Danielle Duclos: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to Bluefin’s Partner Podcast. Today, we will be speaking with Jana Macon, Executive Vice President Customer Success, for Curve Dental, and Dr. Vilas Sastry, founder and owner of Teledentistry.com. Curve Dental is a leading provider of web-based dental software and related services to dental practices within the United States and Canada, and is a Bluefin P2PE and integrated payments partner.
Teledentistry.com specializes in virtual care for dental patients across the country, is the teledentistry solution for Medicaid in multiple states, and recently partnered with Curve Dental to provide an integrated platform for teledentistry services to Curve’s practices. Today, we will be talking to both companies about the mutual partnerships, the rise in dental software usage, and factors leading to the growth in teledentistry. So, welcome Jana and Dr. Vilas, great to have you both with us.
Jana, tell us a little bit more about Curve Dental and what your company does.
Jana Macon: Curve Dental is really the original, 100% cloud-based, end-to-end practice management platform. And we have always been committed to delivering the highest quality software, as well as the highest quality service possible, to our customer base. Today, Curve is used by over 29,000 dental professionals. With the Curve platform, they get the benefit of streamlining the work that they do every day, such as scheduling, charting, imaging, billing and patient engagement.
Danielle Duclos: Excellent. So tell me more about cloud-based. I really think that’s a differentiator as opposed to software being run on servers in an office. Why is this an important distinction or benefit for customers?
Jana Macon: That’s a great question. When a provider has a cloud-based system like Curve, they’re basically offloading tasks that take their time away from serving patients. One of the big things that we hear is, “Well, I got an upgrade from my client server for my software company, but it was six months before I had the nerve to install it.” When you’re on true cloud software, you don’t need to think about that anymore – those things just happen while you’re sleeping at night. When you come back tomorrow, it’s all there and you have the benefit of it, but you didn’t have to go through the headache of installation or updates.
Along with that, we call it no-hassle technology. The things that people are really worried about these days and they should be, frankly Danielle, are data backups or security, disaster recovery. All of that is just part of our service, part of their subscription fee every month. So they’re really offloading that headache and that stress of the IT overhead.
I would say the other thing that is huge for cloud is this idea of anywhere accessibility. That’s something that really hasn’t been a requirement in dentistry. Most folks have felt like, “Well, I’m at the office, I have my software, it’s not a problem.” But given what we have been through with public health around the world, and certainly in North America, just in this last calendar year, the need to have accessibility from anywhere has become a really important idea.
So for the folks on the Curve platform, when patients reach out to them, even during these really inconvenient times, they can respond to them as if they were at the office. They can provide care in a way that’s comprehensive without having to be operating in the traditional sense, inside the walls of their office. And that’s a huge benefit that’s gone from a nice to have, or only the cutting edge people have it, to something that people are really realizing is a necessity.
Danielle Duclos: Jana, Bluefin and Curve have a longstanding partnership for integrated payments within the Curve Dental software. Your company was also one of the first to adopt PCI-validated point-to-point encryption as an integrated software provider. First, what do you see as the importance of integrated payments for dental practices? And second, what do you see as the importance of having a payment security tool such as P2PE?
Jana Macon: We have had a long relationship with Bluefin and many, many of our providers use your service. Anything that we can integrate into the platform that saves our providers one minute, two minutes, three minutes, for every single patient that they see that day– it becomes a significant amount of value and money back into their pocket.
If I have a long list of payments I need to report on or I need to run it out of my system, then I need to reconcile those payments in my practice management system. That’s not even an issue with Bluefin’s integrated payments feature – it just happens automatically and they don’t have to think about it. They know at the end of the day, the payment has been processed and it’s been posted to the right patient.
That is the value of integration but on the point-to-point security encryption – data security is of the utmost importance to us. Obviously patient health data is very important but payment data is equally important, and that has to be held safe and secure. The fact that we could partner with Bluefin on a technology that’s going to give that extra layer of coverage and support, so that a provider is confident that when taking a credit card, they know that data is secure and they’re not putting their patient at risk – we felt like it was just an important thing to jump on quickly, because security really is everything.
