The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice Of The DSO Industry – Episode 24

Smile One Services may be a smaller DSO, with five Michigan locations, but they are the first dental practice in the country to introduce breakthrough UV-C pathogen control technology, working 24/7 to purify the air from harmful viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The UV technology also neutralizes contamination on heavily-used surfaces. In this podcast, this dentist-led DSO’s owner and CEO, Dr. Darren Riopelle, explains their Smile Safety Assurance program and why he considers his practices to be the ‘safest dental practices’ in the country. Watch their video above and then listen to our audio only podcast to learn more about their impressive safety protocols which make their patients and team feel safe.

Our podcast series brings you dental support and emerging dental group practice analysis, conversation, trends, news and events. Listen to leaders in the DSO and emerging dental group space talk about their challenges, successes, and the future of group dentistry.

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FULL TRANSCRIPT

Bill Neumann:

I’d like to welcome everybody back to The Group Dentistry Now Show. I am Bill Neumann. Thanks for being here today. We always have wonderful guests, and today, of course, we have somebody that some of you have heard of, and maybe some of you haven’t heard of, but he’s doing some really important things in Western Michigan, and we’re going to talk all about what he’s doing to keep his staff safe, keep his patients safe, and really doing some innovating things that I think the industry, both the large groups and the smaller groups out there, are going to be really interesting in finding out more about.

Bill Neumann:

So, Darren Riopelle, welcome to The Group Dentistry Now Show. Darren is the founder and CEO of Smile One Services. I’m going to give you a little bit of background on Darren, and then we’ll talk a little bit about what he has going on in his practices in Western Michigan, and everybody is going to be very interested in this.

Bill Neumann:

So, Darren Riopelle is a D.D.S. He has 20 years experience owning and operating multi-specialty dental practices. Back in 2008, he opened Smile Grand Haven, a new concept in dental care focusing on a proactive standard of care and a unique patient-centric experience. Patient demand led to the launch of Little Smiles in 2011, offering the same experience designed specifically to the needs of children. In 2014, Smile Orthodontics began, allowing Smile patients to conveniently keep all their dental care under one roof with known and trusted in-house specialists. Smile’s three specialties… adult and teen dentistry, pediatric dentistry, and orthodontics… became Smile Dental Partners.

Bill Neumann:

In 2018, Dr. Riopelle formed Smile One Services, West Michigan’s first multi-specialty dental service organization. Smile One offers support services to dental practices and has helped to open Smile practices in Grand Rapids, North Muskegon, and Holland. In 2019, a growing need in dental care inspired Dr. Riopelle to create Daydreams, Michigan’s first pediatric center specializing in general anesthesia dentistry, and we’re going to talk about Daydreams later on in this podcast.

Bill Neumann:

Today, Dr. Riopelle serves as CEO of Smile One Services and continues to lead as the first dental organization in the U.S. to introduce UVC pathogen-controlled technology at all practices, and we’ll get into more detail of what UVC pathogen-controlled technology is, and how it keeps patients and the staff safe.

Bill Neumann:

Darren, thanks for being here today.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Thanks, Bill. I really appreciate the introduction, and it’s an honor to be on your program.

Bill Neumann:

Great. Darren, let’s talk a little bit more about your DSO. I know I talked a good bit about it, but give us a little bit of perspective.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Yeah, so going through the process of being a practitioner and looking for support and demand before we made the move into official DSO, we really looked at all avenues, like who can support us, who can help us, and we didn’t find a lot of good answers that were able to do what we thought was the right way to do it. Being multi-specialty, we found support that was, “Oh, we do orthodontics,” or, “We do general,” or, “We do pedo.” No one was able to blend all of them together under one roof, so as we continued to grow, we decided to make the jump and say, “You know what? We are going to have to create this ourselves, and in order to create this ourselves, we’re going to have to have more locations.”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, one kind of drove the other, but it really allowed us to think deeply what was missing, and what we needed to do to support a large multi-group practice the way it needs to be supported, versus a general, or versus a pedo, or versus an ortho… how you blend all those together. That was the fun part, and it’s worked really, really well so far.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, that’s great, and I think we’re going to see more multi-specialty groups pop up as it demands from the patients or the customers, right? They want convenience. They want to work with people that they’re comfortable with.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

