Primary Dental by Healius is making oral care more accessible for everyone

primary dental healius, the venture magazineAustralia’s second largest healthcare provider has a secret: Going to the dentist has never been easier to do, or to afford.

With roughly one third of the nation’s population avoiding dental care because of the cost of treatment and lack of transparency, this development is nothing short of life-changing. Primary Dental — the oral healthcare division of Healius, which until recently was known as Primary Healthcare — is on a mission to bring accessible and affordable quality dental care to anyone who needs it.

We recently spoke with CEO Michelle Aquilina, who is leading the dental division’s growth, innovation, and unique vision.

“We are the only dental organisation operating within large-scale medical centres,” she revealed. “On average we have 600 patients coming into our medical centres every day and we are able to complement the needs of those patients who see their GP, with dental services and care. So, when I look at the value proposition of Primary Dental, it certainly is unique.”

In 2018, the company opened four brand new dental centres within large-scale medical centres. “What we’ve created and what I've helped drive is a strong people culture and patient focus. By taking time to truly understand their needs within a holistic health care experience, we’ve challenged the industry’s status quo and introduced innovative, patient-centric solutions that set us apart” she added. “We've re-engineered our dental centres based on lean principles and embraced the new technology that comes with those principles.”

As the first operator of its kind to have self check-in systems at dental practices, Healius is aligning itself with rapidly changing consumer needs. Healius knows that customers want to manage their own health, but also have access to personalised care. “We are preparing ourselves for the future of dentistry by simplifying the end-to-end visit to a dentist. Our focus on digitised, consumer-centric priority has delivered strong growth as a result of our unique value proposition,” Aquilina said.

“The feedback we've seen from our patients has been quite overwhelming,” she pointed out. “We've been able to enhance our quality of care just by adapting to the understanding that our customers are at the core of everything we do. The expansion to our division has also enabled us to welcome more practitioners to our network. We're able to offer patients increased services and we've recently incorporated more specialised services within our general dentistry offering. Our objective is to provide a holistic dental service to the community and to our customers.”

To that end, the company introduced flexible payment options giving patients the option to pay for their care in instalments. “By understanding our customer’s needs we have been able to lead the way with transparent, affordable, fixed-priced dentistry.

“Providing quality and affordable care for patients is an absolute priority, and this is why we look to consumer feedback and industry trends in the decision-making process. Primary Dental has been able to record significant and consistent growth in an industry that's quite flat and is projected to remain flat for the next three years, according to IBISWorld Australia.”

The organisation’s “Five Year Horizon Plan” embraces Industry 4.0; the trend of automation and big data. “There's a strong journey ahead in terms of what that would look like, and being acutely aware that we’re in a very fast, evolving environment. It's a critical time to have a Horizon plan that sets a pathway for the customer and our people so that we are always in a position to adapt and evolve as our customers do.”

Under Aquilina’s leadership, the organisation is bringing a new dynamic to the industry by introducing leading-edge technology and up-skilling while allowing dentists their clinical autonomy. “We were the first large-scale provider to become accredited. This was a significant investment, and a pivotal moment for us that showed our commitment to delivering quality patient care, placing health and safety first for our patients, employees and practitioners. As an organisation, we work through a total quality framework so that when patients come into our centres, they know they're receiving quality care. Similarly, our practitioners operate their business knowing that there’s a quality framework that supports them to deliver oral care.”

primary dental healius, the venture magazineAs a leader in an industry with less than 1 percent of women in the corner office, Aquilina is a sharp mythbuster. “There are benefits from being a large organisation, including stimulating the industry through new innovative technologies and approaches. The challenge for us is removing the typical stigma of corporatisation, but we are committed to helping the industry and healthcare professionals  embrace the benefits an organisation like us can provide. At Healius, we look at the complete value chain, right from design through to collaboration with strategic partners and we build on that.

“We are one of five large organisations within Australia that essentially represent accessibility to the nation,” she added. “As an industry, we need to remove the concept that corporate is the voodoo of the industry. It actually isn't. A good corporate provides management, lifts industry standards and creates a high-performance culture while empowering the people to focus on delivering good patient outcomes.”