Innovation to Smile About at Delta Dental

Garrett Whitney on how the organization’s move to downtown Seattle positioned Delta Dental to improve oral health for the patients and communities it serves

For Delta Dental of Washington, driving meaningful change for the organization literally meant navigating to the city center it now calls home. After nearly thirty-five years in the suburbs of Seattle, the dental benefits provider believed it could be more effective if it relocated to the city’s urban core to be surrounded by other innovative organizations striving to meet customer expectations in dynamic, new ways.

Chief information officer Garrett Whitney, a champion of Delta Dental’s technological development, is a sixteen-year veteran of the company. Whitney says that the physical move for the company to downtown Seattle has afforded broader access to tech talent and creative minds. “Building relationships that help us do our best work is vital to success for our employees, consumers, and partners,” says Whitney. “We’ve seen a number of different organizations moving into core hubs where the culture fosters creativity and learning.”

Delta Dental, Garrett Whitney Photo by Robert Wade

Numbers back up this assertion. Seattle has grown by nearly 19 percent since 2010, which ranks as the fastest rate of growth among the 50 largest US cities in that time frame.

Employers have realized that access to more amenities in a concentrated area may be a draw for millennial talent. Companies such as Uber, Groupon, Oracle, and Snapchat have all established a presence in downtown Seattle. “The new office location has inherent energy,” says Whitney. “Amazon is just across the street, and we have more efficient access to our own valued clients and partners. It’s easy to walk a few blocks or hop on a bus if staff want to join a meet-up or collaborate with other professionals.”

According to Whitney, Delta Dental’s focus on their workspace has also played an important role in the recruitment of new talent. “As I interview candidates, one of the consistent comments I hear is that they love the open, bright space in the heart of a dynamic environment,” he says. “At Delta Dental, we know that we must always think about what we do now, and how we can deliver our service in creative new ways. Evolving our business and engaging our people in the process can be easier if your space supports your philosophy.”

Whitney says his military background has provided him a good foundation for understanding large, complex systems and the ways that they evolve over time. For Delta Dental, the physical move was also paired with a technology shift that included an extensive infrastructure consolidation, including outsourcing data centers with support from West Monroe Partners.

“Garrett is a visionary leader with a keen focus on practical innovation that drives real business value,” Kristin Irving, senior director, healthcare and life sciences at West Monroe Partners, says. “He has a command of both technology and the dental ecosystem, resulting in the unique ability to drive innovation, not only within his organization but the broader industry. His leadership and guidance will enable a successful digital transformation journey at Delta Dental of Washington, while raising the bar for the rest of the industry.”

The focus on technology was no accident. “Technology is a key factor in overcoming the inequities, barriers, and inefficiencies in the system to realize that goal,” he says. The less time Delta Dental’s employer groups, providers, and partners have to worry about how to solve these problems, the more time the company can devote to what problems matter in delivering positive healthcare outcomes, Whitney says.

Whitney says evolution for Delta Dental also means continuing to improve to meet customer expectations for their healthcare experience in ways that put the company on par with responsive tech innovators. “That’s not to say we seek to become Apple or Amazon, but we need to understand what they are doing in the market because they are setting expectations for interactions with different brands in our lives,” Whitney says.

This means raising the bar for customer experience and delivering smarter connections by taking a thoughtful look at what customers expect. In an age where tasks like purchasing groceries or getting movie tickets can be achieved with the tap of a button, the health sector needs to realize that it is quickly becoming the norm for customers to expect the same ease when it comes to managing their health, Whitney says.

For the dental carrier, Whitney believes a strong foundation has been set for the organization to continue leading the transformation of the oral health system. “We’ve made bold moves, created an engaging environment, and modernized our infrastructure,” Whitney says. “Now we look forward with a focus and passion to consistently deliver an outstanding customer experience.” By removing unnecessary barriers and focusing on what matters most, Whitney says, Delta Dental will simplify oral healthcare for all.


West Monroe Partners, LLC: Garrett is a visionary leader with a keen focus on practical innovation that drives real business value. He has a command of both technology and the dental ecosystem resulting in the unique ability to drive innovation, not only within his organization but the broader industry. His leadership and guidance will enable a successful digital transformation journey at Delta Dental Washington, while raising the bar for the rest of the industry.