It really is, and in our world, as soon as we did it, we really were concerned about, well, how are you going to get referrals? I’m like, “If you do the right thing and treat the people right, you’re going to get the referrals.” The beautiful part is, is that once you get one family, you can serve all their needs? You literally can attract the entire generation to your office, and their neighborhood, so it’s a great practice builder, and it really… when it looks at the profitability of a practice, you can do all those things under one roof, yet you have multi-trained assistants, and we use one lab, one phone system? It really makes a lot of sense to the bottom line at the same time, and also being very convenient for families.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s talk about something we have to address, COVID-19. Right now, everybody is going through this. Some are in different stages, depending on what state you’re in. Let’s talk a little bit about… you were shut down for quite a while. You’re starting to open back up.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We are shut down until Friday.

Bill Neumann:

Okay, well, so this is great timing. You’ve been doing some emergent care, I take it, and then you’re also been doing a lot of planning to open up safely, and so let’s talk a little bit about what you’ve done, because you’ve done quite a bit, and you really have some really interesting technology. You’ve really created a brand around this safety that you’re providing for both the patients and also the staff.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Yes, thank you. Well, again, that’s part of getting through this with the DSO and the support system we’ve put together. Sometimes we asked, why are we doing this, and I can tell you after this event, I know exactly why we did all these steps. It’s what got us through successively so we could provide certainty and trust for our patients and our team, because we have the systems in place to be thinking about how to handle an event like this; so, being all cloud-based, it made life really well, and having a think tank of really high individuals within our organization to roll these things out, because it took a team to get all this done.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Right from the start, I was watching the news, and like, this is not going well. This is something that’s not going to be a couple week event. So, really foreshadowing with the team ahead of time made this process easier, and then taking the opportunity to say… and I actually said to the team, I said, “Look, I know you guys think this is really horrible, and it really is, but let’s look at this as an opportunity. It’s the opportunity to sit back and say, ‘What systems were not working? Why did we do certain this way? What is it going to look like on the other side? How are you as my team members… my hygienists, my assistants, my doctors… going to feel comfortable walking back in that facility, because if you’re not comfortable, the patients know we’re going to be comfortable, and you’re going to sense that from the first phone call when the patient calls; if they sense that that person they talk to isn’t confident about where they’re bringing them, it just cascades down.'”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, I really wanted to say, I mean, what does it look like? This is a really great story of a small town business, at the same time. I talked my IT guy and my electrician… it’s because we’ve done all those projects together… and I’m like, “Hey guys, we’ve got to do something different,” and we looked at the clean air systems – none of those seemed like it was going to be the impact we needed. Plus, we wanted it to be a simple project, too.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We were able to contact a company… ironically, very local; it’s in Grand Haven, as well, called UV Angel… and we knew that the biggest scary factor to dentistry was the air and the aerosols, because let’s face it: we’ve been doing dentistry with universal precautions for years. I mean, it’s nothing new to us, but what else do we have to do additionally? I figured the cleaning the air was the best way to do it, but I wanted to do it in a way that we didn’t have to have it partially done. We wanted to address the entire office, because when I took a look at it, if it’s in the air, if it’s in a dental office, people are only treating their operatories; well, what about the rest of the office?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

I wanted to make sure that whatever we did, it was going to be the entire facility and not just for the doctor, really, and that’s kind of my view of things, is most things I’ve seen out there really… here’s what I’m doing to protect me, and rarely do you see what someone’s doing to protect the patient or the team, and I thought it was important that we did that, which is why I went with the air cleaner and then also the Adapt series for the hands and the keyboards, but we can talk about UV Angel more in a minute there. I could talk all day about that.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We just knew that we had to retool. We had to be different. We had to come out strong, and that was our mindset, is that this is an opportunity to rebrand, reset, and really go strong of who you are. So, we set that program out to do that.

