Perfect Smile Dental Care Decreases Aging by 96% or More…
Across the Board!
Dr. Annie Pham’s dental career began on a fairly typical trajectory: She graduated from dental school… worked as an Associate doctor for five years… married an equally successful and busy professional (Tim Dang)… founded Perfect Smile Dental Care (Santa Clara, CA) in 2005… and within a year, had become highly stressed and was no longer having much fun being a practice owner!
She got into the profession because of her love of science, the hands-on aspects of dentistry, and the satisfaction that came with helping patients. But now, her thoughts were more consumed by dealing with business issues, personnel issues, insurance issues, and all the myriad aspects of owning a practice and managing employees.
A Transformational Journey
Annie and Tim did some serious soul-searching, asking themselves why they were putting themselves through all the stress, and ultimately questioning their true purpose. And that’s when the trajectory became atypical indeed!
Together they went through a personal journey of transformation, coming to appreciate their skills in dentistry and practice management as God-given gifts they should use to SERVE patients and team members.
It sounds simple, but it was a huge shift in our thinking. We came to realize it’s not about us. The practice now has a dual purpose to use our gifts to serve our patients, and to serve our team members.
When it comes to serving their patients, Perfect Smile’s mantra is to truly “C.A.R.E.” for their patients by offering superior Comfort, Availability, Relationships and Excellence. Dr. Pham especially values the relationships they build with patients, many of whom have been coming to the practice since it first opened, and some even continue to return from out-of-state.
Operationally, everyone at Perfect Smile is committed to getting it right – to being on time, to being accurate with estimates, to warrantying the work by taking care of any concerns at no charge. In short, doing whatever it takes to satisfy the patient’s needs and deliver a great experience. Based on social media reviews and patient referrals, clearly the practice is accomplishing its purpose of serving their patients!
To serve their team members, Annie and Tim go above and beyond to empower their people to be better all around, not just as employees. They offer professional and personal development to help team members grow stronger in all aspects of their lives. Staff members – current and former – continually show their appreciation by letting Dr. Pham and Tim know how much they value not only the great workplace, but for encouraging, coaching and teaching them; for helping them to become the best versions of themselves.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, Annie and Tim overwhelmed each of their staff members with a heartfelt video message of gratitude, along with a customized care package. These care packages included “an extravagant amount of groceries” (as one team member put it), along with gloves, branded hand sanitizer, and of course, toilet paper! Virtually every team member responded with a video message to express their appreciation for how thoughtful, generous, kind and caring Annie and Tim are, and how much it meant to them and their families. A common theme was, “We are blessed to work for you.”
Whether or not you believe in karma, we all know the saying – “What goes around, comes around.” Not long after changing their mindset, and redefining their purpose to use their gifts to serve within the dental industry, the practice began to flourish beyond all expectations.
From there, we experienced amazing growth.
We grew from a typical small dental office with 4 people,
to 2 offices and a team of 7 doctors and 25 staff.
Meeting Demanding Patient Standards
Perfect Smile was established to cater to the busy work life dynamics of Silicon Valley residents. By nature, people who work in high-tech industries tend to be very knowledgeable and have exacting standards. Their patients show up on time for appointments, expect to be done on time, expect state-of-the-art technologies and the latest techniques from the clinicians.
They also expect efficient and flawless back-office processes – such as, correct treatment estimates, accurate insurance benefit estimates and claim submissions, and timely posting of payments.
Rapid growth naturally brought with it some challenges, including the need to hire enough of the right people. On the one hand, Silicon Valley attracts many talented people, which can create a strong labor pool. On the other hand, it’s already a highly competitive job market, and the escalating cost of living in recent years has been driving people out.
Tim is proud to say Perfect Smile has a lot to offer employees over and above their competitors, so attracting strong talent is generally not a problem. But, he acknowledges that “Life happens; turnover is inevitable. The primary challenge is, how do we stay true to our purpose and continue serving our patients and team members?”
Tim admitted it can be difficult to find people with the right expertise in certain areas -- those with the necessary knowledge and experience who can be relied upon to consistently perform at a high level, and achieve great results for the business, AND for the patients.
Meet Dr. Annie Pham
- B.S. in Biological Sciences
- Doctorate of Dental Surgery, University of the Pacific, School of Dentistry
- Passionate about service to the team and community, and spending time with family
Meet Tim Dang
- Director of Operations/business strategist
- Lifelong learner passionate about being a servant leader, coach and mentor
To help manage growth, Tim tried outsourcing several functions – one vendor to help answer the telephones, and another to handle insurance verifications. While they got the job done, he said the fit was never quite right – “Their approach was to operate purely as 3rd-party independent contractors hired to do a task, without trying to become a real part of the team.”
