What to Expect at the 13th ADSO Summit Meeting

The ADSO’s Chief Executive Officer Andrew Smith and Chair of the Curriculum Committee Dr. Maryam Beyramian discuss the upcoming ADSO 13th Annual Summit Meeting

DSOPro: What are some of the highlights you’ve put together for this year’s Summit Meeting?

Dr. Beyramian: We have incredible speakers this year. We are holding thought leader sessions, along with study club sessions that will provide deep dives into different categories, such as RCM, marketing, and clinical operations.

We also have terrific leaders speaking during the main stage sessions. Dr. Tarek Aly will be moderating Thursday afternoon, and executives outside of dentistry will be discussing IT, retail, and consumer motivations/expectations.

Members within organizations including Westwind Integrated Health, PDS Health, Heartland Dental, Aspen Dental, Rodeo, and Risas Dental and Braces are presenting the study club sessions. We will bring our leadership teams in to discuss what we’re doing in our groups to help us navigate the current environments of reimbursements and marketing and how we’re handling associate recruiting and training.

Andrew Smith: Over the last few years, we have seen this meeting become a great convener of the dental industry. The Summit’s content is curated by CEOs of dental support organizations for CEOs and their teams, whether it be C-suite or department leads, from IT to operations, finance, marketing, and HR, to name a few. We’ll have really great content, sharing best practices combined with thought leadership and vision about where the DSO industry is heading and how it is becoming the preferred model of dentistry for dentists.

DSOPro: Can you talk about the importance of understanding consumers?

Dr. Beyramian: Dentistry is about consumerism, so it is always interesting to hear what our consumers, or patients, are looking for. What are they looking for in terms of retail? How was their shopping experience? What’s happening in the current economy? What’s happening in the financial world? How is financing? How will that affect the growth of our groups and practices? Is it more difficult for patients to get financing? Every category of the patient experience, every touch point—from the emotional touch point to the financial touch points—is different. We are a healthcare facility, but we also cater to consumers because patients choose to spend their money with us. It’s an out-of-pocket expense. This is not covered 100% by insurance. The session that delves into these ideas will be on the main stage Thursday afternoon.

ADSO_Summit_2024_Email_Signature_600x300DSOPro: Tell us more about the programming.

Andrew Smith: Historically we have had some of the leaders from our member DSOs, like Aspen, Pacific Health, Heartland, or Smile Brands, each do individual talks. Then we shifted to a keynote speaker approach. But we what we heard from our members was a desire to hear from these leaders in more of an open discussion format, and not just about how they built their business, but also some of the pain points and where they think things are going. So, Dr. Sulman Ahmed, the ADSO president, will be interviewing Bob Fontana from Aspen, Dr. Rick Workman from Heartland, Steve Thorne from PDS Health, and Steve Bilt from Smile Brands on where things were, where they currently are, where they see the industry going, and other topics the audience hasn’t really heard about.

Two years ago, we launched an event for dental school deans and CEOs to talk about challenges and opportunities. Now we have roughly 20 dental school deans coming to meet with our members and talk about what they’re teaching students, what our CEOs and their teams are seeing from their recent graduates, and how we can continue to propel the industry forward.

Also, for the first time, we have dental students attending who will connect with our member companies so we can continue to learn about what this new generation of dentists is looking for in terms of practice and how ADSO and its member companies can continue to be an educational resource for them as they choose their practice model.

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DSOPro: What are you learning from them so far?

Andrew Smith: Dental schools are continuing to look at how to make their students more practice ready and are focusing more on practice management. This is an opportunity for DSOs to work with students on the practice management side.

I spend a lot of time going to dental schools and speaking to classes. Many students are focused on finding a partner that will enable them to do what they love—treat patients—and not have to go at it alone. I think they are very intrigued about the relationship between a dental support organization and the dentist. They want to know what the pathway to ownership is. This generation recognizes the need for practice management and wants to make sure that they have a partner that can help them learn how to become a better, more efficient dentist in the practice setting.

They’re also very focused on utilizing the latest technologies. They are delving into implant technology, and utilizing artificial intelligence, for example. When they learn that DSOs are deploying those technologies, and adding continuing education and mentorship to the mix, they’re very excited about the potential opportunities. We have found it very helpful to connect the students directly with our supported dentists who can tell their stories. It’s a great opportunity to hear from both sides.

DSOPro: Do you think that emerging or larger groups are more interested in AI than a solo practitioner might be?

Andrew Smith: Yes, DSOs have economies of scale, and more efficiencies so are better able to deploy AI. AI gives the patient a better understanding of why their clinician is suggesting a particular type of treatment plan. And because patients are now more consumer-centric driven, they have more choices, and they understand that, “If I get this done now, it will prevent further issues down the road.”

I think AI helps dentists be even more efficient because it’s a tool that helps them think through treatment planning. So, it’s a win-win for patients and clinicians.

DSOPro: Will cybersecurity be a focus at this meeting because of the increasing rate of cyberattacks?