Bill Neumann:

You have this great video that they really just finished producing, right? There’s a video, and obviously, this is an audio podcast, but you can go to your GroupDentistryNow website and we’ll have the video with the article that will be attached to this podcast, which will have the transcription, and we’ll have the video, which is really interesting because it takes you through what the patient would experience from when they arrive in the parking lot to when they sit in the chair. Do you want to go through some of those steps and some of the things that you’ve put in place?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Absolutely, yeah. We did that because we really wanted the patient to, A, know we did something differently, and to really minimize the number of phone calls or explanations over the phone. So, we wanted to give them a step-by-step process of what’s different and what’s it going to look like to open. It just provides certainty and trust for the team and the patient.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, basically, we had a program that we set from the very beginning where the patient drives in the facility. We recommend that they walk in with a mask on, and once they walk in, right in front of them will be an AI temperature thermal scanner. So, the scanner will sense your face, and you stand still and it takes your temperature; it says if you pass or you fail. Right next to that is a sense of instructions on a really cool sign with a touchless hand sanitizer; so, the next thing you do is you sanitize your hands. After that, you’re going to be greeted in our family room by an individual team member, and they’re going to escort you directly back to the room.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Now, part of the challenge… and I’ll just say it because some of the offices are doing texting, and in the parking lots, and will come get you, and we did that over the emergent part of the process, but our offices, we’ll see 150 patients a day, and that’s just not practical. We just knew that was just going to cause such a challenge, so that’s what has led me to incorporate the temperature at the very beginning, mask on, clean your hands, have the air in the facility cleaned, so then we can actually socially distance inside the facility… because we’re also from Michigan; that’s not going to work when it’s freezing rain out there, so we wanted to come up with more of a long-term solution. Not that the texting doesn’t work for some offices; it just wasn’t going to work for us. I just wanted to throw that out there.

Bill Neumann:

Sure.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We then show them the video where the patient sits in the chair and goes through the process, and it actually shows on the videos, as we lay the patient back, it shows down… they can breathe easier, that they know that the air they’re breathing is clean, because right above them is one of the units. We point out to them, “Hey, if you’d look up, you’ll see this.” In fact, they even make a little hum because they have a fan going all the time, so you can hear it.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Then, we actually show the patient also in the video that we have UV Angel lights, the Adapts, that are actually attached to all of our keyboards. You can wipe a keyboard down, great, but are you really getting it all? With the UV light, it senses when it’s been touched and it will clean it. In fact, we just got done hooking each of those Adapt series lights up to our cloud-based platform, so we can actually monitor everything, to making sure how many times it went off, is the UV light still the right strength? So, we can really monitor and have data proving that it’s being used, whereas you can’t be for sure if someone wipes a computer monitor or a keyboard down. I can tell you, when we look at our platform at the end of the day, and if we see a monitor that hasn’t been activated, I’m going to make sure that was a room that we probably didn’t use, or if it’s a room we use a lot, I’m going to know the job wasn’t getting done, so we’re going to be able to have some data to really prove and make some changes if we need to.

Bill Neumann:

Wow, that’s great. Along the lines of what you’re doing as far as opening back up, how do things look? So, Friday is the official day in Michigan that you’re able to open back up. What does that look like practice to practice? Can you give us a little bit of just insight as to what that looks like from a staffing and patient perspective?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Clairvoyant or what, but I knew right from the start, like I said earlier, this was not going to be a short-term thing; so, I had projecting with the team right from day one, I’m like, “Look, it’s probably going to be June, so let’s be prepared for that.”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, about six weeks in, we came up with a two week comeback plan. In other words… because, as everyone else, the date kept on changing; it’s a goal you can never hit. So we just said, “That’s fine. Because we don’t know the goal, we have to know a plan. So, if we can pick a date, then we reverse engineered how we can handle that.” So, that’s exactly what we did.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

As our governor was uniquely positioned to change all the time, I figured it, we still have to pick June 1st. So, we were just very lucky that that actually worked out. So, June 1st is the first Monday that we’re all going back. We executed a plan based on that starting before she made that call, and some of team members were like, “But she hasn’t made the call yet,” and I’m like, “Look, let’s play as if we are, and if we’re wrong, we’ll just back it off a little bit, but if we’re right, we’re that much more ahead of the game.”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We were able to bring back our entire call team and their schedulers, and then we had to reschedule thousands of appointments, but one key thing that we did to make our lives easier on Reopening Day is… we have some 20-some hygienists, that’s a lot of hygiene appointments to reschedule… we made the decision early on that we were going to simply take those hygiene appointments and reschedule them in six months as if they came in. Life is so disrupted right now, and how do you reschedule that many months of hygiene in a short period of time, and what do you do three months from now, right? All these offices that are scrambling to add hours and time and stuff like that, and changing every system to accommodate this window of chaos… I think they’re missing the back side of this, which is, what do you do when you get those people in, and then three months from now, where’s your hygiene schedule then? Where’s your oil to keep the machine going?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, we chose to do that differently. For us, we didn’t change our hours. We’re not adding anything special. We’re using our systems that are there and simply rescheduling the patients as if they were in. So, I literally just talked to my Connect One team lead here at our support center, and I asked her, “How’s it going?” She’s like “Darren, it’s almost like business as usual.” It’s really crazy that most people are excited, they want to come in. We haven’t had any related disruptions yet. A few people had some questions, but once we tell them what we’re doing, it’s been great.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, really, we’ve had a ton of new patients the last three days we’ve been open. Our phones were regular phone service, too. I’m not sure that answered your full question, but-

