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eASSIST DENTAL SOLUTIONS: Leading Provider of Virtual Insurance Billing Services for Dental Offices
“We’re the market leader, we’ve always demonstrated our commitment to continuous improvement, innovation, and aggressive implementation of ideas that benefit our clients and our team members.” Dr. James V. Anderson
eAssist Dental Solutions offers a uniquely comprehensive suite of services for dental offices, ultimately helping practices be more efficient, profitable, and patient-focused. The company’s end-to-end solution eases the burden on office staff while optimizing the claims payment and appeals process.
Founded in 2012 under the able leadership of Dr. James V. Anderson, DMD, Servant Leader, CEO and Founder, the company today is the nation’s leader in dental billing, with a network of 850+ independent billing experts who work tirelessly on behalf of their clients to collect 100% of what is rightfully owed to them from dental insurance companies. The company has grown exponentially over the past 4 years and been recognized with numerous awards.
THE MAN BEHIND THE IDEA
James V. Anderson, DMD is Chief Executive Officer and Founder of eAssist Dental Solutions. An entrepreneur at heart, as well as a practicing dentist in Syracuse, Utah, Dr. Anderson has built nine dental practices in the last decade. His speaking programs help dentists realize their full practice potential by combining dental clinical skills with excellent business skills to create a profitable and enjoyable dental practice career. Dr. Anderson earned his doctorate in dental medicine (DMD) from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
The editorial team at the Business View Magazine in a conversation with Dr. Anderson discussed in detail about his plans, challenges, industry trends, ideas, and more. Enlighten yourself by reading below the excerpts from the discussion.
What goal do you have for the future?
Our goal is to grow eAssist into a billion-dollar company over the next 10 years (by 2030) and to be able to offer employee ownership. We will do this by continuously improving and building upon our position and reputation as the Nation’s leader in dental billing, and expanding into even more related services. We listen to our clients and people to stay abreast of systemic and emerging issues and identify solutions that help practices become more efficient, profitable, and patient-focused. And, we invest in technology that makes it possible for our consultants to do their jobs even more efficiently and effectively so as to collect even more, even faster for our clients.
What more can you do in your role to help achieve this?
The short answer is – keep doing what I’m doing as a servant leader and innovative problem solver, but never stop aspiring to grow and improve. I say that because an outcome of the unexpected business climate of 2020 is that it solidified our belief in how we do what we do is absolutely what’s best for the business, our clients and our people, no matter what. Instead of veering from our true north – thinking exceptional times might call for an alternate style of leadership – we stayed the course and leveraged technology for all it’s worth.
What was the path you took to get to where you are today?
I began my career as a practicing dentist, starting my own business immediately out of dental school – arguably a much more difficult path than joining or buying an existing practice. Over the years, I identified issues within the billing and collections functions that were negatively impacting my patients, my practice, and my profitability. As no solution existed in the marketplace, I set out to invent my own wheel, and eAssist Dental Solutions was born. I am an entrepreneur at heart. I derive tremendous fulfilment from using my knowledge and experience to develop, guide, and influence a team of outstanding individuals to achieve success for our clients and themselves.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
With eAssist, we weren’t just conceiving and building a company to solve a problem unaddressed in the marketplace, we were essentially creating a new industry of virtual electronic billing to benefit the entire dental industry. Finding the best solution to any problem is often an iterative process. Such was the case with eAssist. Once launched, the growth of both clients and team members was so rapid that myriad growing pains had to be resolved “in real-time.”
It’s important to point out eAssist is not so much a tech company, as a tech-enabled company. Our continued investments in leading edge technology and programming are designed to benefit our consultants so they can do the work easier, faster, more accurately and more profitably for themselves and our clients, which benefits the company. Key examples: a “HUB” that displays detailed status of every claim; detailed reporting; a Practice Dashboard that allows clients to view at-a-glance and drill down in myriad ways; an auto-generated Practice Growth Plan for new clients populated with status and opportunities. Continuously improving our capacity to equip consultants and clients with real-time business-building information via leading-edge technology will continue to challenge and excite us!
Which one thing do you wish you’d done differently?
If I could go back in time, I would pay people wages based on performance, rather than a set salary. Salary-based pay, regardless of performance, can often lead to a lack of motivation within an organization. We work hard to attract and hire self-starters who are motivated by the opportunity to do more to build the organization. Moreover, high-performers inherently enjoy the flexibility that a pay-for-performance plan provides. By giving them the ability to set their hours that leverage their lifestyles, the company benefits from an exceptional level of productivity and talent retention.
How has this industry changed over the years?
Practices that aren’t truly patient-centric aren’t particularly successful. Having things like great front office staff, extended hours, and ‘wow’ facilities are a big part of it, as is technology. Our clients can trust that we put our prospective billing consultants through a rigorous testing process to ensure they know their stuff when it comes to electronic claims and collections processes. Internally, we spend what sometimes seems like an inordinate amount of time and energy continuously improving our tech-based communications systems that keep our nationwide network of 850+ consultants, as well as our employees, highly connected.
