Pacific Dental Services: Gary Tinseth, Chief Administrative Officer

by HCE Exchange on November 1, 2010

Since 1994, Pacific Dental Services (PDS) has been partnering with dental offices. To date, they are putting smiles on faces through 200 dental offices in five states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas and Colorado. There are 2,800 employees associated with PDS and about 500 affiliated dentists.

“We’re the experts at basically coordinating all the business processes that happen in any of our affiliate dental offices,” says Gary Tinseth, Chief Administrative Officer. “The office and practices are owned by the dentists. They employ all the hygienists and associate dentists. We manage the administrative aspects of the office for them, anything that needs to be done as far as business—the billing, the office processes, marketing the practice, all of their IT infrastructure and support. Basically, we take care of anything they need to do besides actually working on the patient.”

Leading Modern Dentistry

“The majority of dentists today—private dentists—haven’t changed they way they practice dentistry in 20 years,” says Tinseth. “A lot of them still use actual X-Ray equipment. They use paper charts.”

PDS creates the infrastructure for a paperless office. From digital radiography to digital charting, they are the first major dental-related group that has a complete electronic record for dental needs, including billing.

There are other advances, as well. Crown or other type restorations, for instance, are completed in office. “No more temporaries or sending out to the lab. The offices create the final restoration, same day,” says Tinseth.

More Value to the Patient

“Everything we do is geared toward being more valuable to the patient and their time. We try to be very efficient in regards to time. We allow patients to do all their pre-registration on the web. Appointments can be made on the web,” says Tinseth.

PDS is plotting course based on demands from the patients. The insurance companies may be lagging, but the patients are opting for convenience, as well as quality. The company recently completed work with a number of patient focus groups from different regions. “We asked them, what do they see and what do they want from their dentist,” says Tinseth.

The information collected from the focus groups was then followed up with an electronic email survey to more than 150,000 patients. “Our objective, of course, is that holy grail of getting those patients for life. In order to accomplish that, you have to find out what patients want. That was why we did this big focus group and survey. Now we’re taking that data and we’re going to put that into our best practices and all our training processes to get a better experience for the patient,” says Tinseth. “We know people don’t like to go to the dentist. What we try to do is make that process very efficient and as pleasant as possible for our patients.”

The Future of Dental Practice Management

Tinseth says that practice management groups still account for a very small portion of the total dental industry. They are beginning to see more growth, however, as independent dentists opt to join the more structured environments of management groups. The appeal is solid. As part of a system that takes care of the day-to-day business, dentists can focus all their attention on the care of their patients.

PDS has plans to open new markets at the rate of one every other year or so, with a goal of adding 30-35 new offices per year in existing markets. “We think that’s totally realistic,” says Tinseth. “We’re not getting any resistance on the need for our services.”

They work to support locally branded offices. “We’ve come up with a referral  brand called ‘The Smile Generation’ where we will be doing more regional and national type marketing and funnel those resources into each individual office,” says Tinseth.

Another benefit to the linking of offices in terms of electronic data is the ability to set best practices as an industry. “We have a lot of initiatives going company wide of which each office benefits. One initiative we are working on now is our quality initiative,” says Tinseth. “The dental industry hasn’t really had any measurements for quality or outcome of care. We think the way we are all tied in electronically with common systems, that we can now get into looking at quality initiatives, quality issues, and be able to maintain consistency overall.”

“I think the key thing we’re looking for is to give the patients what they need in the future,” says Tinseth. “Basically, patients have a lot of choices. What we want to do with our modern dentistry theme, our quality initiatives and our patient engagement initiatives are to be that provider of choice in all the markets we serve.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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