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6 Ways AI Boosts Patient Numbers at SGA Dental Partners and The Smilist DSOs

July 2, 2024

(Reprinted from Group Dentistry Now, May 24, 2024)

Effective patient communication is critical for DSOs like SGA Dental Partners and The Smilist, where maximizing ROI is crucial for growth. An AI platform not only ensures that every call is answered promptly, but also allows patients to immediately execute on the goal of their call – such as booking an appointment, rescheduling, getting answers to questions or checking insurance providers.

In this article, we discuss six ways the TrueLark AI-powered patient communications platform is helping these DSOs scale while providing an exceptional patient experience.

1. Captures 100% of Patient Calls

The Smilist owns 60 dental practices in New York and surrounding states, and steadily adds more practices every year. Co-founder Phil Toh explained, “Any dental practice – or any small business – is going to struggle with missed calls. And you always feel like it’s a missed opportunity.”

A generative AI conversation tool can book appointments and answer questions around the clock via SMS and web chat, ensuring excellent, 24/7 patient service. The Smilist started a TrueLark pilot in 2021 and has now adopted the platform across their network. Since implementing TrueLark, they have successfully handled over 15,000 conversations per month without needing human intervention, ensuring that every patient interaction is captured and no opportunity is lost.

 

AI patient communications KPIs

2. Improves Lead Conversion to Add New Patients Faster

TrueLark’s AI engine has been trained on over six million conversations and is purpose-built for DSOs. This means it can engage in complex human-like conversations that guide patients to booking an appointment. Because it’s smarter than other AI engines, it’s more effective than an off-the shelf chatbot at both the level of automation and the ability to convert leads to patients.

SGA Dental Partners is a rapidly-growing DSO with 120 locations across the Southeast. Adopting an AI conversation platform, that provides 24/7 engagement and the ability to convert callers, has been a game-changer. Within the first four months of integration (a ramp-up period with 5-8 practices going live per week), SGA witnessed 900 new patients join their network. This increase is attributed directly to the platform’s efficiency in managing call volumes and booking appointments.

 

DSO patient communication KPIs

 

Across the SGA Dental Partners network, TrueLark generative AI for patient communication automates around 63% of conversations. Nathan McClure, Operations Director, noted, “The positive is that every single one of those patients that TrueLark engaged is somebody that we would have never talked to anyway. Every one is a pick-up.”

3. Enhances Operational Efficiency and Cost Savings

The automation capabilities of TrueLark generative AI for patient communication have allowed both DSOs to reallocate resources more effectively, reducing their reliance on call center operations. In 2021, during The Smilist pilot, TrueLark rapidly reduced the number of calls directed to the call center. Because of this, The Smilist team decided to have call center agents start doing outbound calls and texting for lead engagement. “Instead of being an inbound call center, it became an outbound call center,” explained Mr. Toh. Furthermore, The Smilist’s experience with TrueLark’s instant SMS responses and interactive chat has significantly cut down on the time and resources previously spent on manual follow-ups.

 

 

SGA Dental Partners has also experienced improved efficiency and a reduction in overhead. Mr. McClure explained “The staff used to come into the office in the morning and check voicemails for callers who had left a message the previous evening. Now they come into the office and check TrueLark instead of the answering machine. Because of TrueLark, there are significantly fewer callbacks.”

4. Improves Patient Experience

Myles McAllister, Chief Operations Officer at SGA Dental Partners, confirms that TrueLark has improved the patient experience. Initially, his team was concerned that patients in rural areas wouldn’t feel as comfortable interacting with an automated system. Once TrueLark was live, however, they were relieved to find that even in rural locations, patients easily booked appointments on the platform. Furthermore, patients with varying levels of tech acumen have also engaged successfully with TrueLark’s conversational AI. Mr. McAllister noted that an 80-year-old patient easily grasped text booking, demonstrating its user-friendly interface.

Another factor that contributes to patient satisfaction is the fact that the front desk teams can now prioritize live patient interactions in the office or on the phone. Mr. McAllister believes freeing up administrative staff to better serve patients plays a role in maintaining SGA’s impressive NPS score of 87.

5. Scales Operations Seamlessly

As both DSOs have grown, TrueLark AI has been essential. Front desk teams and call centers handle increasingly larger call volumes and interactions, without the need for proportional increases in staffing and infrastructure expenses. Notably, the monthly cost of TrueLark is less than a week’s wages for a front desk employee.

6. Financial Gains Through Strategic Communication

The direct financial impact of integrating TrueLark AI is significant. SGA Dental Partners reported an increase in EBITDA, with a projected annual boost of $500,000 thanks to the TrueLark AI system. It ensures they maximize every communication opportunity, even outside of business hours or on holidays.

The true power of 24/7 availability hit home for Mr. McAllister early in the first year of the partnership. On July 4th, even with all practices closed, patients booked appointments through the platform. This highlights the unmatched convenience and accessibility it brings to the patient experience. Mr. McAllister explained, “TrueLark is our complete call handling solution. We call it a project goalkeeper or ‘no patient left behind.’ It pays for itself if just one new patient shows up.”

Conclusion

The experiences at SGA Dental Partners and The Smilist demonstrate the transformative impact of generative AI for patient communication, enabling the DSOs to drive growth and profitability in the competitive dental service industry. The TrueLark AI platform has proven to be a robust solution for enhancing patient engagement, improving operational efficiencies and achieving substantial financial gains.

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