Tim determined another strong candidate for outsourcing was the insurance billing and collections function. Having become so much more complex and time-consuming, the role had evolved from an administrative job responsibility, to a highly skilled position requiring years of specific knowledge and experience. Even with a qualified individual on board, employees require time off for vacations and sick days, for instance. Without equally qualified backup, essential activities such as collections, aging, and timely posting of payments go on hold for days at a time.
Unable to find people with the necessary skill set and expertise, a little over three years ago Tim turned to eAssist Dental Solutions for the Santa Clara office.
Within 3 to 4 months we saw the benefits, and immediately started with the San Jose location as well.
eAssist met all of our criteria, including being committed to our mission of serving our patients,
and becoming an integral part of our team.
In addition to the inevitable discomfort that comes with change, Tim admitted some team members were skeptical that having the function done off-site could work. How could their own management be sure claims were being submitted correctly? How could off-site billers gather additional information needed for a claim or appeal when they couldn’t talk to the doctor face-to-face? Should they be concerned about security with eAssist having access to their database? How could outside staff stay up to speed with the constant changes being implemented within the practice?
Before long, all concerns melted away. Even the doctors – who had always been quite involved in monitoring the collections process – became staunch believers.
Within the first 3 months, the doctors were just so amazed.
They saw the consistency of 98%... 99%... even 100% collection.
In addition to insurance billing and collections, it wasn’t long before Tim asked the eAssist team to also take over the patient portion of collections. But not just by sending out impersonal balance-due statements. As he explained, “We expect them to connect with the patient; to reach out via email or phone, and work with the patient to figure out what can be done. Our eAssisters go above and beyond to help us fulfill our mission of serving our patients.”
As far as how they handle their work, I’m still amazed on a daily basis. They get things done consistently, and really care about what they do. They’re really phenomenal.
Over and above their four eAssisters being highly knowledgeable, and consistently providing superior results, Tim and the Perfect Smile staff have been impressed with these somewhat unexpected benefits:
- “We are constantly learning, and evolving our processes; our eAssisters are a big part of that. In addition to our regular monthly calls, we communicate almost daily by email or phone to ensure we’re doing our best, together, to stay true to our mission. In addition, as a part of our team, they are always up-to-date with the changes, and even provide suggestions and recommendations on how to improve processes.”
- “During the 2½-month industry shutdown due to COVID-19, our eAssisters initiated open and honest conversations about the office being closed, with no collections coming in. Because they are part of our team, they asked, “How can we work together?” We reached out to them quite often during the shutdown, and they helped a lot by continuing to clean up aging, and offering to take care of things that aren’t even part of the agreement. They really went above and beyond to provide additional support.”
- An unexpected benefit “in reverse” is how Tim and the staff make their eAssisters feel so valued and appreciated. Tim wouldn’t have it any other way, explaining -- “As members of the team, it’s important that we serve our out-of-house staff just as we serve the in-house staff.” They do this by including their eAssisters in meetings and special events via video; and sending gift cards, emails and recorded messages of professional thanks and personal encouragement.
A large, multi-doctor, multi-office practice cannot thrive and grow without strong systems and processes in place that deliver consistent results, AND evolve with changing patient expectations and technological advances.
In the spirit of continuous improvement and making processes simpler for the patients, Tim described the next big step already underway toward achieving the long term vision for Perfect Smile Dental Care, which is to continue automating the more mundane processes. By doing so, team members will be freed up to spend their time on the things that truly matter, i.e., quality interaction with the patients.
Tim summarized by saying, “Dentistry has changed so much, and we’re always trying to implement more changes and new processes. But I find the one thing that doesn’t change is the stability that comes with having a team that is reliable; a team that is consistently meeting a certain expectation. Having eAssist as an integral part of the team is a blessing, and really provides that pillar of stability for us. I just can’t emphasize that enough.”
When asked what advice he most often shares with colleagues, Tim reiterated he and Dr. Pham are united in their belief, always encouraging others to “View your talent in dentistry as a God-given gift, not something that makes you better or smarter than anyone else. Use your gift to help people – to serve your patients and serve your staff. Stay true to that purpose, and everything else will come.”
The adage certainly bears repeating – What goes around, comes around.