Having taken the position of managing director at DPAS Dental Plans on 1 January 2015, I have to say that I have enjoyed the last 12 months enormously. Working either with or for DPAS for almost 19 years has enabled me to bring to my new role a deep understanding, not only of the dental plan market, but also of the innate culture within DPAS and the highly enriched relationship it shares with its customers.
One of our key initiatives in 2015 has been the launch of Business Bites, a highly relevant initiative that brings together a relatively small group of trusted organisations, which are able to expertly deliver a range of additional business services to our customers.
From the outset there was little doubt in my mind that in the face of a growing appetite from the profession and increased competition within the market, the scope of the products and services we offered to practices had to widen. One option was to provide these additional services ourselves and duly reflect this in our charges, but that would not have been without risk…that we would not be perceived as ‘experts’ and that such a diversion would detract from the delivery of our core proposition. The chosen alternative was to work with third party suppliers who could deliver services in those areas in which they already had expertise and reputation, and to me this seemed to be a much more sensible approach.
Practices like to deal with organisations they can trust and it is natural that when they need additional services or advice they turn to DPAS as a ‘one stop shop’. It follows then that when we suggest a solution to them it is endorsed by the trust and credibility they associate with our brand.
We now have a critical mass of practices using Business Bites service providers and more than 50% of the enquiries to one of our partners has either already turned into a new business relationship or is very likely to do so in the near future. This makes for an efficient and rewarding process for practices in their bid to grow and develop. It also suggests we are on the right track!
The launch of Supportal has been another highlight of 2015. Although DPAS has had an active web portal for over five years, Supportal has taken its functionality to a new level. Access is free and almost half of our practices have already upgraded, with remaining clients having the opportunity to upgrade during the coming year.
Supportal provides secure access to plan-related information 24/7, more efficient plan management and the ability for new patients to register online, either whilst in practice or at home. Feedback from practice users suggests that practices enjoy the freedom to integrate their use of Supportal into the day-to-day operation of the practice. Importantly, we know that practices wish to retain in control of the way dental plans support the practice and Supportal facilitates that.
Although Supportal is an intuitive system, we provide as much help and guidance as possible in the form of a user guide, a series of short video tutorials and, of course, access to a DPAS practice consultant or our Supportal helpdesk.
Of course this year has seen the acquisition of DPAS by Wesleyan. Although this move signalled the end of 19 years of independent ownership, it also signals the start of an exciting new chapter in the history of DPAS.
Wesleyan has an established presence in the dental market and therefore a deep understanding of it. Many of our practices already access products and services from Wesleyan and many more will now be able to do the same. In all other respects it is ‘business as usual’ and the key strategies that DPAS already has in place will remain intact. What we do know is that should we need to call upon it, we now have the support of the wider Wesleyan Group and all of the knowledge, expertise and resources that brings.
So what can we look forward to in 2016? The next stage of prototypes will undoubtedly delay any new NHS contract for at least another 18 months, which in some ways is disappointing yet predictable. The length of time it has taken to bring the contract to fruition has been frustrating and disturbing for many practices and adds an element of uncertainty that is always an unwelcome distraction for any small business.
My hope is that the length of time taken over the deliberations will result in a contract that puts the profession in a much better place than the much-criticised UDA system, and will provide patients and practitioners who want to remain within the NHS a realistic chance of doing so. For our part, we are currently working with several squat practices that are trying dental plans for the first time, and a number of NHS practices that have had the foresight to ‘test the water’ by putting a dental plan in place should the final contract be less than desirable for them.
The NHS contract aside, during the last 12 months I have certainly sensed a shift in momentum within the dental market and I am looking forward with optimism. I believe DPAS is perfectly positioned to support more practices and more patients and to make a real contribution, through our Business Bites initiative and more, to the long-term growth and success of the sector.
For more information and to find out how you can begin the new year with the support of DPAS’ new initiative, Business Bites, contact DPAS Dental Plans on 03456 802 820 or email [email protected].