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, it sure did, and I think that almost leads into the next question. You said some of the patients had some questions, but mostly, it was business as usual, and I’m sure there might have been a question or two wrapped around PPE, which is a term now that the general population knows, but maybe doesn’t quite fully understand, and quite frankly, I think maybe there’s some people in the dental industry that don’t understand it. Let’s talk a little bit about PPE, how you handled that, because again, I think you took a unique approach here and it’s important to talk about.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

That’s a wild, all-over-the-place program, right? You’ve got providers who think you need to wear a space suit to go to work, and… I had a conversation, as a side note; one day we’re working on patients, the next day, we’re closed down, and in between that day, I had some people freaking out. I’m like, “Look, you’re trying to tell me that today is different than yesterday? It’s the same patients, so it’s going to be okay.” One of them went like, “Look, we’re still using universal precautions. It’s what we do.” Do we have to add some more things? Absolutely, but having the foresight of looking at this ahead of time… quite frankly, that’s a DSO’s leader’s job is to see the barriers and the challenges before they happen and prepare the team for them.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

One of the things I did is I had my main clinical procurement person… I said, “Hey, I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I want you to order 6,000 masks, extra gloves, and whatever else we can do,” and mind you, this was in late January. She goes, “Why?” I’m like, “Well, there’s this thing in China, and you just never know, and we’ll use them, anyways.” So we literally put in our garage, and then when this all started happening, actually we donated several thousands masks to hospitals at the same time just because we wanted to help out; so, we weren’t totally hoarding, but we also knew we had to come out strong. We never stopped ordering. We made sure that any supplier that we had a contact with, we had an account with, so we could use the minimum there. So, we were really well-positioned on PPE with that.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We just let the team know, “We have everything you need, but we don’t have everything for every day, so let us know what you’re comfortable with.” That was the biggest issue. Does that answer your question, where I was working with that?

Bill Neumann:

Sure, yeah, it does. It sounds like you were definitely ahead of a lot of groups as far as securing PPE, which now, of course, has become almost as expensive and hard to get as gold, or as expensive as bonding agent, maybe.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

[crosstalk 00:18:26]

Bill Neumann:

It’s been a challenge. As far as PPE requirements go, do the providers guide you? Do the dentists that work with you, and the hygienists and assistants, tell you what they feel comfortable with, or do you have a standardization? How is that working?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We have definitely standardization, but we also have what I would consider the overkill things, extra gowns. I mean, we have them if you need them, but I also wanted to show them like, “Look, if you’re concerned about the air”… well, we also made sure that any provider that didn’t already have the Isodry… so, in pediatrics, we have a ton of Isodrys already, or Isovacs that we use, or Isowipes; so, all three of those. So, I simply said, “Hey, this is working great in Pediatrics, why we don’t we just incorporate into our general and hygiene practice, too?”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We bought several… I mean, I don’t know, 10 or 12 additional… some different per practice… Isodrys just to help with aerosols. I went to the whole team, I said, “Look, here’s our plan when we come out. What are the areas you think you’re concerned of?” So, we definitely made this a team effort as far as what the comfort levels were, and made sure that if you felt you needed a face shield and three masks, you can have that. It’s not required, but if that’s what makes you comfortable, that’s fine.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

In the same token, if you feel that no matter what we’ve done, you’re still not comfortable, I understand that, but we’re going to keep going back to work, and when you think you are comfortable, let us know… but we are moving forward as an organization, and this is how we’re doing it.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. The next question… again, you’ve already touched on this quite a bit… is communication, and when you and I spoke last week, where there was a survey that came out and the percentage was really high, and it was shocking how many dentists had not communicated at all with their staffs since COVID hit. Was it 60 percent? The percentage was high.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Oh yeah.

