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Aspen Dental Featured in article - The pandemic pivot: IT leaders innovate on the fly


As the coronavirus forced Aspen Dental Management to shutter its offices in March, the company quickly moved to connect patients with doctors virtually.

But a problem cropped up: Many patients didn't care for Aspen’s self-service telemedicine portal. "For the most part, they abandoned it, so we said this is not going to work," says Yogish Suvarna, CIO of Aspen Dental Management, which provides business services for more than 830 offices.

The solution? Aspen quickly added call center representatives to broker virtual care sessions between patients and doctors. Problem solved.

Pivots such as Aspen’s are playing out all over the world as the coronavirus roils industries forcing organizations to adapt more quickly to satisfy customer preferences, as well as technical and business hurdles.

Rapid-fire digital solutions built in sprints provides a schema for how IT organizations operate going forward, says David Clarke, digital strategy and innovation leader at PwC, adding that IT leaders should view the pandemic as a digital accelerator rather than a deterrent. Seventy-eight percent of CFOs PwC polled in July said they cut investments, though only 17 percent say those cuts extend to digital transformation, Clarke says.

The virtual-care pivot

Aspen, for instance, stood up a virtual care system in just 8 days. But patients, frustrated by the experience of inputting their personal and credit card information before connecting to their doctors via a video conference, quickly exited the portal. Aspen’s call service reps were added to accept patient information before they met virtually with their dentists, who would determine whether treatment was required in the office.

The new process, akin to digital technology that consumers have become accustomed to using in banking and retail, helped patients gain confidence in the user experience, Suvarna says. It was a simple solution, but one that underscores the importance of identifying how a customer wants to conduct business with a company and adjusting to accommodate them.

Suvarna's rapid-fire digital work continued into June, as Aspen digitized the check-in process to serve more than 4,500 patients daily. Previously, patients spent several minutes filling out paperwork in the waiting room, after which care representatives would manually input the data. Today, an Aspen representative scans their driver’s license and insurance card at check-in, auto-populating the data into the patient management system. The patient reviews their personal information and the needed consent forms on an iPad before providing an electronic signature.

The contactless solution cut average check-in time in half to as little as 15 minutes. Aspen estimates the tool could eliminate more than 1,000 hours of non-patient support time per office per year. "There's no need to sit and fill out paperwork, which eliminated huge time in the front of the office," Suvarna says.

Read the full article here.