“I wish I had done it sooner,” Dr. Christopher Leyster told me, “I wish I could have connected with S101 and started before I signed so many contracts, back when I was buying the practice in the first place. That would have saved a lot of time.”
Dr. Leyster is a pediatric dental specialist at Kids Dental Specialists in Chino, California. He contacted Solutions 101 to help him manage his insurance contracts not long after purchasing his own practice four years ago.
I spoke with Chris to learn more about his background, the problem he needed to solve when he partnered with S101, and the results of that project since he finished working with us.
“I’ve been a dentist for 12 years,” Dr. Leyster said, “and I’ve owned my own practice for almost four years. I wanted to become a dentist because I’m good at science, I wanted to be my own boss, and because I wanted to have a career that pays well but also has a good work life balance. I wanted to be able to prioritize spending quality time with my family. And I wanted to work in a stable profession that isn’t going anywhere.”
The field of dentistry has changed significantly in the past 10 years. New treatment options, changes in the market’s perception of dentistry, and of course developments in the dental insurance industry. I asked Chris what he thought were the biggest changes he’s seen since he started his career.
“Automation has obviously changed things for sure, we have better technology than we used to. DSOs are new, the industry has started to move away from the private practice model. For me in California, I think this is regional, but I think a lot of people here see dentistry as a commodity. It’s like, ‘do I go get my nails done or do I go to the dentist for a cleaning?’ It’s that line of thinking. Obviously, it’s not everyone, different people have different priorities. But I do feel like we’re competing on more of a retail level. I think it has to do with the number of providers here. People see 10 dentist offices on the block, so they think about it in terms of just trying to find the best deal. They’re not necessarily looking at the quality or value of any of them, it’s just about trying to find who’s the cheapest. Obviously, it varies by location. But yeah, I think that’s one-way things have changed. In general, with all the corporatization, it’s more of an assembly line mentality now. Patients have just gone along with it. So, we have to try to stress the importance of treatments and procedures even if insurance isn’t going to cover it and you know that they don’t want to do it.”
Adding to these developments, Chris also had to deal with the difficulty of figuring out the complex system of dental insurance as a new practice owner. I asked Chris to explain the situation that prompted him to reach out to S101 in the first place.
“I had bought a practice,” Chris said, “and the previous owner literally signed up with every insurance under the sun. Multiple leased network agreements, I think Craig at S101 said something like we had like four different agreements just with Aetna through various plans. They were just going to keep low balling us by jumping from one to another. So, I had to get out from under that, but her fees were also super low. She hadn’t negotiated fees in over a decade. I’ve worked in offices that handled a lot of Medicaid patients, and some of these schedules where two thirds of the Medicaid fees. I was like ‘this is just ridiculous, what’s even going on here?’ It was really weird.”
The previous owner whom Chris purchased his practice from was an experienced and competent doctor, but they didn’t seem to prioritize operating their office with sound business management tactics.
“The previous owner knew how to crank out a lot of high volume, but she wasn’t really strategic behind the scenes. They weren’t really making any kind of planned moves to set themselves up better in the future, they were just hammering away at it, you know?”
However, when Chris purchased his practice, he also didn’t have the experience and knowledge he needed to set up his insurance contracts for maximum revenue.
“I wish I would have gotten to S101 a little quicker when I purchased the practice. I wish I would have had them before I did the credentialing at the practice because that’s what set me off on the treacherous path I had to get off.”
Chris said he thinks the instinct to take the word of more experienced doctors and practice managers, instead of taking the time to attempt to fully understand the intricacies of dental insurance networks, is common in the field.
“I think there’s a tendency,” Chris said, “to think that if I just got out of dental school, then clearly this doctor who’s had their own practice for years must have a better understanding of the business side of things than I do. I think it’s more common than not that doctors, especially new doctors, will just go along with what other people tell them. Obviously, some people are going to be more alert and focused on it. I was focused on it, but there’s just so much to do. I decided to just sign up and worry about it later. You know I’m already worried about this, worried about that. I’ve got to do this; I have to do that. I think a lot of dentists are overwhelmed to begin with, so I think that they will kind of glaze over it, push it off, think that they can’t really do much about it. They just leave it until a little bit later in their career when they settle down, they really start looking and seeing what was going on. Actually, I think most doctors don’t even look at their own EOBs. They’re not really seeing that information come across their desk because again it’s the office managers who are opening those statements.”
Chris had a few thoughts of advice he would share with younger doctors who are in the same position he was in several years ago.
“I think doctors need to be aware of how important the billing side is. It’s got to be one of the top things on your mind, you can’t have a successful thriving practice if you’re not conscious of how and how much you’re getting paid. That’s your salary right there. You’re not negotiating with a boss like most people are with their job contracts. You’re getting paid by these insurance companies. If you don’t thoroughly understand what’s happening, I think you’re just shooting yourself in the foot.”
Once Chris started to realize where his revenue problem was coming from, he sought advice from his CPA who referred him to Solutions 101. Chris connected with us and set up an initial meeting to have the team analyze his billing data and determine what they’d be able to do for his practice.
“They basically told me that I was one of the worst cases they’d seen,” Chris said. “With the number of overlapping contracts that all paid poorly. I mean, I already knew that ahead of time. But I did need some validation, or verification of what was going on. Once they confirmed that and said they could help, I said, all right let’s do it. Obviously, I trusted my accountant, who had good feedback for them. It could have still been a bust, but you have to take a swing, you know? I knew I had to do something. We might have missed but you can’t get a good hit without taking a swing, right?”
Chris’s swing with Solutions 101 turned out to be a home run in terms of how much the project benefited his practice.
“Revenue went up overall. And our revenue per procedure and per patient went way up. We were able to cut down on the number of patient encounters we have, so it’s not even working less for the same money. It’s working less for more money. Really just a gigantic win on our end.”
Chris was able to increase his revenue and the amount of time he has each day, while also retaining the majority of his existing patient base.
“We probably lost a handful of patients,” Chris said. “I’m admittedly not the best at tracking that, but we’re also a larger practice. As a pediatric practice in an area like this, I think having a larger patient base put us in a better position to make some of the moves we made. So, some patients left. But I can’t dictate what they’re going to do. If they want to leave because we needed to make some changes then that’s their decision, I guess. We’re still busy and revenue is still going up. At the end of the day, your business doesn’t depend on how many patients you see. It’s about how much revenue you’re bringing in, and how much you’re taking home.”
Through working with S101, Chris gained knowledge and tools he now uses to continue his success on his own.
“They helped me build my knowledge base up, and I’ve been able to use that experience since then when other insurance companies have sent contracts or tried to get us to go back in network with them. I’m on top of that now. I can catch things quicker, so we don’t have to redo the work of cleaning things up again. It was a crash course on how insurance works.”
At the end of our conversation, I asked Chris what he would tell another doctor who is in a similar situation and considering partnering with S101 to rescue their own office’s revenue.
“I would tell them that I had a great experience and that I learned a lot through the process. The reason you need to do this is because the dental industry is changing, and it’s better to be on the front end of it. Then at least you’ll have some choice in how the changes affect you, verses just letting things happen to you. Dentistry can be labor intensive; we’ve got to work smarter not harder. Seeing a lot of patients and not getting paid what you should is going to impact the length and quality of your career.”
Whether you’re starting a new practice, taking over an existing one, or you’ve owned your office for several years – Solutions 101 can help you get on top of your billing and improve the reimbursements you’re getting for your work.
The sooner we get started, the sooner your revenue will increase. We’re here to help, and we’re ready when you are!