30 years.

Jay Letwat:

What we see in the market and what we’re really trying to attack is providing a solution that fulfills the full credit spectrum, so folks at the high-end, folks in the middle, and folks, unfortunately, that may have had some trouble in the past, but have the ability to pay, maybe not necessarily according to the underwriting of credit card companies, but based on our technology, we’re able to approve them. So the market we’re going after is the entire dental financing landscape from low FICO to high FICO and everything in between. We want to do it in a very, very respectful way, super quick process that gets the patients what they need and gets the practice moving along and quickly able to approve folks and gain some production.

Bill Neumann:

Ryan, as the COO, what do you see as far as the landscape of patient financing especially with your group?

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah. I think you guys hit it right on the head. Prior to Sunbit, you have the big thousand-pound gorilla. You have CareCredit and a lot of other groups that are out there are all targeting that prime financing that Jay was talking about, the 680 FICO score. But from our standpoint, most of our offices are in lower socio-economic areas. We were seeing approval ratings of 30%, 40%, maybe. So for us, having something like Sunbit where it’s a one-stop shop. We have one application that we’re able to present to our patients and 90% of them getting approved is really unheard of and it makes a world of difference for us on our end.

Bill Neumann:

It’s good to know. What have you seen as far as bringing Sunbit on? You’re going to take a look at, what did you say the percent, the approval rating before was like 30%, 30% to 40%?

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah, 30% to 45%. To be able to get to that 90%, nine out of 10 patients being approved for financing, it just allows us to really serve those underfinanced, underserved patients that we see so much of on a day to day basis. Jay hit it right on the head. We’re here to serve the patients. We’re here to serve on that side of it too. From our standpoint, it has made a world of difference not only for our company, but also for those patients that would otherwise go unserved.

Bill Neumann:

So it seems that not only from Sunbit’s perspective, it’s not just about approving people that maybe wouldn’t have qualified in the past, but it’s also about the ease of the application, the innovation. I think the industry’s been pretty stagnant for a while. It’s been probably the way you would apply for a credit card back in the day, you’d fill out a paper form, send it in and in a week or so you’d find out or maybe even longer. Jay, talk a little bit about why the innovation maybe was stagnant for as long as it was and what changed.

Jay Letwat:

I think there’s a few reasons. I think there is clearly a thousand-pound gorilla that has been out there for the past 30 years, and they are clearly the dominant patient-financing provider. I think when you have that dominance, I think that it’s very tough to innovate. I think you can see this in even non-dental industry if you think of Elon Musk at Tesla, Airbnb. These guys were not experts in making cars. They weren’t experts in hotels. The guy who founded Airbnb was not running Marriott or something like that. They found an issue, a gap, something that’s broken, and they came to the market and fixed it. Again, it takes time, and now they’re the dominant player in the industry.

Jay Letwat:

I think when you have a dominant player, it’s very tough to self-reflect and say, “You know what? I’m number one, but I need to continue to innovate because down the road, two, three, four, five years from now, patient needs might be different. Technology might be different.” I think that’s a major reason. The other reason is financial technology, first of all, technology in general has accelerated enormously in the past three to five years and it’s had a huge effect in the financial technology, better known as FinTech space. Here’s something to think about, Bill. In the last two years, more people, more Americans have opened up accounts at banks or via applications like Venmo and Chime versus the traditional big banks like Wells Fargo, Chase, and Bank of America. So the whole financial sector is rapidly changing, and this is exactly what we’re trying to disrupt although very specifically on the patient financing front.

Bill Neumann:

Really interesting. Ryan, what are you seeing? Why do you think it’s been so long since we’ve seen innovation?

