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ADA Practice Transitions: Supporting the Future of Dentistry

Generation after generation, the American Dental Association (ADA) has endeavored to find innovative ways to support dentists at all stages of their careers. It hasn’t been easy.

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ADA Practice Transitions: Supporting the Future of Dentistry

Generation after generation, the American Dental Association (ADA) has endeavored to find innovative ways to support dentists at all stages of their careers. It hasn’t been easy.

Established dentists, who might be nearing retirement, tend to be older, white and male. Those newer to the profession tend to be none of those things. How does a professional organization serve such a diverse and evolving group of members?

The American Dental Association (ADA) engaged EPAM Continuum to examine this challenge and help find a path forward, not just to increase value to members but also to better support dentistry.

The solution is ADA Practice Transitions™ (ADAPT), a matchmaking platform to help connect dentists who are early in their careers with established dentists who have complementary goals and approaches to care. Both groups can benefit from each other — dentists just starting out want mentorship and, often, a path to owning their own practice; established dentists are looking at the future of their practice and how it might live on once they retire. With both human and digital components, ADAPT is also a hiring platform that uses in-depth profiles to match dentists that have the same values in terms of both patient care and practice management.

It took true integrated consulting to bring to life ADAPT, which has quickly grown from a two-state pilot to a vital platform for more than

7,500

dentists

at every career stage across all

50

states

Meeting the Challenge

The ADA was founded in 1859, years before the first dental drill was patented and decades before the first tooth x-ray. Its ability to survive and thrive is testament to its spirit of innovation and successful response to changes, which seem to come faster with each passing decade.

The ADA knew it had to rethink how it serves its members as their needs and demographics continue to change. Known for its advocacy, education and research, the ADA had a strong foundation but recognized there was more to do and saw an opening in how it supports dentists in building their careers, especially during key transitions.

EPAM Continuum uses ethnographic research to get to the heart of any challenge, so that we can devise a solution that is real and sustainable. It’s a customer-led approach all about understanding motivations, values and both conscious and subconscious needs. To get to a true value proposition, we had to put ourselves in the same headspace as dentists at every point in their careers.

Using in-depth interviews of a representative sample of dentists, we calibrated, through multiple iterations of the concept: 1) the value proposition, 2) the revenue model and 3) the digital and human service. We built fast, tested to learn and pivoted when necessary.

Thinking Like a Dentist

For new dentists, establishing a business and all the challenges that go along with that are daunting. On the flipside, established dentists want to see their practices succeed after they retire for the sake of their patients, staff and community — particularly in rural areas where the next closest dentist might be 50 miles away. Across their careers, they could benefit from a co-pilot to help them build mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships.

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Thinking Like a Dentist

For new dentists, establishing a business and all the challenges that go along with that are daunting. On the flipside, established dentists want to see their practices succeed after they retire for the sake of their patients, staff and community — particularly in rural areas where the next closest dentist might be 50 miles away. Across their careers, they could benefit from a co-pilot to help them build mutually beneficial relationships and partnerships.


Dentists tend to be a meticulous, precise group; after all, they measure much of their work in microns. So we knew that the “yes-no” questions traditionally used to complete a profile wouldn’t work. For successful matchmaking, we needed more.


We also wanted an interface that didn’t challenge dentists to write paragraphs of thoughtful, emotionally complex text. Part of the answer turned out to be micro-interactions, such as a slide bar widget, which allows dentists to indicate a more nuanced response to questions or situations.


Demographic differences shouldn’t be a barrier to what is otherwise a great match. Using our ethnographic approach allowed us to drill down into what really matters: philosophy around patient care, treatment plans and values.

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Making ADAPT Real

To see the market opportunity, invent ADAPT, and then bring it to life both technically and within the organization required complex systems thinking as our designers, engineers and strategists worked together with the ADA’s leadership, marketing and technical teams to make it real.

