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Dentists Start Streamlining Office Procedures –

Internet Creates Revolution in Dental Providers’ Jobs

Many dental benefit providers are making adjustments in cyberspace and technology to offer improvements for convenience and savings directly to the companies, consumers and dentists.

“Dentistry is now catching up with medicine in terms of networking and technology,” said Gary Edgar, DDS, dental network manager of CCN, No. 4 on The List of Largest Dental Benefit Providers. “The percentage of dentists adopting this methodology is rising each year as they see the needs of the patients.”

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The San Diego Business Journal ranked the Largest Dental Benefit Providers by the number of San Diego County enrollees as of Jan. 1.

Michael Schotz, senior vice president of CCN’s Western region, said CCN has been integrating its divisions by spending approximately $20 million for four new operating systems. Through this integration, CCN applied its program for Year 2000 compliancy and E-commerce solutions.

CCN concentrates on offering the PPO network to insurance and self-employed companies. San Diego County enrollees comprise nearly two-thirds of CCN’s total enrollees. Currently, CCN has 108,606 enrollees in San Diego County, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year.

Edgar said CCN originally was a regional dental provider in Southern California. Its new goal is to expand the network to other areas, including other states.

– Internet Is An

Efficiency Tool

With the expanding network, CCN utilized the Internet to reduce the costs and speed up the bureaucracy involved in dealing with traditional dental benefit providers.

“Typically, we’ll receive paper claims from insurance companies and dentists,” Schotz said. “Ultimately, these paper claims will be processed and sent electronically on the Internet.”

Schotz cited one of the largest problems traditionally was dealing with X-ray attachments for an enrollee.

“With a proactive Web site, we can monitor the services for review, expand the service options and reduce the costs,” Schotz said.

Edgar said in some cases, the ability to review patients’ cases will prevent over-treatment by providing the service they need.

“It’s a way for us to protect the public from these abuses,” Edgar said.

– Cutting Down

On Bureaucracy

Jeff Album, director of public affairs at Delta Dental Plan of California, No. 1 on The List, agreed the Internet has changed the way dental benefit providers traditionally handled its bureaucracy.

“All firms with new technology will make better partners to dentists, create a more efficient administrative system, and thus a better service to the people,” Album said.

Delta Dental formed an eDelta committee, with representatives from Delta Dental’s internal departments to develop a centralized Internet strategy, Album described.

“There’s a tendency for most companies to have its divisions work individually on an Internet project,” Album said. “By working together, the company can integrate a unified solution for the Internet.”

One of the benefits of the Internet is improving transactions between dentists and the providers, Album said.

He described the typical process. A person brings a dental provider’s card to a dentist’s office as proof of coverage. Oftentimes, the dentist or secretary would check the coverage with the dental provider by calling an operator of the dental provider. And a few dentists would skip the process and check the coverage after the patient leaves.

– Transitioning Out

Of Traditional Methods

“The traditional mediums open up for a lot of lag time and errors,” Album said. “A dentist can simply open up an Internet browser, type in the name of the person and check the person’s eligibility.

“Simply with the Internet, patients now become better consumers and dentists become better administrators.”

One of the standards for all dental providers’ Web sites is providing an online dentist directory, said Album.

Online dentist directories can now be customized to provide information such as a dentist’s term of practice, handicapped access, a dentist’s language or languages, and maps to the office.

“A one-inch-thick paper directory is usually provided to an enrollee to help choose a dentist in an area,” Album said. “Once the choice is made, the directory is either thrown away or stored at the bottom of a file cabinet to never be seen again.

“Adopting the Internet will produce significant savings for the dental provider and the consumer.”

– Concerns About

Electronic Data

Album indicated the transition toward the Internet is receiving some resistance from a small group of people. He said there are some dentists who are not comfortable with using the Internet and cannot afford high-speed Internet connections or computers for their dental practice.

Secondly, many consumers are either not connected to the Internet or are worried about billing and medical records being transferred via the Internet.

“As more and more people move toward the Internet, this will simply become the standard for all of our dental needs,” Album said.

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