Women Elevating Other Women in DSOs
Amol Nirgudkar, Co-Founder and CEO of Patient Prism, interviews Dr. Jahnavi Rao from The Aspen Group (TAG), the parent company of Aspen Dental®. Dr. Rao received the Award for Clinical Excellence at the inaugural meeting of WinDSO in Las Vegas, March 2022, and it was at this meeting that Nirgudkar and Rao came together to discuss the higher standard of oral health that results from orthodontics and the development of a significant education program for all Aspen Dental dentists.
Dr. Jahnavi Rao has held many leadership positions in the American Association of Orthodontists and Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists, been a clinical professor and course director at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and Roseman University of Health Sciences in Las Vegas, has been the CEO of Aces Dental -- a multi-location dental corporation providing general dentistry and orthodontics to patients across Las Vegas, and in June of 2021 she became the Vice President of Orthodontic Support for The Aspen Group (TAG).
Her primary role with TAG is to support Aspen dentists and office staff in nearly 1,000 locations nationwide through:
- creation, development, and implementation of clinical programs to elevate patient care
- increased understanding and utilization of orthodontics in comprehensive treatment
- robust business education
- leading Aspen’s orthodontic support team
Raising Awareness & Accessibility
When a patient asks for straight teeth, they may be asking for a visually appealing smile. What the orthodontist or dentist is providing is a healthier bite, a stable occlusion, and more predictable restorative outcomes.
“Orthodontics is a vital part of dentistry, and it is a prescription service,” says Rao. “When a doctor prescribes orthodontics, it often comes from a place of need, and aesthetics is usually a byproduct of orthodontic treatment.”
"Patients are not always aware that they need orthodontics for a healthier bite," says Nirgudkar. "How do we raise awareness?"
Rao says, “Responsibility lies with the dental industry to create that awareness, to educate our doctors on how to diagnose and how to figure out where ortho would play a role. And we can definitely do better -- better in our dental schools, better in our curriculum, better in hands on training. And that's exactly what we are trying to do at Aspen.”
Nirgudkar asks Rao about Motto, TAG’s recently launched clear aligner brand.
“Motto is our clear aligner brand, and it is created specifically for the general dentist to be able to provide services. It compliments a general dental setting,” Rao says. “And the idea behind this was really to create a product that can elevate the standard of dental care. We wanted to create a product that is affordable and accessible to the patient.”
Job #1: Educate General Dentists
Aspen’s dentists can easily use Motto to provide more comprehensive dentistry and better restorative results. But the first step at TAG is to begin with the doctor’s journey.
“On day one, when a dentist joins what we call the Aspen nation, we provide theoretical knowledge and hands-on learning in live courses. The concept is to grow the dentist as an all-rounder and not a one pony show,” she says.
“That is absolutely amazing,” says Nirgudkar, “because a lot of general practitioners lack the confidence to really do ortho. That's why most general practitioners are doing only one start a month.”
TAG’s goal is to give its Aspen dentists clinical confidence.
“We want our doctors to be informed, educated, and empowered to make choices that make the most sense to them,” continues Rao. “We are going to walk them through that journey. They are going to have multiple contacts with my orthodontic support team. They will get to the point where they have a good understanding of orthodontic services and utilize them to help their patients.”
The Role of Specialists in DSOs
Nirgudkar remarks that general dentists are providing orthodontics more and aligners have disrupted traditional ortho making it easier for general dentists to provide ortho, but there is still a huge market for ortho. Most Americans are not aware they would benefit or that they really need ortho, and that they can afford it. He inquires about the role of specialist orthodontists.
Rao says there will always be a need for orthodontic specialists. “Our idea is to train our doctors to recognize the cases that they can treat and the cases that need to be referred. There are a lot of children and adults we can help.”
Dental schools provide only a theoretical foundation for orthodontics. There’s no practical implementation of that knowledge, unlike dentures or fillings. We’re filling that gap, so dentists can help their patients have the care they need.”
-Dr. Jahnavi Rao
Nirgudkar remarks it would be wonderful for every patient to get an orthodontic evaluation included in a comprehensive dental exam.
If an Aspen doctor has a complicated case requiring ortho, they can communicate with the robust support team and receive answers to their questions in seconds. The support from Aspen specialists is that fast.
“I wouldn't be standing here and you wouldn't be interviewing me had I not had a fleet of amazing supporters within Aspen that propelled me to go against the grain, to challenge myself, to reach out, to do the impossible,” says Rao.
Fierce, Intelligent and Very Balanced Women
“We're here at this Women in DSOs event discussing leadership. What perspective do women contribute to the leadership conversation that men don't necessarily bring?” asks Nirgudkar.
Rao responds, “I think whenever you bring in someone who is different, it brings with it layers of opportunities, and those opportunities could be in the form of ideas. They could be in the form of feedback. It could be in the form of subtle leadership skills. And Aspen has been tremendous in providing that platform to women. I mean, we have a robust group of very fierce, intelligent, but very balanced women. And I feel fortunate every day to be able to interact with them, to lean on them for support, because we've all had good and bad days. There are some days you just need someone to say, ‘You can do this; hang in there.’ And then you also need someone to nudge you, to push you and ask, ‘Are you sure? Can we do better than this?’ Aspen and the Aspen leadership has given us that platform to interact and elevate all of us from ground level all the way up. And I know you've met quite a few of our executive team, and I'm sure you could tell that vibe within the company, of how empowering it is.”
Nirgudkar is impressed by Aspen’s passion to change people's lives. “It's beautiful. It’s extremely sincere. And it's more than just building a big company. It's about empowering people – doctors, patients, practice teams, and support teams -- to lead their best lives. Dr. Rao, you are giving them the gift of confidence and beautiful relationships and everything else around it. Dr. Rao, thank you so much for coming here. It's been a pleasure and honor talking to you and congratulations.”
About The Aspen Group (TAG)
The Aspen Group was built on the simple idea of bringing better healthcare to more people. TAG and the independent healthcare practices it supports operate more than 1,100 locations in 45 states through its four healthcare support companies: Aspen Dental®, ClearChoice®, WellNow® and ChapterSM. Combined, the companies serve more than 30,000 patients a day and more than 8 million patients each year. TAG is headquartered in Chicago. For more information, visit www.teamtag.com.
Patient Prism Delivers Actionable Intelligence
Patient Prism’s artificial intelligence (A.I.) incorporates machine learning to provide deep insights into dental patient phone calls and conversion analytics.
Managers can easily see how many people asked about implants, the percentage booked, and the revenue opportunity won or lost.
- They can see how many people said they had Delta Dental PPO or spoke Spanish.
- They can see how many called in pain with emergency needs.
- They can see how many prospective patients did not book due to the unavailability of near appointments.
- They can determine if team members are uninformed about advertised promotions, don’t know how to respond well to financial questions, or are so pressed for time they fail to demonstrate empathy for callers’ concerns.
It's really quite simple. Patient Prism's dashboards provide unique insight as to what exactly is happening on the phones in any dental practice, including DSO or enterprise dashboards that include all practices' strengths and opportunities in one view.
These insights help managers identify where to expand services, better coach team members, increase staffing during peak hours, consider participation with an insurance provider, and adjust marketing.