The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry merges excellence in business and unimpeachable care with blockbuster results
Reciprocity isn’t magic, but from a distance it often appears that way. Consider the business approach taken by the non-profit corporation VCU Dental Care, affiliated with Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. This highly evolved and efficient corporation invests every penny it raises back into the school. There’s no performative sleight of hand – it’s simply the magic of caring.
“The corporation’s sole purpose is to fund education, research, technology, residency programs, growth and development, and other markets,” explained Chad Lockhart, president of VCU Dental Care.
VCU Dental Care is the state’s largest provider of care to patients insured by Medicaid, and the school is the only facility in the region to house all oral health specialties under one roof. From advanced facial reconstruction to general dentistry, patients find the care they need in the school’s predoctoral clinic, eight specialty clinics and faculty practice. The unique academic model facilitates approximately 100,000 patient appointments each year, and VCU Dental Care staff are the backbone of clinical operations.
“We treat everybody from elected state officials and university administrative leadership to the most underserved individuals in the region. Directly affiliated with the only comprehensive dental school in all of Virginia, our corporate structure is vertically integrated to enhance all levels of dental education, practice and care.” said Lockhart.
“Our foundation is built on providing excellent patient care in a learning environment,” he said. “We take care of our staff, ensuring employment models that allow them to learn and grow within our ranks. And all of the revenue generated from the services we provide is reinvested back into our mission for the right reasons.”
There are many advantages to this mission-driven corporate structure. One is the ability to move quickly and support the integration of cutting-edge technology that drives the future of dentistry.
VCU is far ahead many other dental schools in the nation in the adoption of digital dentistry, which is taught alongside conventional methods. Throughout the school, you will see intraoral scanning devices, and many of the crowns, bridges, and, soon, dentures, are manufactured in house using high-tech mills and 3D printers. As the population ages, this type of flexibility meets a growing demand for restorative care that can be provided in an affordable and timely fashion due to these in-house resources.
Another example is the school’s partnership with LM Dental that brought about the use of self-serve instrument cabinets, which greatly streamlines the process by which students and other providers check out the instruments they need to provide patient care. Instead of having staff manually check out and track the return of instruments, users simply scan their badges and grab the instruments they need. Using Radio Frequency Identification, the instruments can be tracked through their entire life cycle. This innovative partnership has made the process easier for instrument users while freeing up staff to focus on other priorities that improve the delivery of care.
LM Dental is using VCUSD as a pilot to demonstrate its utility at other top-tier dental schools, including University of Missouri-Kansas City, Indiana University & Columbia University to name a few.
“It is a huge cost-saver. The investment was there, and we had great leadership running it. It is absolutely cutting edge and top of the line; I've never seen anything like it,” Lockhart said.
Under Lockhart’s leadership, there have been additional breakthroughs in medical records tracking and scheduling processes. Notably, significant strides have been made in meeting the demand for emergency care. The former pediatric clinic at the school was renovated last year to become the new space for the Oral and Facial Surgery clinic. Thanks to the expanded clinic and improvements in scheduling, oral surgeries have nearly doubled and the former space was used to expand urgent care capacity.
These aren’t the only changes, there are more improvements in the works. Soon, patients will be able to request their appointment and pick the time of day and the clinic they need to serve their needs.
“We're working on a program where you scan a QR code at VCU Health’s ER that puts you on our list as an emergency patient and we treat you as fast as possible. All of the patient’s medical records come to us immediately and they walk in as a VIP straight to the chair in which care will be provided,” he noted. “We've seen 56% growth in the four months that I've been managing our urgent care processes.”
VCU Dental Care also plays a significant role in partnering with students and faculty in the school to provide oral health education in community settings. Not only does VCU Dental Care provide educational materials and oral hygiene supplies for distribution at community health events, staff are often on-hand to directly schedule appointments for community members with oral health needs.
“We're moving the market and saying, ‘If you can't come to us, we'll come to you,’” said Lockhart.
Additionally, there is a pilot underway that is piloting contracted rides through companies such as Uber to patients who lack transportation. This guarantees pickup and drop off at their homes and helps patients develop relationships with the assigned student practitioners they see at each visit.
“Transportation has been a frequent request from our community, and we're really proud of the launch of this pilot and its increasing utilization,” he stressed. “I wouldn't be able to do this without the wonderful team that I have. I have mentioned many times, ‘If it fails, I am accountable for an unsuccessful attempt, but if it succeeds, it is a victory for our teams that persevered to fruition. In Lockhart’s view, furthering future advancements means providing the right services with a community-facing approach. “If we're doing right by our community, our community becomes our partner and we benefit together. What we do with the successes of the service is up to us, and the decision becomes whether we reinvest in the services, community and education, or financially benefit as a corporation. We are very proud of our decision.
“It is a wholesome feeling to have the privilege of working with an exceptional organization led by the dean, alongside esteemed faculty and staff from around the world, in an evolving industry that is critical to health and wellness. Whether it's my family or yours, we are all patients here and I couldn't be more proud of the services we offer and receive,” Lockhart concluded.
VCU Dental Care is a nonprofit corporation established to support the clinical and educational mission of VCU School of Dentistry. Employing nearly 200 staff, VCU Dental Care facilitates the patient care provided at the school’s pre-doctoral, specialty, urgent care and faculty practice clinics. The revenue generated from patient care not only supports clinical operations, profits are reinvested back into the school to support infrastructure, new technology, educational initiatives and student scholarships.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Dentistry was founded in 1893 in Richmond, Virginia. Its mission is to educate tomorrow’s oral health leaders in a community of service and inclusion by utilizing emerging technologies and innovative research to provide comprehensive oral health care for all. As the only dental school in the state of Virginia, it plays a vital role in preserving and improving the oral and general health communities throughout the state. It incorporates state-of-the-art technologies to provide a unique, hands-on educational experience to students in dentistry, advanced dental education, graduate research, and dental hygiene programs.
One of five health science schools at VCU, VCU School of Dentistry shares a campus with a large, urban academic health system, VCU Health. Functioning much like a hospital itself, the school is home to a robust, fully specialized dental practice that treats more than 32,000 patients each year through 100,000 plus appointments. It has one of the top digital dentistry programs in the U.S., and its Philips Institute of Oral Health Research is ranked 17th among
all US Dental Schools in National Institutes of Health funding.
520 N 12th St.
Richmond, VA 23298
Phone Number: 804.828.9190
Homepage Link: https://dentistry.vcu.edu/