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah. I think as companies grow, I know for us in particular, as companies grow, you have to be more stringent on everything. It doesn’t really give you the freedom to progress in different areas and you want to focus on your core business. A lot of the R&D goes to the wayside. I’ve seen it just on a very small scale from our company too. As you get bigger, you have to be more focused on HR and the compliance side of it and rarely do we get that opportunity to really sit down and think, “Okay, what’s the next growth options for us? How can we grow on that side of it?” I think what Jay does and his team, they’re very systematic in their approach and they have the R&D behind it, and the platform, and the technology behind it to really make an impact in the industry too. We’re just seeing it on a very small scale, so I’m excited to see what comes out of it over the next couple of years.

Bill Neumann:

Jay, I’d like to ask you this. Do you take input from the dental groups and DSOs you work with as you change this platform or as this platform evolves? Does it look like the way it did when you launched in 2017?

Jay Letwat:

It’s interesting. The company has been in the technology space for roughly about five, five and a half years. We started in auto, actually, in the dealership space, and then we moved also to add optical. Dental, we’ve been in for roughly about two years. So on the technology side, we have a base model, but the dental model is totally different than auto. For instance, typically the dollars are much higher for folks at the dentist. When you go to buy a set of tires, that might be 700, 800, 1,000 bucks, but you go do an implant, that might be $3,000, $4,000. So it’s very different and obviously, we’ve learned as we’ve gained more groups such as Ryan’s, but the interesting thing is that we take the feedback and at the end of the day, it comes down to a math problem. It’s data.

Jay Letwat:

We understand what the needs are. We understand the loans and we’re able to continually make rapid changes on the platform because that’s what we are. We’re a technology company. What I find the most interesting is that the models are really, really different across the verticals. So the dental patient is completely different than the man or woman who walks into a dealership that needs a new set of tires. The ability to toggle between all these verticals is, I think, really, really difficult and it’s a strength, I think, for us.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s talk about Sunbit from the patient’s point of view. Jay or Ryan, whoever wants to talk, just I’d like maybe a comparison compared to the traditional experience they may have with one of the other patient financing companies.

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah, sure. I can go first, Jay, if that’s okay.

Jay Letwat:

Of course. Of course.

Ryan Heroy:

I think for us, it used to be like we’ve mentioned in the past, used to be a paper form. They would fill out a paper form and we would fax it over and try to get the financing. Usually, it’s a day later. I think the big, the huge differentiator for Sunbit, it’s that one-stop shop for financing. Getting 90% of the patients approved within 30 seconds, it’s a game changer for us. They have their technology on the iPad. They have their designated app that’s really easy to use. And for patients that are not familiar with technology, we have our staff on that side of it to assist, but for the most part, it’s very easy to use. I think the other big differentiator for us is the, we’ll get into it a little later, I’m sure, but the implementation and just the support. It’s something we’ve never experienced before with any other financing group or any other vendor for that matter. Jay’s team is just unmatched in that area, for sure. So we just appreciate that very much.

Bill Neumann:

That’s great. Jay, anything to add there? Sound like a going testimonial.

Jay Letwat:

I have nothing. I have nothing to add, Bill. Ryan said it very well.

Bill Neumann:

That’s great. I’ll let you do this one, Jay.

Jay Letwat:

Okay.

Bill Neumann:

Why don’t we take a look at Sunbit? Why don’t you share a little bit with us and that way, we get to see it in action?

Jay Letwat:

Okay, sure. You’re putting me on the spot, but I accept the challenge, Bill. Okay. What you see in front of you, Bill, this is the iPad, same iPad that I actually have in my hand. Okay? We provide the iPad to patient offices. How the process works is pretty simple. They would first, the office staff, they would select their name. Bill, who do you want to be today, Beyonce, Oprah, or Taylor Swift?

Bill Neumann:

Go with Oprah.