If you could change one thing about your company, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything now. I feel we’ve made the necessary changes that have brought us our success. I am completely satisfied with our current position as a company. That said, “not changing anything” means not changing our culture of always embracing and leading change! So, in that respect, we will continue to change. We’ll adapt and expand our suite of services to solve systemic and emerging issues to get the most from and for our people. And, we’ll continue to equip our people with the technological power that enables them to continuously improve how they work and the results they achieve.
What do you see as the most difficult task being in a leadership position?
The company either rises or falls with its leaders. As the leader of the company, I have the responsibility to help others become better leaders. But one size doesn’t fit all – each is an individual with their own unique set of strengths, hence, strengthening and encouraging each of our leaders as individuals is the most difficult, but by far the most important task I have.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
“Servant Leader” aren’t just words in my title – Servant Leader & CEO – it’s a concept I and everyone on the management team believe within our souls, and try to live every moment of every day. We cultivate and empower a culture that fosters opportunity, inspiration, creativity, empathy, and communication. We continue to invest heavily in high-tech tools and communications infrastructure so our people can do their jobs better. Moreover, we respect our independent consultants as entrepreneurs themselves, and provide training and development opportunities to improve not only their ability to serve eAssist clients but to improve their business acumen and performance.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
We wouldn’t be a successful company without great people. I rely on my leadership team to help me continually envision our future and ideate pathways and then lead their teams to bring ideas to fruition. Our people shape the culture through which we thrive. Hiring talent, determining how to help them be their best, and making promotion choices are the most important decisions I make as the leader of the organization.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Everyone in the eAssist family is oriented on how eAssist came about – as a result of out-of-box thinking about how to solve a problem. Creative thinking is at our roots. To facilitate that, we keep our nationwide family of nearly 900 billing consultants, employees, and department-specific contractors connected and communicating 24/7 via our private, highly-organized Zulip chat system. Management spends considerable time monitoring and quickly responding to ideas and suggestions, or assigning to others who can.
Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
As servant leaders, I and my entire management team truly believe the people doing the work have the best ideas for how to do it even better. We use technology to help facilitate ideation for such a distributed organization across five time zones by holding live (via Zoom) “Q&A” sessions twice a month, and quarterly “All Hands” meetings. As a practicing dentist, I am always trying to anticipate industry changes. In addition to ongoing conversations, our Exec Team meets formally each month to discuss and envision how eAssist might be able to help shape a solution or provide a valuable service, and solidify long term growth strategies.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
eAssist was first built traditionally – a centralized brick & mortar office, local hires, on-the-job training, salary-based pay, etc. While we were successful in those early years, we weren’t able to grow and be all that I knew we could be to our clients and the industry. Without question, the decision to transition to a vastly distributed, remote, work-based pay environment was the biggest risk I’ve ever taken. It has always been said that with the biggest risk comes the highest return, and I can vouch for that with my personal experience!
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
I can’t say it enough – respect that the people doing the work know best how to do it better. Hire the very best, then foster teamwork, collaboration, and communication to get the very best from them — including their very best ideas. Then listen to them and act on what they tell you. As a Servant Leader, serve their needs by removing barriers and organizational inefficiencies that get in their way. Also, invest in your people to help them continually grow and develop to their benefit and be willing to reward them well.
What has helped you get to where you are [influential/effective/in the forefront] and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?
I was influenced by the time I was a teenager by Dr. Bruce Pitt. He was a dentist in the area where I lived and was also my High School basketball coach. He embodied the concepts of caring for others and giving of his time to serve not just his patients, but others in the community. He was also a religious leader, inspiring me to go on a two-year service mission through the church right after college. Dr. Pitt was an alumnus of Oregon Health & Science University and was my motivation for attending there myself to earn my doctorate. Also, Stephen Covey has become a hero of mine personally and professionally. We develop the skills and talents of our people through Win-Win agreements – entrusting and empowering them to achieve agreed-upon goals in ways that work best for them… which in turn is what’s best for our clients and our company.
What is the best advice you can give to our readers?
Think creatively when coming up with solutions, and don’t be afraid to innovate. eAssist was conceived to work around and solve problems created by traditional workplace norms. I had to design a company based on thinking outside that traditional box. And, if we hadn’t continued to think creatively, anticipate issues, and innovate solutions, we wouldn’t be as successful and growing as we are today. And finally, never forget that the people doing the work know best how to do it better, and that they need to be equipped with the best tools and technologies so they can.
Is there anything we’re leaving out here that needs to be addressed?
We’re not using marketing hype when we say we use “The Award-Winning eAssist Way” for services to our clients. Over the past few years, we’re proud to have earned placement on the “Inc. 5000 America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies” four years in a row; “Utah Business Fast 50” fastest-growing companies two years in a row; 2020 Health & Wellness Companies to Watch; Financial Times’ “America’s Fastest Growing Companies 2020”, 10 Most Impactful Healthcare Solution Providers in 2020, and more. As proud as we are of these awards, it’s the meaning behind them that represents our true achievements.