Danielle Duclos: A lot has changed for healthcare this year with the coronavirus pandemic. In March, Curve and Teledentistry.com announced a partnership where the Curve Dental offices would have access to Teledentistry.com. Dr. Vilas, I find the notion of teledentistry to be very interesting. We’ve heard a lot about telehealth and we’ve heard a lot about remote visits with physicians. Tell us more about what teledentistry entails and why this is important for dental offices.
Dr. Vilas Sastry: Absolutely, Danielle. Teledentistry as a service is truly more of an ecosystem than just a telehealth visit. That’s what Teledentistry.com is. It’s not just the video conferencing feature between a patient and a dentist, there’s much more to it. For example, when you enter into the space of what we all know to be dentistry, there could be a patient having a dental emergency who needs to talk to the dentist right away. Now they can communicate with their dentists using a telehealth or a teledentistry platform. And on the insurance side, the payers are looking for value added benefits to their platform and to their existing policies. Then you have our partnership with Curve, where the dental practices themselves want a system that integrates with their existing offerings and platforms.
There’s just so much to what Teledentistry.com is and the different aspects in which we integrate within not only a dentist practice, but truly the dentist’s lives. That’s how we’ve fashioned ourselves as the industry leader in this space.
Danielle Duclos: Obviously, COVID-19 has pushed these remote types of visits to the forefront. What have you have seen from 2019 and interest in services like this, and what you have seen since the start the pandemic?
Dr. Vilas Sastry: Wow. Where do I start on that question? Almost every aspect that you can imagine about our lives as dentists, as practitioners, has completely been modified by the COVID-19 crisis. Just a few months ago, if somebody were to ask what teledentistry is, then there would have been a whole other conversation we’d have had to have about it.
But now it’s understood that the service is here to stay and patients are expecting it from their insurance carriers and from their dentists. That gives us the energy and the will to continue to innovate and provide additional services. For example, we started in 2017 and our first contract was with Medicaid with 300,000 members here in the state of Nevada. We had to almost instantly scale to a level that would accommodate all those patients. Now, since then, we’ve grown from 300,000 members to providing services now to over 22 million members and it’s a continuous evolution process.
The need for it has grown so much more with COVID and luckily, we had already created our platform prior to the pandemic. We had some track record in terms of the ability to provide our services for dental practices and we showcased it to Curve. That’s when we were able to cement our relationship.
Danielle Duclos: Excellent. Jana, I want to turn it back to you. Curve reacted very quickly to provide your offices this teledentristry option. When the pandemic hit, was this something you said “Oh, offices are really going to need this”?
Jana Macon: As soon as we realized what the pandemic was going to look like, that shutdowns were likely, we began to get advice from ADA. There was so much information coming in so fast and our goal was what can we do to help our providers stay afloat and serve their patients during this time? I’d been talking to Vilas off and on, both of us had wanted to pull something together but this became that critical moment where we just needed to make it happen, and so we did.
Their group went to work, our group went to work and we got a webinar together to educate our customers. I think we had several hundred Curve customers on the first webinar and people started to sign up because they could see that while this was maybe not something that felt normal, it all of a sudden became necessary.
Because Vilas was a real innovator in the space, it took one call for me to understand five other ways that you can use teledentistry when there’s not a pandemic. For me, I felt like there was a short-term benefit, depending how long we were not going to be able to be in the office. Then there was a definite long-term benefit that we should definitely make available to the Curve user base.
This was maybe the newest and most innovative, I call low touch, no touch process that we began to just furiously push out into the market through webinars and all kinds of marketing communication to let people know there are ways to keep rowing the boat while we’re waiting and going through this together.
Danielle Duclos: As we continue through the pandemic, what other impact do you think the Coronavirus might have on the features and the benefits in some of the growth plans that both of your companies are anticipating over the next year?