Jay Letwat:

Everyone goes with Oprah. Click scan card. We take the driver’s license, which I have here. You flip it over. There’s a barcode on the back. You simply scan it just like that. Automatically, it extracts the information from the driver’s license. There’s my info. Patient types in their phone number and email. They click continue. Then the office staff just confirms with the patient that this is indeed their updated information. So they click copy to form and then the patient would then click agree and check options. And just like that, the patient’s been approved for $6,100. This is the approval process. This is the application process. Done. Usually takes between 20 to 25 seconds. Okay? So a couple of things here. We’re going to approve every patient with a FICO score of 500 or greater. Similar to what Ryan has mentioned, the average approval rate that our technology provides is about 85%. Okay? We never do a hard credit check throughout the process, so it’s soft throughout. This is very, very unique and we go up to $20,000.

Bill Neumann:

Ryan, can you attest to this?

Ryan Heroy:

Yes. Yes. It’s that easy and I think that’s what makes a huge difference for us. Used to be, we have a prime vendor. We have a subprime vendor. Usually, the subprime vendor was ourselves. Usually, that’s how it works. But here, we’re able to, like Jay said, within 30 seconds, basically. I think that that’s also the other big differentiator is that were funded up front. I think that that’s another big thing too. A lot of the subprime financing companies, it’s fund as you go. When you default and there’s a lot of other things to… Sunbit takes that on on their side of it too and it’s made a huge impact for us.

Jay Letwat:

I think that’s really key. If I can say this, a lot of patients, and just forget about dentistry for a second, when people apply for any kind of financing, they’re used to very invasive questions like, how much money do you make? Are you married versus single? Do you rent versus own? These questions are still asked today. These are relics from 1970s credit applications and they’re still being asked today. We don’t ask any of those kind of questions because we’re able to make our underwriting decisions through looking at the existing data of the soft check. We don’t need to have those invasive questions, simply not needed.

Bill Neumann:

Really, really easy. It’s amazing. Pretty cool. I have to admit, I’m impressed by it. So Ryan, let’s talk about the impact that using Sunbit and the technology and how easy that was. Talk about it from a productivity standpoint, production standpoint, and just how overall, it’s changed the way you do business.

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah. We started with Sunbit back in middle of the pandemic, June 2020. I know Jay’s team was very helpful in coming out multiple times. Obviously, we had to be very mindful of all the different things that we’re dealing with with the COVID pandemic, but we’ve been with Sunbit for about a year and a half now. We’ve been able to generate over $2.2 million in revenue. Like I mentioned, I know Jay mentioned it was slightly lower for overall, but for us, it’s 89.5%, 90% approval rating. We’ve submitted about 1,800 apps. I think the only thing that’s holding us back is ourselves. The more apps that we submit, the more patients we can finance and then the more patients we can serve. I think that’s really the difference on our end.

Bill Neumann:

So it’s almost a capacity issue.

Ryan Heroy:

Yes.

Bill Neumann:

That’s great. What’s the patient experience? What’s the feedback like? Are they pretty surprised with how easy it is?

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah. In not comparing to any other companies, but just from our standpoint, I mean even from a team member standpoint, they love it. They love Jay and their team and just the tech that they bring, the iPad and the app and the fact that we can get that approval within seconds has made it a lot more seamless in the dental office. Before, it was very clunky and you had to fill out multiple applications for the same patient to try to get them financed and you have that. Those patients too that sometimes they don’t get approved for the prime financing and then they don’t want to move on to the subprime financing, and here, it’s just simple, easy. Like we said, nine of 10 patients are getting approved, so it’s a game changer.

Bill Neumann:

I’ve got a question. We saw really the patient-facing side of it. What does the back end look like? What, from a analytic standpoint and having, we just did 18 locations, Ryan, is that right?

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah.

Bill Neumann:

18, 19 locations? Are you able to benchmark and look at performance as far as patient financing from one location to the other? I’d love to hear a little bit about that.

Ryan Heroy:

Yeah. I know we probably can’t bring it up on the screen, but they have a great interface on the back end too that allows us to not only see office over office, but also see our individual team members’ performances. We can compare treatment planner to treatment planner to see who’s offering, who’s not offering, who believes in it. Then what we do is we really target the training based off of those analytics on a monthly basis. So for us, we look at it more on a weekly, monthly basis.