Bill Neumann:

So I see you have a really great relationship with your staff. You’re in constant communication with them. So, really, let’s talk just generally around that communication with the staff, and then let’s also… then, once we get finished talking about that, let’s talk about what you’ve been doing to communicate with the patients, as well.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Yeah, so being multi-specialty, multi-practice pronged, and where we have a support center that is outside the practice, we were already putting a lot of tools in place and figuring out… to go from one or two practices to three and communicate, you can bop around, but when you go to five and have your support center, you’ve really got to have a system of technology and a platform put together that you can communicate on a consistent basis the same way to everyone, and they know that’s the channel that they go to. So, that was our biggest thing is, we had just figured this out and we really put it to the test.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We had a couple other out there, and early on, we said, “No, this is the channel we’re going to go through.” We use a communication channel called Flock, and well, for me, that was a lot of fun a lot of times that we could go Flock each other… but anyway, you can bleep that out if you need to. It’s just one of the fun things.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We use Flock a lot, and we were able to have different channels, so we could have a team lead channel; we could have a doctor channel. We could have a whole group channel. We even have a social Flock channel, so that if someone wanted to talk about something that wasn’t directly related to daily business or things they need to, they could do on that avenue, where like, “Hey, I’m having a hard time,” or, “Hey, there’s this free CE course and it’s on this type of thing that we can all do,” so we kind of separated and divide and conquer where certain types of communication happen, but all through the same source.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

That was an extremely powerful tool to put it there. It’s set up where that if a Flock goes out, it’s to everyone’s email, and they get a message; it makes a little Flock noise, and they know that’s how they do it. We can record on Flock. It was just an amazing tool for us to communicate, and we used it a lot, and for me… and I’m a morning guy, so I’d get up in the morning and send out a weekly really positive message. Whenever it was, it was positive, and this is not going to be easy, but it was a constant communication, that they need to know that I have their back, I trust them; I’m doing everything I’m doing right now because you guys have got my back, and when we go back to work, we’re going to go hard and we’re going to go strong.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

It’s been really good knowing that they’ll communicate, and they’ll communicate back with me. I’ll get a Flock sometimes like, “Hey, Darren, thanks a lot for supporting me. I really appreciate that.” I had one of our associate doctors literally reach out to our HR department and say, “Can I have the addresses of all of the people I work with,” because he didn’t have that type of access. He literally wrote every single one of them a handwritten note and gave them some scratch-off lottery tickets, and just said, “Here’s something on me.” That’s the kind of stuff, additionally, that just is ingrained in our culture.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

I actually sat down… there is 95 people on our team… and it took me about a week at night to call each and every one of them, just to check in, see what the best thing on Netflix is, or, honestly, what kind of challenges are you having? How can we support you? What’s missing? I just want them to know that we’re there for them, because I know right now, I’ve been asking them to go above and beyond, and there’s going to be some sacrifices we have to do to go back, and they’re doing it.

Bill Neumann:

Well, that’s great. Yeah, it sounds like this Flock system has really been embraced by the staff, as well.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s talk about communication with patients. How has that gone, and when did you start doing that? Was it right as things closed down? Tell us a little bit about that journey.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Yep, it was right as things closed down. Thankfully, again, having cloud-base and having those systems already set up between a very integrated Facebook, integrated webpage… so, we actually own our own website, and we have our internal marketing person and our IT, so they can design those things, too… so we’re able to get on our website and make changes instantly, make messages instantly, so we’ve had an advantage of being able to instantly do those changes as we needed to… but we also had MailChimp in it. Every source that we had to communicate from the patient, we did.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We were just honest with them. “This is a challenging time. We’re going to have to do things differently. We’re going to reschedule you here. We’re doing our best.” Then, we just communicated by actual phone; so, when I say that, we actually asked all of our hygienists, when they were not working for us, technically, that I need you to come in and communicate with your patients. I didn’t want to send thousands of hygiene patients an email when your next appointment was, so we actually recruited our hygienists to come in, or get on their cloud-based system in their phone and actually call all their patients and reschedule them.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, we had a lot of human point-to-point contact, and at a time where no one else was doing that, and I tell you, the feedback we got was amazing, because not only was the patient isolated and at home and didn’t have a lot of personal contact, but so were our hygienists. They would say, “I can’t believe how much I actually talked to my patients. I just wanted to hear someone else.” So, having a real voice really helped, too.

