Over the past several years, the number of Aspen Dental locations has grown by at least 10–15 percent each year, expanding from twenty dental offices to six hundred. The organization now spreads across thirty-six states, and it achieved this major growth in a relatively short period of time. In 2016 alone, Aspen Dental offices saw more than 3.5 million patients, making it one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of independent dental care providers in the United States. But like any blossoming company, Aspen Dental’s success story has not been without its growing pains.
When Yogish Suvarna joined ADMI, the company that provides business support services to Aspen Dental practices, in April 2015 as its chief information officer, he was tasked with the herculean challenge of bringing its information systems into the twenty-first century—an age markedly more connected than when the company was founded in 1998. In fact, a fifteen-year-old legacy system was still in place when he joined the business. So, Suvarna set out for a complete overhaul of the company’s information systems.
“One of the biggest challenges is to keep the growing business running with the old legacy system while replacing portions of the system with a new technology platform and making old and new systems talk to each other until the transformation is complete,” Suvarna says. “We refer to it here as changing the parts of your car while the engine is still running.”
While Suvarna and his IT team work to replace the legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, they are also rolling out brand new technology tools for the continually growing dental company. This includes getting tablets into the hands of Aspen Dental practice employees and introducing online scheduling and payment portals for Aspen Dental patients. In fact, even first-time patients can currently visit Aspen Dental’s website, find a nearby dental professional who can provide the right type of care, and schedule an appointment—without ever having to pick up the phone. Suvarna says this type of service is especially appealing to millennials who are more wired in than previous generations. He also adds that introducing tablets and other digital technologies to Aspen Dental’s offices helps the practices provide better service.
“In my opinion, it’s all about getting the right mind-set, skill set, and tool set to take care of the vision, mission, and strategy of the organization.”
“Any and every cutting-edge and digital technology that we adopt helps Aspen Dental’s clinicians and office staffs, who are totally committed and dedicated to providing the best care to our patients,” he says.
Currently, Suvarna is helping to shape the business support’s strategic plan for 2020. Nearly 150 million Americans didn’t visit a dentist in the past year, due to barriers like access, fears, and lack of insurance. Aspen Dental practices’ goal is to offer patients a safe, welcoming, and judgment-free environment to help make dentistry easier. When helping to shape plans that allow Aspen Dental practices to do this, Suvarna is not only focused on care, but he is also bringing his own business philosophy with him.
Before joining the company, Suvarna earned a master’s degree in engineering management from the Manipal Institute of Technology. He then worked in various technology leadership roles at companies such as Volvo, supermarket chain Winn-Dixie, and restaurant chain company Bloomin’ Brands. During this time, Suvarna honed his leadership skills and discovered many business philosophies that he would carry with him to his current role.
“Any and every cutting-edge and digital technology that we adopt helps Aspen Dental’s clinicians and office staffs.”
For one, Suvarna says he prefers a flat company, as opposed to a tall company. This means a company with few levels of hierarchy and more of a team approach to business. He says this makes for less bureaucracy and red tape that can bog down an organization and allows for easier and more effective communication within the organization. He also believes that a flat company structure helps control costs by empowering employees and holding them more accountable.
When managing his own teams, Suvarna draws a lot of inspiration from the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t by business consultant Jim Collins. The best-selling management book outlines how many companies have achieved success. One idea Suvarna is most drawn to is the idea that an organization needs the right people in the right seats.
“In my opinion, it’s all about getting the right mind-set, skill set, and tool set to take care of the vision, mission, and strategy of the organization,” he says. In turn, Suvarna wants his team to not only have the technical skills to get the job done, but they must also have the right attitude to fit in with Aspen Dental practice’s commitment to providing exceptional care.
Moving forward, Suvarna sees patient data following the same trends as the broader medical community. And because the information in dental records, he says, is just as sensitive as medical records, he wants to ensure the records are as secure as possible and held to the same standards and regulations as EMRs. “As part of the technology transformation, we will be partnering with software vendors to implement an electronic dental recording system in the coming months,” he says.
With electronic dental records on the horizon and new locations continually opening, the future of Aspen Dental practices appears to be as bright as the smiles it takes care of.
Total Dental applauds Yogish Suvarna, Aspen Dental’s CIO, as an industry leader. Yogish’s approach to empowering business through technology is revolutionary. Total Dental is proud to partner with Aspen Dental in developing a custom, state of the art dental practice management system to serve it’s 600-plus locations across the country.
At ComSource, we are proud to be part of the solution team assembled to achieve the vision of Yogish Suvarna and his team at Aspen Dental. Fully reaching a company’s technology goals requires expert leadership at the top and a highly competent and trusted technology partner like ComSource.