Ryan Heroy:

We’ll have meetings with our regional managers, and then we’ll sit down and say, “Okay, this office is struggling a little bit.” Jay and his team has been very resourceful and they can send out a rep or they can call and set up a webinar and really back and figure out what is the true reason why we’re not offering it. So it’s very complete process. Before, it used to be, “Hey, here’s your system. Here’s your financing. Run with it,” and the support’s really not there. I think that that’s really the big difference is the back end and the support that we see with Sunbit.

Bill Neumann:

It’s a great way to sum up this entire conversation. It seems it’s super important, support implementation and it’s even more important. It’s easier when you’re only dealing with one location, but when you’re trying to communicate, implement, and support 19 locations or 150 or whatever, it becomes a lot more challenging. So Jay, can you talk us through that process?

Jay Letwat:

Sure. I would say on the outset, we’re committed to our customers or patients and partners’ success and we mean it. So similar to what Ryan said, not just in again, in patient financing, but in a lot of other implementations, they frisbee you the technology and say, “Hey, good luck. If you need something, here’s a 800 number.” What we do as a company, we’ve done this basically 10,500 times, that’s the amount of merchants that we have today, we go out physically. For Ryan’s group, we went out to all the different offices an hour before they open, brought in some breakfast, brought in some Starbucks and trained them for about 45 minutes. Then what we do is we sit back because we know these offices are super busy and we totally respect that. We’ll sit around in the offices for a couple of hours and just make them comfortable, make them confident to offer Sunbit, because the goal of what we’re trying to do at the end of the day is utilization. No one benefits when the iPad collects dust, the patients, our partners, as well as us.

Jay Letwat:

So what we try to do is get them comfortable and do what we call a day one Sunbit, which is a Sunbit transaction in the first day, because that’s really the biggest indicator of whether or not this partner is going to be moderately successful with us or super successful with us. We’re really with the partner for usually about a half a day, and then of course, we have support. Once we leave the office, we have a lot of technology on the back end, as Ryan mentioned, this partner portal, which has lots of real-time data. We also have account managers as well that are managing those accounts as well as a full support center that actually is based in Vegas as well, which is our employees to make sure that both our partners and our patients are successful.

Bill Neumann:

Great. Jay, if people want to find out more about the Sunbit platform, how do they do that?

Jay Letwat:

Sure. They would go to sunbit.com/dental. They can fill out their information. There’s also an ability to get a demo as well. Once they fill out the information, we’ll have someone get back into contact with them. Again, whether you’re a single-unit office, multi-office group or DSO, we want to help all dental groups be more successful, offer financing to not only generate more production, that’s great, but at the end of the day, we want to get more patients the dentistry they need. That’s the bottom line.

Bill Neumann:

Jay, you also mentioned before we started the record that you’re going to be at several of the in-person meetings, or Sunbit will. You talked about women in DSO coming up. There’s the ADSO meeting, [inaudible 00:29:03], several of the DSO meetings Sunbit will be attending.

Jay Letwat:

Absolutely. We’re in, I think, right now going to be in about an additional 20 shows and events in 2022. So certainly, you can meet us there. We’re always the ones wearing the white shirts with the iPads in our hands. We’re happy to meet and greet and learn more about everyone’s needs in their practice.

Bill Neumann:

Or you can go to sunbit.com/dental and find out right now.

Jay Letwat:

Absolutely.

Bill Neumann:

Thank you, Jay Letwat. We appreciate you being on the show today and thank you to Sunbit. And Ryan, we really appreciate you taking the time out, talking about your experience using Sunbit. And that’s it. Until next time. This is The Group Dentistry Now Show and I’m Bill Neumann. Thanks, gentlemen. Appreciate it.

Speaker 1:

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