Ohio startup uses telephones to streamline practice management
LEHI, Utah, U.S.: The front office of a dental practice can be compared to the oral cavity. In the same way that a healthy “gateway” leads to better general health, new models for practice management are improving the general financial health of dental practices. As we continue to canvas the dental startup scene, Dental Tribune International dialed up Ohio-based Weave for more information on its telephone-based practice management software.
Weave is based in Lehi, in a tech-friendly area known as the Silicone Slopes. The dental startup company is not satisfied with the status quo of front office communications in dentistry and has been working on a model of its own since 2011. Weave offers a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based communications service that integrates hardware and software for small and medium-sized businesses. Essentially, its offering consists of voice and audio technology in the form of Polycom IP telephones and software that integrates this hardware with a dental practice’s existing customer relationship management and electronic medical records systems. The company says its “complete business toolbox” can help dental practices to grow, retain patients and manage the entirety of patient communications.
Helping dentists get savvy on business
Since its founding, Weave has specifically worked with dental and orthodontics practices as its target group. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Brandon Rodman, told TechCrunch in June that he was initially surprised that dentists receive such little training on operating a business during their studies. “You have to have clinical knowledge, of course, but once you hit that threshold the rest is business acumen. How do you increase loyalty, get people to come back, run the business?” Rodman asked.
The company bases its business proposition on the fact that all dental practices need a telephone. “It’s a tool they have to pay for. We pump it full of steroids,” Rodman said.
The company’s intelligent phone system is what sets it apart from other practice management solutions. Integrated with the on-site computers, the VoIP system identifies new and current customers as they call in and displays information, including customer name, upcoming appointments, overdue balances, tasks for the customer, and any other special notes or actions required. The idea is that the front office can identify new customers more easily and streamline interactions with existing patients. More calls can be answered daily in less time, and Weave says that the average office using its products saves 60–90 minutes per day. The other tools that dentists will expect from practice management software are also part of the package, such as solutions for managing payments, sending and receiving messages, gathering customer insight and analytics, and managing in-office communications and marketing.
What is most important in dental practice management today?
Madison Bullock, head of public relations at Weave, told Dental Tribune International that good practice management software is simple and intuitive and not designed for tech-savvy millennials only. Weave’s solution, she said, “gives every dentist—and every small and medium business owner, for that matter—the solutions required to be competitive and relevant in today’s convenience-driven marketplace. It caters to all businesses that want to see growth, customer retention, and personalized experiences […] and is not just for the younger, more tech-savvy generation.”
Bullock said that the most important thing that businesses can do is to make the customer communication experience an unforgettable one: “When customers feel like people, they’re more likely to write a good review, or recommend a business to a friend—and they’re more likely to remain a loyal, promoting customer.” She said that Weave was proving popular because it provides a system that personalizes every single point of contact with customers, “from the first phone call to the final payment.” She added, “[This] acts as a catalyst for business growth and success.”
In the last month, dental practices used Weave to collect over $140 million in treatment fees and more than 30 million calls, texts and emails have been sent and received using the company’s product.
Considering that Weave does not do contracts, the company’s record on customers that stick with its service is impressive. “Weave has some of the best retention numbers we’ve ever seen for a [small and midsize business software-as-a-service] company,” commented Tyler Newton, partner at Catalyst Investors, which participated in a recent funding round.
Weave raised $70 million in Series D funding in late October and the company now has a capital valuation of $970 million. The company is a graduate of Y Combinator, an elite California startup incubator that was used to launch what are now household tech names, like Airbnb and Dropbox.
After the funding round, the company said it will focus on launching new products. “Weave is planning to expand its product offering in the very near future. We will be launching a new product category at the Greater New York Dental Meeting this month, in fact,” Bullock said. “If anybody wants to know more, stop by our booth  or contact us to come to our launch party,” she added. Bullock said that the company also plans to use proceeds from the funding round to get its software/hardware package into dental offices outside of the U.S.
The wider dental practice management market
The bigger players in dentistry, like Henry Schein Dental and Patterson Dental Supply, dominate the market for front office solutions, but more startup companies are entering the segment. The cloud-based platform startup CareStack secured $28 million in funding in October through backers that included California-based Delta Dental. The company’s software utilizes analytics and automation to improve the customer experience and to maximize insurance reimbursements. What was a team of 15 staff members in 2015 is now 200-strong, and CareStack says it will use the capital to expand its services and offer them to more dentists.
“Acumen Research forecasts that the global market for practice management software will see a compound annual growth rate of at least 11.5% from 2019 to 2026.”
Sales of dental practice management software in the U.S. were worth $240 million in 2018 and accounted for 39% of total global sales in the segment, according to Acumen Research and Consulting. The market researcher says that web-based software solutions accounted for more than 40% of the market last year and that on-site solutions took the majority of the remaining market share. Acumen Research forecasts that the global market for practice management software will see a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of at least 11.5% from 2019 to 2026 and that the segment will be worth around $2.8 billion by 2026. In the Japanese market, factors such as an aging population and growing health awareness among patients are expected to see the segment grow at an even faster rate: A CAGR of 13% is forecast for practice management software in Japan in this period.
The modern dental practice requires that a range of tools be at the disposal of staff who are trained to use them effectively. Ideally, these tools not only do the job they were designed to do but also function to make subsequent and associated tasks simpler and more achievable. In the front office, this can mean freeing up time and resources so that the treatment team can focus on providing care and winning new patients.