Case Study: Affordable Care - "An Urgency for Action"

Dental Intelligence Online Scheduling enables each of the dental practices to be available 24/7. Patients need help when they need it, and Online Scheduling is here to support practices in serving their patients.


As the nation’s largest Dental Support Organization (DSO) focused on tooth replacement solutions, Affordable Care provides business expertise and support services to more than 350 dental practices across the United States. Since 1975, millions of patients have trusted an Affordable Care supported clinic.

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One of the solutions offered by Affordable Care to support dental practices in serving patients is Dental Intelligence Online Scheduling. Online Scheduling allows each practice the ability to offer real-time, patient-directed appointment scheduling on the practice’s website. Without any required involvement from the practice, a patient can simply visit their local Affordable Care supported practice’s website (or find them on Google) and schedule an appointment at a time that works for them.

According to Stewart Stearns, Director of Digital Marketing at Affordable Care, Online Scheduling “helps our team better support the practices in being accessible to patients for appointment scheduling 24/7 and this has led to many more appointments being set each day. This has been especially important for the doctors and dental practices during the pandemic. As an organization, we are now supporting several thousand appointments scheduled online each month.”

Affordable Care began using Online Scheduling in 2017 and has worked closely with many Dental Intelligence team members to shape this platform around the organization’s needs. “Our decision to implement this solution was a response to those time-sensitive moments when a person chooses to do something about their health,” Stewart said. “We understand this doesn’t always happen on Monday through Friday between the hours of 8am to 5pm. This decision can happen at any moment and on any day. Online Scheduling enables each of the dental practices to stay nimble and available to their patients 24/7. Patients need help when they need it, and we want help support the dental practices in serving their patients.”

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Surprisingly, many dental practices across the country still require patients to call during business hours to schedule appointments. This can add a layer of complexity for both the patient and practice. For the patient, it means they must remember to call when the practice is open and wait for the person assisting them to open an appointment calendar and search for open times. For the practice front desk team, they are required to handle these appointment requests and other appointment-related tasks, which takes away from their time spent providing clinical support to patients and other support to team members.

Online Scheduling removes all of these requirements while still allowing the practice complete control over their schedule. It also enables the patient to find and schedule a time that works for them to come in without requiring a phone call (or calls) to their dentist during office hours.

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A recent consumer study by Accenture confirmed that patients absolutely prefer to schedule their own appointments:

  • 77% indicated this would be their preference if offered by their dentist vs. calling to schedule an appointment.
  • 70% of patients are more likely to choose a provider that offers the ability to book, change, or cancel their appointments online.
  • 40% of all appointments are scheduled after hours or on weekends.

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All of this speaks to the foresight shown by Affordable Care to implement Online Scheduling as a support service to the dental practices more than three years ago. The decision to do so was based on valuing the importance of data. As Stewart relates, “We track everything we do. Data creates an urgency for action. If you have the data, you are entitled to take action. At Affordable Care we’re encouraged by senior leadership to confidently go where the data takes us, which creates a very dynamic environment. Follow the data, take the action needed to grow, and provide new opportunities for doctors to care for patients.”

According to Stewart, “Online Scheduling is a definite competitive advantage for Affordable Care supported practices. From the patient’s perspective, it makes their local practice a lot more approachable and flexible. If they remember to schedule their appointment at 3am, this option makes it possible for them to do so. We’re providing the tools to help patients easily set their own appointments directly. It’s all about convenience and we believe it adds significant value to the patient experience.”

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Another key aspect of this solution for Affordable Care was the scalability Dental Intelligence offered them in being able to integrate Online Scheduling as a solution to more than 300 different practice appointment books. “The complexity of that is stunning,” Stewart said. “To have a technology partner that can help to make that complexity doable for our DSO is huge! Online Scheduling runs extremely smoothly for us. It’s great to have technology that by and large just works. It is a key competitive advantage. When someone asks if those patients would just come through another channel, the answer is ‘Why risk it?” If Online Scheduling works well and is cost-effective, keep using it, right?”

As with any practice solution, whether hardware or software, the bottom line is what counts. In his analysis of the return on investment offered by Online Scheduling, the value was clear. “The return we are seeing is high compared to other forms of marketing we use,” Stewart added. “Although the practices see lower show rates on online appointments, we have found if practices treat them like any other appointment and include some follow-up and other normal interactions with them, those rates improve. It’s about setting expectations. We originally were only going to offer this option to new patients, but we’ve learned that all patients want to have the ability to schedule online.”

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If your group or single-office practice doesn’t yet offer Dental Intelligence Online Scheduling to patients, it’s time to reconsider doing so. Patients place great value on their time and appreciate when their health-care providers do the same. Are you ready to help make accessing care easier to your patients?