EPAM’s multidisciplinary team worked on every aspect of the product definition and launch:

Business Design
We dimensioned the market opportunity, in terms of market size, assumptions, inputs and requirements. We developed a financial modeling tool to allow our stakeholders to scenario-plan by adjusting the values of key inputs, to understand costs and potential future revenue. 

Human-Centered Design and Prototyping
We built the product iteratively, to make progressively higher resolution decisions. First, we built out and evaluated conceptual value propositions, then key moments of the service experience to deliver that value. We worked closely with the dentists — our users — at each step.

Service Design
The essence of the offering is a digital product but operating and supporting the business brings additional requirements. We worked to define the role for the ADA Advisor and collaborated with them to find the operational balance between digital self-service and human interaction. 

  1. The ADA Advisor can access the back end of the portal so we wanted to make sure they could do so efficiently; the information had to be “glanceable.”
  2. Paired dentists are coached through the initial interview and vetting process by the ADA Advisor and given tools to manage contract negotiations and expectation setting.
  3. The ADA Advisor checks in with and mediates between dentists as they begin working together or transitioning a practice. Dentists are coached to set goals and provide feedback, advocate for their own needs and build trust in the relationship.

Brand Strategy and Design
We developed the logo, visual brand and brand guidelines for text and imagery, to ensure that messaging would resonate for both new and established dentists and that it would work in optimal relationship with the ADA brand. Testing the MVP revealed uncommon brand resonance. For both emerging and established dentists, the ADA’s brand provided crucial trust and credibility to a new product. At the same time, launching ADAPT improved ADA brand perceptions for relevance and value.

Transitioning to the Future

21%

ADAPT is making a strong connection with the dental workforce of tomorrow. Currently, 21% of ADAPT profiles come from minorities and 35% of profiles are from women, which tells us the platform is an important bridge for future dentists.

48%

Further, rural practices account for 48% of ADAPT’s successful transitions — either associate placements or practice sales; keeping these practices open and thriving enables easy access to dental care in these communities.

notesection

Transitioning to the Future

21%

ADAPT is making a strong connection with the dental workforce of tomorrow. Currently, 21% of ADAPT profiles come from minorities and 35% of profiles are from women, which tells us the platform is an important bridge for future dentists.

48%

Further, rural practices account for 48% of ADAPT’s successful transitions — either associate placements or practice sales; keeping these practices open and thriving enables easy access to dental care in these communities.

quotation

“ADAPT is one of the ADA’s greatest innovations in recent years, and its continued growth signals the value it provides to all dentists at pivotal times in their lives. Whether dentists are just starting their careers, building their teams, or selling their practices, ADA Practice Transitions offers personal, one-on-one guidance to make an otherwise stressful process a seamless one. In our profession, connections make the difference—from dentist to dentist, and from dentists to the communities they serve. ADAPT helps make these connections possible.”

 

Raymond Cohlmia, D.D.S., Executive Director of ADA

quotation

“ADAPT is one of the ADA’s greatest innovations in recent years, and its continued growth signals the value it provides to all dentists at pivotal times in their lives. Whether dentists are just starting their careers, building their teams, or selling their practices, ADA Practice Transitions offers personal, one-on-one guidance to make an otherwise stressful process a seamless one. In our profession, connections make the difference—from dentist to dentist, and from dentists to the communities they serve. ADAPT helps make these connections possible.”

 

Raymond Cohlmia, D.D.S., Executive Director of ADA


ADAPT started as a pilot in Maine and Wisconsin and then quickly went national, allowing the ADA to take a leadership position in serving dentists across their careers, as they look for their first job all the way through to retirement.


It's a big shift. Becoming an end-to-end partner for practicing dentists along their whole career journey is a novel business model, and one that could benefit other professional organizations, many of which struggle with membership rates as demands change.


We are proud of our work with the ADA. Members helping members is good for the organization, dental practices and consumers.

Learn more about how we can help you reimagine the future here