Bill Neumann:

Well, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Kudos to the hygienists for doing that. I mean, it certainly probably kept a lot of the patients at ease during this time.

Bill Neumann:

So let’s talk about your Smile Safety Assurance program, because that is really unique, and it looks like you trademarked that. Is that correct?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Well, we have TM there.

Bill Neumann:

There you go. Well, that’s trademarked.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Yes, yes. As you know, in the world of dentistry, a lot of people like borrowing things, and I’m totally good with that, but this is one thing we wanted to let people know, like, “Look, this is what we put out there.” We’ll be gladly help you with it, but-

Bill Neumann:

This is ours.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Yeah, pretty much.

Bill Neumann:

So when did this… was this your brainchild? Was this pre-COVID? Did you have this for a while, or did this come out of COVID?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

No, the whole Smile Safety Assurance page came out of COVID, because it was just a given, right? In dentistry, that’s what we do, so it was never a big thing to put it out there. It’s like, “Hey, I do crowns.” “Really? You’re a dentist? Good job.” So, same thing like staying safe; that’s just a given. This is a different world and it’s a different process, so this actually… when I go back to our incredibly talented team that we have within the DSO, not that we’re huge, but they have our own IT, marketing, and HR and clinical controls; we all work together, and we’ve worked at it for a long time, so that to have your own internal marketing person who knows marketing understand your business… it’s gotten to a point where I can sit down with Lance and say, “Lance, it needs to look like this,” and then he can put it together like this.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Lance came up with Smile Safety Assurance. It wasn’t me, honestly. I saw what he coined it last week; I’m like, “Oh, that’s a good idea.” I will not take all credit for this. I had some ideas of what it should look like, but the way I work is I’m more of the visionary; I have the good ideas. Thankfully, I surround myself with people who can get things done with detail; and so, this really came out of the team’s connection of working together, and I just got to talk about it, to be honest.

Bill Neumann:

Timing is great for this, obviously, and I think just putting together something like that that’s simple for the patients to understand gives them that level, and that it’s at the forefront of what you’re doing; you’re talking about it, you’re not hiding behind anything. I just think that’s super important, and to your credit, having an in-house marketing and IT probably made that process go a lot smoother.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Yeah, and you used a key word there, simple. Honestly, as part of our culture, as an organization, we’ve been doing this for a while now, but we have core values. A lot of people have a mission statement… I’m going to go off on a tangent now, Bill, I hope you don’t mind.

Bill Neumann:

That’s okay.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

You hit on the number one core value to me: simple. Keep it simple. That is so important in dentistry because dentists like to make things so complicated. It’s not that hard of a job if we just take the simple things and apply them, so that’s exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to a point-by-point stop of why, what’s different, and how it’s simple, and I wanted to keep that important.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

This Smile Safety Assurance and the video that you’re talking about, at the same token, every time we now have… like June 1st being the first day, every single person is getting a text confirmation asking them to review the video so they know what it looks like when they come in, and it’s a great tool for those occasional patients who are like, “What are you doing? I’m really nervous.” “Why don’t you go to our safety page? Why don’t you see the video? It should put you very much comfortable, so we can provide certainty and trust that we’re going to take care of you.”

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. So, let’s pivot here. Everybody’s pivoting, right? Let’s talk a little bit about your Daydreams project?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

