Digital transformation in the patient experience: A win for...

Digital transformation in the patient experience: A win for patients and care teams

By Yogish Suvarna, Chief Information Officer, Aspen Dental Management, Inc.

Yogish Suvarna, Chief Information Officer, Aspen Dental Management, Inc.

Fifteen minutes per patient.1000 professional hours per day.

With the launch of a new digital patient check-in experience, that’s the reduction in administrative time across Aspen Dental’s network of 820 plus offices. The time is directly invested in one-to-one time with the more than 4,500 new patients seen across the network daily.

At first thought, fifteen minutes may feel insignificant, but the impact for patients is big. The benefits go beyond time savings and efficiency, cutting down waiting room time amidst patients’ growing expectation for digital care with the new ‘COVID-19’ normal that is reshaping healthcare experience. But more importantly, the shift reduces administrative time for clinical teams, and increases the value-add time providers get to spend with each patient, ultimately providing an even better in-chair experience.

Aspen Dental, with support from Aspen Dental Management, Inc. (ADMI), is the first large scale dental office network to offer a consistent on-line and digital check-in experience, which rolled out across the network in June.

A case for comfort

Remember your last experience as a new patient, at the dentist or with a traditional health provider. First visits are usually based on a treatment need that includes pain. Mix that discomfort with nerves, and the prospect of filling out half a dozen paper forms has little appeal. The idea of paperwork becomes exponentially less appealing in the middle of a global pandemic, when experts say the less time we spend in waiting rooms, the better off we are.

By comparison, it is much more attractive to go to an appointment and provide the office’s Patient Service Representative (PSR) with a driver’s license and insurance card. The simple exchange means patients can arrive on time, not early, and wait in the car to limit patient waiting and encourage social distancing.

Efficient. Safe. Familiar.

For quite some time, before an appointment, patients coming to the Aspen Dental network for care have had the option to complete their patient intake forms at www.AspenDental.com. Despite the availability, historically less than 25% of new patients did this homework. Instead on average, care teams have labored to manually enter a patient’s information, including the dentist, taking up to 15 minutes per patient and 1,000 cumulative hours in practice network each day.

Fast forward to present day. The workflow is streamlined when the PSR scans the driver’s license and insurance card and in ten seconds, the information is uploaded into the patient file and safely stored in Aspen Dental’s digitally secure practice management system.

From there, the patient gets an iPad and in about three minutes, confirms the accuracy of their information and approves it with a signature on-screen. The iPad follows the patient to the treatment room, where the dental assistant and dentist complete the patient’s medical history in a one-to-one setting where care teams connect and get to know each patient.

So far patients and staff have welcomed the paperless process, which is similar to best practices that are becoming common across traditional healthcare experience. The virtual process is also akin to digital technology patients use in their daily lives—from banking, to dining to retail.

Back to business: Digital check-in is just the beginning

As communities begin to apply what we have all learned from the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis, we know that dentistry – like most aspects of life – must change to better protect patients and care teams. As social distancing and virtual versus face-to-face lifestyles become cultural norms, there is even greater potential for digital transformation and artificial intelligence in the patient’s dental journey.

Electronic check-in is one of many digital enablers ADMI plans to offer across the Aspen Dental network. Between March and June when state and local guidance limited dental care to emergency only procedures, ADMI implemented a virtual care offering to enable greater access to patient care. Today, in all 41 states where Aspen Dental has offices, patients can consult with a licensed dentist to determine whether in-office treatment is needed.

Likewise, a digital charting and notes system already enables greater continuity in care, while a pilot to bring AI enabled voice-activated perio-charting system to all offices will help patients better understand their proposed treatment plans. Down the road, facial recognition technologies, along with digital billing & payment, have the potential to make patient check-in and check-out simpler and more secure, digitally and with regard to infectious disease protocol.

Aspen Dental exists to provide care for all—removing friction that often prevents patients from getting the treatment they need. ADMI takes care of dental professionals who care for their patients and we are proud of our growing technology leadership in the healthcare industry. It is improving every aspect of the patient experience, from check-in to chair, at a time when patients expect nothing less and look to us for more.

Yogish Suvarna (YSuvarna@aspendental.com) is Chief Information Officer at Aspen Dental Management Inc. (ADMI),one of the largest and fastest-growing dental support organizations (DSO) in the U.S., supporting the Aspen Dental network of more than 820 offices in 41 states.

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