Jana Macon: This whole notion of a low touch, no touch process is something that Curve was doing all along. Electronic forms that automatically go out to patients and they fill them out ahead of time, and that data goes straight into the database, is an example. Everyone is realizing we need to not have paper that everyone’s touching. So it’s no longer about being paperless for the cost benefit, it’s for the health benefit.
Then you have patient engagement where you’re sending texts and sending emails. Our platform can now send a reminder two hours right before they come, don’t forget to wear your mask, don’t forget to stay in your car, call this number when you get there. All of the protocols that you want to be actively reminding patients. Our investment will focus on how providers can more effectively communicate with and serve their patients in ways that are leveraging technology, that are convenient, and that are the same ways that users are very accustomed to interacting with lots of other people in their life, just maybe not their dentist.
When it comes to Bluefin and payments, they receive their services, they walk out,they receive their invoice on the portal, and they pay securely on the portal through our Bluefin integration. It’s facilitated in a way that we can keep person to person contact minimal, which is currently a necessity for patient care.
Danielle Duclos: Dr. Vilas, if this is the new normal, where do you see the future of Teledentistry.com heading? Is this something that you think might be ubiquitous with dental practices and insurance providers across the U.S. in the future?
Dr. Vilas Sastry: Yes absolutely. Without question the level of interest and the level of partnerships continue to magnify as we move into 2021. We’ve already signed multiple contracts with multiple large insurance carriers effective in January of next year. They’re thrilled at the prospect of being able to do these kinds of things with the technology that we’ve already deployed.
And w have created an Uberized system for dentists to actually participate in the gig economy. This is revolutionary for what we can do with dental practices. You’re a licensed dentist in California and you live in LA. You’ve finished your day at work, and now you’re ready to make some extra income. You’re registered on our system as a panel dentist so now, you can take calls and perform video conference consultations for patients across California. So, we can tap you into that entire group of people who are looking for dental emergency services.
Now, think about what this does for the ecosystem. In the dental world, we talk about ER diversion and helping people avoid the emergency room for dental related issue. The one place you don’t want to be going to right now is the ER. Patients are expecting this type of service now and if you don’t provide it, and the guy next door does, then you’re probably losing patients. And so, teledentistry becomes a competitive advantage that you have in your practice.
We’re very excited to be on the cutting edge and to have Bluefin as a partner as well as Curve and to be able to bring all these things together and create this network effect and help propel the entire profession.
Danielle Duclos: I want to thank you both so much. I think this was an extremely timely and important discussion considering everything that’s going on.
Jana Macon, Executive Vice President, Customer Success, Curve Dental
Jana is an IT Executive with a track record of leading multiple teams and strategic initiatives in fast-growth applications software companies focusing on revenue creation, retention and operational excellence. She boasts significant leadership in the creation and growth of various areas of Brightree, LLC over 11 year tenure as an integral part of the leadership team, growing the company to 500+ employees and $130M+ in revenue in eleven years. In that time Brightree’s market share grew to over 50%, taking the company from a start-up to a market leader. She was selected as key member of CEO’s 5-person team to participate directly with suitors in 9 month process of selling the business, culminating in an $800M deal to ResMed in April 2016. Jana joined the Executive Management Team at Curve Dental as EVP of Customer Success in January of 2019. Learn more at www.curvedental.com.
Dr. Vilas Sastry, Founder and Owner, Teledentistry.com
Vilas has been in the dental industry for over 20 years and has had the privilege of helping thousands of patients. Through his experiences with them, he was able to find solutions to several of their issues ranging from actual dental care needs to more complex financial and technological barriers. Since 2006, as Chief Dental Officer of Aces Dental, Vilas continues to provide real world dental services in the Las Vegas area. From 2007-2016, as the CEO of Health Networks of America, Vilas grew a dental insurance brokerage firm from scratch to a multimillion dollar operation spanning over 3000 dental offices nationwide. Vilas has gained industry insight from both the dental practitioner’s perspective and that of the insurance companies he has worked with, allowing him to create solutions that help dental practices, dental insurance, and most the patients he serves. Learn more at www.teledentistry.com.