The future of DSOs: How AI can improve care, boost revenue and fight burnout

As dental service organizations work to grow in a competitive market, they have an opportunity to leverage artificial intelligence technologies to work smarter, more efficiently and more profitably. Advanced tools not only monitor dental health remotely but can help with diagnostics, freeing providers to focus on patients and growth.

In a featured session at the Dental + DSO virtual forum, hosted by Becker's Dental Review and sponsored by Dental Monitoring, the following dental executives discussed the implementation, challenges and benefits of AI tools:

  • Josh Adcox, DDS, clinical director for remote care at Smile Doctors
  • Cindy Roark, DMD, senior vice president and chief clinical officer at Sage Dental
  • Mark Van Weelde, senior vice president and executive director at Dental Monitoring

Five key takeaways: 

1. AI streamlines dental and orthodontics diagnoses and decision-making. AI technology can be used, for example, to review dental images, resulting in fast, consistent diagnosis. "Anything that can be digitized can be automated," Mr. Van Weelde said.

Technology can do things faster, more consistently and more economically than humans. For example, Dr. Roark pointed out, "If you put three dentists together, you will not get the same diagnosis. We owe consistency to patients."

Dr. Adcock explained how AI helps him reduce decision fatigue. "AI helps me remember and automate those preset decisions I've already made," he said.

2. Technology boosts value per visit. Patients want to minimize the number of visits to complete orthodontic treatments. Providers care about value per visit as a key metric. "If we see a patient too many times, the value per visit goes down," Dr. Adcox explained. "Dental Monitoring helps us either eliminate extra visits or lengthen the time between visits while still maintaining a quality connection with our patients."

3. Piloting AI programs and getting provider buy-in are keys to success. "Pilots are where you're allowed to screw up a few things," Dr. Roark said.

"There are so many factors that if you don't pilot, you can fall on your face." Dr. Adcox agreed. "You've got to test it, because every organization is going to have different goals and culture."

In addition, dentists need to believe AI will benefit them, their patients and their practice. "We need to help doctors understand the value of AI," Dr. Adcox said, "and lay out specific protocols to implement incrementally to help them succeed."

4. Return on investment inevitably follows with solid AI implementation. "Although meaningful change requires time, investment and focus, the benefits are enduring," Mr. Van Weelde said. "We anticipate the ROI from AI technology will be somewhere between four- to 10-times."

Sage Dental has seen its gross profit increase 38 percent, Dr. Roark said. And Smile Doctors is on track "to hit our biggest year yet with fewer appointments," Dr. Adcox said.

5. AI can improve providers' quality of life. Dr. Adcox said he was personally reaching burnout levels two years ago. Since implementing the Dental Monitoring technology, he's been able to reduce his hours while maintaining patient care and increasing revenue. "I go home with more gas in the tank for my family," he said. "I show up better for my patients and for my team. And I have a better quality of life. At the same time, the patient experience hasn't suffered. If anything, it's improved, because we're keeping people first."

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