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HL20: Jeffrey A. Parker—Making Margin While Serving the Poor

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, January 17, 2014

Parker claims that Sarrell's model of dentistry—which forgoes the small-office, mom-and-pop profit motive of most private practice dentists—is largely what has allowed the organization to be so economical. It's also what attracts the best and brightest young dentists to practice there, he claims.

"I think it is difficult for anyone in America to rationalize how the CEOs of Cedars-Sinai, Children's Hospital of Atlanta, or even the University of Tennessee Medical Center, can do neurosurgery, heart transplants, and liver transplants and no one questions them," he says. "However, in over 40 states, the Dental Practice Act restricts a business person from using a nonprofit dental clinic for the underserved using licensed dentists to clean teeth and fill cavities. Personally, I feel this is a national disgrace."

Sarrell has about 60 dentists, 90% of whom live in the Birmingham area, the state's largest city. With only two offices in Birmingham, Sarrell rotates dentists among the far-flung clinics. All of the dentists undergo chart review from a chief dental officer, so dentists know they will be audited, which, along with straight salary compensation, eliminates any incentive for overtreatment.

"The overwhelming majority of our dentists are paid a straight salary," he says. "There is no incentive but to do the right thing every time for our patients."

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