I would say, one of the reasons I think we were able to work so well in this new environment or in this COVID environment is that we do pivot as an organization all the time. We preach flexibility and we preach, if you’re wrong, it’s okay. Just make a mistake quick and learn from it, and also identify the areas in front of you that aren’t working. Solve the problem before it becomes a problem. That’s really what happened with Daydreams.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, with our history of pediatric part of our office, we were fortunate enough, years ago when we started the program, to find that our local hospital never had pediatric dentistry before; so, small town… we were able to work with them and create the program, but if anyone else following the world of hospitals and profitability, and challenges that they have… dentistry loses money at the hospital all the time. So as we’re going through this, we’ve seen hospitals drop cases, hospitals getting rid of dentistry; I’m like, “Look, this is going to be a problem.” As of right now, these wait lists can be six months to a year to get in to take your child under general anesthesia. During that time… I mean, they’re missing school. It just wasn’t working. I said, “There’s got to be a better way.”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We still need to have general anesthesia. I didn’t want to do it within the practice because that creates a whole another set of rules and chaos that just is very disruptive, so I said I wanted to create an environment that the only thing we do is general anesthesia and pediatrics. Now, we review for adults, if we need to, which we can pivot to in time. So, we went to a anesthesia group in Grand Rapids, and it’s the same anesthesiologist, pediatrically-trained anesthesiologist that work at the children’s hospitals here… I went to them and said, “Look, I know you guys do some office work in dental offices. How does that go for you?” They hate it. I mean, you bring all your stuff it; it doesn’t work; it’s not what it’s designed for. I said, “Well, I want to create a system that we can solve a problem, that the hospitals are getting rid of dentistry, but there’s such a demand. We have to help these kids, but it’s also a business, too.”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, I set up a group called Daydreams, and when you see that website, Lance and I created that pretty quickly, and it’s been really successful. Basically, Daydreams has its own referral source, and we get referrals from all over the state of Michigan. I mean, literally from the border to our bridge, which can be several hundred miles, and then we’ll get a referral and we’ll set them up at one of our Little Smiles practices to see if they truly need surgery; and then, within the day they call or are referred to us, we can have them in and out of surgery in less than six weeks, sometimes up to two weeks or less, because it’s such a slick system working with our anesthesia partners.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

It’s just like a hospital. We have full anesthesia machines, we have two nurses. I mean, you walk in, it’s a hospital. We also installed UV Angel in that facility, as well, so it is by far the safest outpatient facility in the country right now, in my opinion. It solved a problem of hospitals getting rid of dentistry. In fact, over this COVID process, my theory has come to full view, as the largest hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, just told their dentists in the middle of COVID that they’re not coming back after this event; so, we now are the only source for all of the pediatric dentists within hundreds of miles. So, good position to be, but bad position because there’s still a lot of kids that we probably won’t be able to serve, but we actually have two other locations that are equipped equally that we can pivot, because we built it ahead of time, to go.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We also use the same cloud-based system for scheduling that we use for our dental practices, so our call center and everything else can toggle back and forth; so we, again, have multi-usage of support center doing surgical coordinating, too. Again, when you come into the support center, the fact that we can do hospital surgeries of all sorts in their own center, and then everything special; so, it’s a neat group of people who are really multi-specialty, as well.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. Moving from Daydreams… you touched on using AV Angel there, as well as in all the other practices you have. So, last question for you, it’s pretty open, and I know we want to cover UV Angel a little bit; let’s talk about what you think the future of the dental industry, DSOs and solos… but we kind of look to the future now probably with a little bit more curiosity than we did pre-COVID, just because it’s a little bit more uncertain than I think everybody had what the future looked like; end of 2020 looked a lot different three months ago than it does now. So, what are you thoughts on the industry future?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

In general, I think that it’s got a great future. I mean, for us, we’re excited. We’re going to grow. In fact, we put an ad out. Literally, we’re hiring for all positions. I mean, we’re excited about it, but I think, in general, it’s going to be a challenge. I think you’re going to see… you know the old saying, when a tide goes out, you see who’s naked… I think you’re going to start to see those who were ill-prepared, that sugarcoated and maybe looked good, but deep down, they didn’t have the cultural support, they didn’t have the real depth that they needed, and they weren’t capitalized and in an ability to get to this in a very liquid situation.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

I think there’s going to be some… the consolidation will be quicker. I think you’re going to see some of the egos… and I’m sorry to say that, but I know dentists sometimes have egos… are going to hopefully disappear, and they’re going to go to the guy around the corner and say, “Hey, look”… and this is my theory: you drive around a dentist’s row, right? You would have nine practices next to each other. They each maybe have five operatories, and you’re like, “You know, 50 percent of the time, those are all sitting there empty.”

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Well, there’s not enough margins left anymore for us not to work together. So, I think the egos are going to go away, and I can also say that I’ve had many conversations with dentists recently over this event, who are like, “I’ve thought about owning.” I don’t want to own. I couldn’t imagine going through a crisis that’s like this, so I think you’re going to see younger people wanting to buy. I think you’re going to see fewer lenders on this, and I think you’re going to see more group practices that would eventually merge into small DSOs, but eventually go into larger DSOs.