Andrew Smith: Yes. We know the ADA, Henry Schein, and Aspen Dental all had issues with cyberattacks. They were all resolved, but the ransom payments cause a huge issue for all healthcare providers, including dentists. It is a very hot topic among our members. They need to know how to protect themselves, particularly on the operations side. A group is getting together to discuss best practices on cyber, what they should be thinking about, how to protect themselves, and how to better understand what’s coming around the corner.

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DSOPro: How about the trend toward considering overall health and communicating with their physicians when treating patients?

Andrew Smith:  Many of our members are invested heavily in oral-systemic health and the integration of medical and dental, and we’re continuing to see that investment expand. PDS Health is obviously very invested in the concept and has co-locations in some of their offices with a healthcare provider and the dental office. They’re using Epic for electronic health records, which allows the practitioners to easily access records. Technologies such as salivary diagnostics are also being deployed to measure the bacteria and pH levels in the mouth to help determine treatment plans for levels of periodontal disease. Because they also test for diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cholesterol issues, the test may initially be given in a dental office but indicate conditions that affect the rest of the body.

It will be interesting to see how DSOs continue to scale medical-dental integration and make it operationally efficient to deploy it within their offices to ensure patients are getting the care they need.

Dr. Beyramian: At Westwind Integrated Health, we have been integrating primary care and dentistry since 2017. We started with co-locations where our primary care providers and dental providers saw patients side by side. Our current model has evolved and uses AI heavily for all our screenings and diagnosis. Our goal is to screen for undiagnosed disease and help prevent it; we show how the patient can choose “health” with the knowledge, guidance, and tools we give them. It’s amazing to see how many young patients had undiagnosed disease and because of our model, we have forever helped change the trajectory of their lives. We will continue to research and develop the models for integration; this is just the beginning.

DSOPro: How will technologies be showcased at the meeting?

Dr. Beyramian: We’ve created a separate stage for industry partners to present their products and discuss the “whys” behind them, like why this product is important for your future. They will share the benefits of their products and discuss how they can be used in your organization to impact your bottom line, retention, or whatever the product does.

We thought this would be a really good way for all of the DSO owners, like myself, to get a better understanding of the products out there, and how they can help their organizations.

Andrew Smith: I’d like to note that we have room for additional exhibitors. We’re expecting about 1,800 attendees this year, so if exhibitors are interested in attending, they still have time to get in.

We’re really excited about what we’re calling a technology playground. The Dental Innovation Alliance (DIA) is one of our partners, and DIA members will be there talking about all the different new and emerging technologies. These will include staffing solutions, RCM solutions, technologies focused on the clinical side, etc. Our members are constantly looking for ways to help them deliver the best patient care, make them more efficient, help them with treatment planning, and help them run the office better.

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DSOPro: What are some of the speaker highlights?

Andrew Smith: We are presenting “CEOs [Un]scripted” on the main stage Thursday morning. Steve Bilt (Smile Brands), Bob Fontana (The Aspen Group), and Dr. Sulman Ahmed (DECA Dental), Steve Thorne (PDS Health), and Dr. Rick Workman (Heartland Dental) will be talking about entrepreneurship, struggles, and opportunities in a way you haven’t heard before. This discussion goes back to ADSO’s roots of coming together for networking and best practices. The featured stages we’re doing in the afternoon on Thursday will showcase a lot of great content on a variety of issues.

And Align Technology is hosting an innovation day on Wednesday, so if people get in early, they’ll have a great opportunity to learn about technology.

DSOPro: Who should attend this meeting?

Dr. Beyramian: The beauty of these summits is that patients are no different whether you own a group or are a solo practitioner, meaning everyone can gain insight on clinical operations, financial operations, and the consumer markets.

DSOPro: Is there anything you’d like to mention in terms of trends or what you think will happen with DSOs in the next year or so?

Andrew Smith: We’re continuing to see from 35% to 40% of graduating dental students planning to practice in a DSO, which has doubled in the last 8 years. I think that’s due to the continuing education, mentorship, and support DSOs offer. It’s how this generation wants to practice and that’s exciting.

From a public policy standpoint, we’re working with the American Dental Hygienists’ Association and the ADA on legislation for licensure portability. We all want to make it easier for a dentist or a hygienist to be able to move across state lines, assuming they’re coming from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA-) accredited university and they’re in good standing. It saves time, money, and resources to be able to go where the care is needed. There are not enough dentists per capita throughout the United States, especially in certain fast-growing areas, and license portability will help with access to care.

DSOPro: Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Andrew Smith: Don’t miss out on the whole Summit experience. We’ve tailored the content to all the various attendees who come—from CEOs, to their C-suite, to those working in the industry, and to our industry partners. We have some pretty fun evening events as well. There’s something for everyone.

Dr. Beyramian: Yes, stay for the whole meeting. It’s important for everyone to attend the Friday night sessions and parties. Both the meetings and parties are focused on learning and developing longstanding relationships with one another.

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Dr. Maryam Beyramian, ADSO Curriculum Committee Chair, Founder & CEO, Westwind Integrated Health






Andrew Smith, ADSO Chief Executive Officer




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