Dr. Mitch Ellingson, Vice President of Practice Growth for Practice Solutions, and Amy Morgan, Vice President of Consulting Strategy, at Spear Summit 2019.

After its January 2017 rollout and Spear’s recent acquisition of the nationally renowned Pride Institute, Spear Practice Solutions is advancing a new dental consulting paradigm.

The very term “consulting” fails to wholly characterize Practice Solutions. Oftentimes, busy independent practices end up overspending for consultants who provide general recommendations on how to improve – but limited direction as to how to implement meaningful changes to adjust.

Practice Solutions provides far more than traditional consulting, with coaching to align the entire dental team, prescribed content for growth, leadership training for practice owners and a real-time analytics dashboard so doctors and their teams can monitor their daily progress.

While practices were already seeing the benefits of Practice Solutions, Spear’s 2018 acquisition of Pride provided the platform with added practice management content and experienced dental consultants like former Pride CEO Amy Morgan, a longtime consultant and champion for the independent dental practice.

Spear President Rezwan Manji said the introduction of Practice Solutions positively “disrupted an industry by combining technology, learning tools and expert coaches into a comprehensive business solution to help dentists achieve success in the rapidly changing dental marketplace.”

The Pride acquisition simply strengthened what Spear had already pioneered.

“For the first time ever in our industry, dentists can access clinical and practice growth strategies with a single solution,” Mr. Manji said. “Spear has always been known as the premier source for clinical education but acquiring the Pride Institute gives Practice Solutions an unprecedented depth of material.”

In addition to a dedicated consultant, Practice Solutions provides clients with customized goal-setting and control processes doctors can use to monitor and manage their team’s performance. Clients receive recommended content and online training material to support the doctor’s vision, goals and strategies based on the needs reflected in the practice’s data.

The entire dental team is trained to use the platform daily, and Practice Solutions automates weekly and monthly reports to provides a snapshot of the practice’s performance in real time. Tools for fee analysis, benefits analysis and annual planning immediately impact the practice’s efficiency, cash flow and profitability. Doctors and their teams engage regularly with their dedicated consultant, and the team attends workshops at the Spear Campus to establish role-specific training and a cohesive vision for the practice.

Practice Solutions consultants – including several who came over from Pride with Ms. Morgan to join the experienced Spear team – provide clients with supporting material like team trainings, courses, Patient Education resources and Practice Solutions-specific curricula to reinforce best practices for key issues like hygiene, treatment planning and overall case acceptance.

For Pride alumni who joined Practice Solutions, the integration of Spear learning materials and real-time analytics dashboard into the consulting process have proven to be impactful.

This year’s Spear Summit marked the first time the annual event featured content exclusively for Pride Alumni to celebrate successes and continue their leadership journey. Their Wednesday event at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa included presentations by Drs. Frank Spear and Ricardo Mitrani.

Altering the trajectory of the independent dental practice

“We didn’t want to be the next company to come into consulting,” said Dr. Mitch Ellingson, the Spear Resident Faculty member who oversees practice growth for Practice Solutions and has worked closely with Ms. Morgan since she came over as Resident Faculty.

Rather, he and other innovators of Practice Solutions established a system that will be recognized as a model for restorative practices to succeed in an era where smaller, independent practices risk losing market share amid waning public interest in oral health that leads less than 40% of Americans to visit the dentist annually.

“We’re getting dentists to realize you don’t have a choice,” said Dr. Ellingson, who has practiced in the Phoenix area for the past 12 years. He has owned and operated various Arizona practices, ranging from a single practice with a four-person team to a network of 11 practices with dozens of team members.

“The industry now is trending in such a way that our main focus is to take a group of dentists and turn them into a group of dental executives,” he said.

Dr. Ellingson said Practice Solutions equips private practices to insulate themselves from competitors by empowering doctors and their teams to analyze the business end of their practices and pivot on datapoints more confidently.