Bill Neumann:

I think you’re probably right. That sounds like a pretty good prediction there, for sure.

Bill Neumann:

So let’s talk a little bit from a future standpoint, technologies… again, I know we talked a decent amount about this, but let’s talk a little bit more again. UV Angel is the company that you’re using that’s in Grand Haven, correct?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Correct.

Bill Neumann:

It’s UVC pathogen-controlled technology. So, what does it do, exactly? A little bit more information on that and then I’ll let you go.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

There’s two main devices that they use right now. One is called UV Angel Adapt Series, and that is a mount that sits on keyboards; so, we put them in all of our operatories. Every single keyboard that we own has a UVC light on it. It’s motion-sensored, so it will scan… it will acknowledge itself when someone touches a keyboard and the little red light turns red, so it knows it’s been compromised. Then, it will know when there’s not a person there, because you don’t want the light flashing on your hands, because technically, ultraviolet light can cause problems. So, the safety feature is, it won’t go off if there’s a motion sensor.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

So, it turns red when it has been triggered, and then, when it turns blue, it’s scanning things, and then when it turns green, you know it’s clean. That allows the cross-contamination at heavy touch points to be… you know it’s getting taken care of. That’s one aspect.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

We’re also working with UV Angel on the Adapt series to do some custom things just within the dental field, because I take a look at where we may set our sensors for x-rays… well, it might be nice to have one of those lights over those; or, do we put a light over the ultrasonic in the lab?

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

There’s just different uses we’re going to work some prototypes out. That’s for the touch points, but I think of the biggest aspect of the light version is really helping with the aerosols and clean air in our field. It’s one of those things that we all know inherently, dentistry has some risk, and lungs are a challenge in that. Just total side note: my father is a dentist, and he recently has been diagnosed with an unknown lung disease, and it turns out they’ve done some studies, and there’s a lot of people at his age, in his early 70s, who have this same unknown disease, and they linked it because they used to breathe in all the… pre-mask area… all the things they would breathe in. So, I think this just raises the level of it.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Basically, it’s a unit that sticks into the ceiling. It works best if you have a drop ceiling. It replaces two ceiling tiles. It can also replace, if you have a light above your chair, or anywhere in the building, it replaces a light at the same time. So, it can be a LED light, or not; basically, it circles the air in. It sends it through two tubes which have ultraviolet light in them, killing anything in that air, then it circulates it back out. You’d have to look at the detail of it, but it circulates the room very quickly.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Kind of a unique thing, because this is a newer product for them… well, in general, for the dental field… they didn’t tell me that it made some noise; so, it actually has a decent hum to it. I was like, “Well, that’s kind of weird,” but after about five minutes, I said, “This is such an added advancement to it,” because you don’t have to worry about listening to the neighbor next door anymore. It actually adds a nice white noise that is very peaceful, and we had it going today when the office was busy, and you didn’t here the conversations as much. You didn’t hear the drill from the other doctor next door… or in our world, you didn’t hear the pediatric wing as much, either.

Bill Neumann:

And the patients know it’s running and working, because they hear it.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Right. I mean, it does it all right, and you hear it, but it doesn’t get in your way, and it’s very actually easy to install, and the installation was quite easy.

Bill Neumann:

Well, that’s really cool technology. What we’ll do is, once we finish up this podcast, we’ll of course have an article, and we want to make sure that we include that video of what the patient experience is, from the parking lot until they get into the chair; and then, there is, in that video, the technology, the UVC pathogen-controlled technology from UV Angel, so that will also be included in the video.

Bill Neumann:

So, Dr. Darren Riopelle, I really appreciate you spending some time with us today. Again, Darren is the founder and CEO of Smile One Services, and he’s done just a lot of really incredible things to prepare his practices to reopen in this new normal… sorry, I had to throw that in there.

Bill Neumann:

Again, we really appreciate the insight, and I think this is going to help a lot of smaller groups and some larger groups that are going to be going through this same process very shortly, and again, I can’t say how much I appreciate what you’ve done.

Dr. Darren Riopelle:

Thank you so much, Bill. I really appreciate you letting me get the message out.

Bill Neumann:

Yep, you’re welcome. Again, everybody, thanks for listening to The Group Dentistry Now Show. Until next time, I’m Bill Neumann.

 

 

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