Practice Solutions equips doctors to become stronger chief executives of their practices through the development of leadership skills but also with the application of clinical and practice management training, which dedicated consultants can tailor with exclusive Practice Solutions curriculum and other content from Spear’s learning ecosystem.

“We need you to be an executive, which encompasses being a leader, which includes being able to do analysis and making good decisions,” Dr. Ellingson said. “We want everyone we serve to realize we’re actually creating the persona and skillset you need to survive indefinitely.”

Practice Solutions doctors and their teams have seen significant increases in production revenues, patient retention, personal hourly production and average treatment plan revenue, in addition to the overall benefit of aligning the team on more effective systems that help everyone enjoy their time in the practice.

Amy Morgan’s impact on Practice Solutions

Dr. Ellingson said Ms. Morgan has the uncanny ability to disarm audiences with her charm and humor, both on campus and in online lessons, which is often difficult to do in addressing large groups of successful dentists who tend to be skeptical of new methods to improve.

“In a lot of sessions, you go to listen and learn,” Dr. Ellingson said. “In Amy’s, you walk out talking a different language, and you’re thinking differently. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Ms. Morgan presented at last year’s Summit on the “Art of Inspiring Change and Creating Culture.” This year, her Friday session with fellow Resident Faculty member Dr. Gary DeWood addresses “The Dead Zone in Your Practice” – addressing the case acceptance challenge faced by most practices with “a zone of opportunity that most practices are missing. When dental needs are below a certain threshold, case acceptance is high, and when dental needs are above a certain threshold, case acceptance is high.”

With the Practice Solutions analytics dashboard, those numbers are clear for the entire team to see. A dedicated consultant helps the practice navigate the intuitive dashboard so they can easily follow it moving forward.

Both Dr. Ellingson and Ms. Morgan have collaborated on webinars, workshop curricula and other content that’s constantly being added to Practice Solutions.

Ms. Morgan said Spear’s acquisition of Pride, and her decision to come over as a vice president and faculty member, were difficult choices to make. But she said the values espoused by Spear since its inception aligned with those of Pride Institute founder Jim Pride, a passionate practice management guru who taught that the foundation of success in dentistry is embracing the role of the leader.

“If we didn’t, I wouldn’t be here,” said Ms. Morgan, who brought more than 25 years’ experience in dental consulting as a consultant, trainer and CEO of the Novato, California-based Pride Institute to her role at Spear.

“I take very seriously the needs of the team I brought with me, the needs of the clients who took the leap of faith to follow me to the desert, the needs of (the Spear) community ... all of us want to significantly impact the lives of the people we touch,” she said.

Pride alumnus and Practice Solutions member, Dr Lisa Murray quoted: Spear really picked up on the community we built together at Pride and how we lean on each other, not just our consultants. I think there's a real effort being made to mirror that.

Ms. Morgan said she and others at Pride had an “aha moment” in seeing how Practice Solutions innovators had elevated the treatment coordinator position and encouraged general practitioners to adopt it as part of their practice team structure as a “concierge, quarterback” position that’s similar to how the position functions in a specialist practice.

She added that she has relished working alongside Spear faculty on understanding how best to serve independent practices through stronger Practice Solutions content.

“When our doctors were loading up on the platform, we could all of a sudden see what percentage of perio they were doing, how much was reappointed,” she said. “We always had numbers, but they were hindsight, not real-time – and not promoted to action, and not to these depths.”

White glove approach, intimate coaching

Massachusetts-based Dr. Lisa Murray, a Pride alumnus who’s taken Spear CE for years, said she was pleased with the transition to Practice Solutions.

“Spear really picked up on the community we built together at Pride and how we lean on each other, not just our consultants,” Dr. Murray said. “I think there’s a real effort being made to mirror that.”

Dr. Murray added that the real-time analytics platform was a revelation for her practice. The automated data analysis has helped her team function more efficiently.

“The way it pulls all the information together is way more than I can do manually,” she said. “It’s all done for me. I don’t need to take time at the end of each month to compile all the information.”