Welcome to Patient Prism's
Building the Billion Dollar
DSO Series

Amol nirgudkar, ceo of patient PRISM, INTERVIEWS
BOB FONTANA, FOUNDER & CEO OF ASPEN DENTAL

In this series, Amol Nigudkar, Co-Founder & CEO of Patient Prism, interviews Aspen Dental’s CEO, Bob Fontana about the rebranding of The Aspen Group and how they support more than 1,100 practices.

Aspen Dental Part 1: The Aspen Dental Story

The Origin of aspen dental

In this episode, Fontana shares the story of Aspen Dental’s evolution to become one of the best-known DSO brands in the world. Early on, Aspen learned they had to earn people’s business every day.

Aspen Dental Part 2: Aspen's Operating Model

operatiNG model

This focus has differentiated Aspen as a brand that deeply understands its patient base and solves the problems that get in the way of patients accessing and accepting the care they need.

Part 3: Focus on the Patient Journey

The PATIENT JOURNEY

In this episode, the founder and CEO of Aspen Dental, Bob Fontana, discusses Aspen’s focus on doing what’s right for patients and providers by constantly striving to improve every aspect of the patient’s journey and provide true value.

Part 4: Evolution of a DSO to an HSO

evolution of the dso

In this episode, Fontana talks about the evolution of Aspen Dental to The Aspen Group (teamtag.com) that offers health services. The scaling expertise of the DSO is now being applied to solving healthcare needs. 

Part 5: The Company Culture

company culture

In this episode, Fontana shares his perspective on Aspen Dental’s culture. “People can copy a lot of things about an organization–pricing models, strategies, how they go to market, and offerings.” 

Part 6: Employee Training and Support

training & support

In this episode, Fontana shares why investment in Aspen Dental’s teams constantly takes them to a higher level. He says, “We’re big believers in giving people the tools to be successful.”

Part 7: Leveraging Technology

technology

Advancement in technology is accelerating, and Aspen’s investments are huge across 1,000 locations. Leveraging digital and AI tools is improving care and transforming how dentistry is practiced.

Part 8: The Future of Orthodontics

the future of orthodontics

In this episode, Fontana shares Aspen Dental’s thinking around making orthodontics more affordable and a standardized brand experience.

“We try to push ourselves every single day to make sure that we have the right model for our providers, and we're big believers that the more we invest in our teams, the bigger the returns will be.”

Bob Fontana
Founder & CEO, The Aspen Group

bob fontana

Founder & CEO,
The Aspen Group

©2022 Patient Prism | LunarVue Media

Aspen Dental has recently rebranded its parent company as TAG – The Aspen Group and is expanding beyond dentistry into healthcare businesses.

Aspen Dental® was founded in 1998 in New York by Bob Fontana with a simple goal in mind: to break down the barriers that doctors and patients face when it comes to dental care. Today, more than 20 years later, with nearly 1,000 Aspen Dental locations nationwide, the mission of the company remains the same – to bring better care to more people and to support the dental professionals who provide that care.

The Aspen Group (TAG) is leading the way in the consumerization of healthcare to deliver better healthcare to more people 

In December of 2021, Aspen Dental Management, Inc. announced the rebranding of its parent company as TAG – The Aspen Group and expansion beyond dentistry, into a variety of healthcare businesses, including general dentistry, dental implants, urgent care, and medical aesthetics.

“When we launched Aspen Dental more than 20 years ago, we set out to break down the barriers that made it hard for people to keep up with their dental health,” said Bob Fontana, Founder, Chairman and CEO of TAG. “Our aim has always been to provide better access, affordability, and transparency, and we knew the key to better patient care started with a human-centered approach. As we expand our business and grow our brand, we’re setting out to achieve one simple goal: to bring better healthcare to more people.”

In addition to building the business by expanding into additional healthcare categories, in 2021, TAG launched a branded consumer product and opened a new headquarters in Chicago

In 2021, TAG launched its first branded consumer product – Motto. Motto is a clear aligner product that is currently available in select Aspen Dental locations nationwide. Motto clear aligners offer doctor-directed care at a cost that is roughly the same as mail-in clear aligners and a fraction of the cost of other doctor-directed clear aligner products

In October 2021, TAG opened a new 200,000 square foot headquarters in Chicago’s West Loop at 800 W. Fulton Market. The new state-of-the-art office building supports team collaboration, strategy optimization, and professional education for the thousands of healthcare professionals in the TAG network.

TAG supports more than 1,100 independent health care practices

TAG and the independent health care practices it supports operate more than 1,100 locations in 45 states through its four health care support companies: Aspen Dental®, ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers®, WellNow Urgent Care®, and Chapter Aesthetic StudioSM. Combined, the companies serve more than 30,000 patients a day and more than 8 million patients each year. 

 

The Aspen Dental Story

Early on, Aspen learned they had to earn people’s business every day. “People want great service. People want to have solutions that fit with their schedule and obviously price is a component,” says Bob Fontana, Founder, Chairman and CEO of The Aspen Group (TAG). “If you think about what happens, great brands understand who their customer is and how they can make it easier for them in a way that leads to loyalty to that brand. And I, and I don’t think healthcare should be any different.” 

Aspen Dental’s Operating Model

Aspen Dental’s successful operating model focuses on responding to what dental patients want and need. This focus has differentiated Aspen as a brand that deeply understands its patient base and solves the problems that get in the way of patients accessing and accepting the care they need.

“In the beginning, we asked, ‘How can we drive access, take friction out of the system, remove emotional barriers and functional barriers in a way that we patients and consumers will respond?’ We thought that we could be the yes organization in a world full of nos. That’s still with us today. It’s still the foundation of what we do,” says Fontana.

Focus on the Patient Journey

Aspen is constantly striving to improve every aspect of the patient’s journey and provide true value. “The way to do it is to do what’s right for people,” says Fontana. “I think, in many cases we’re not really competing for private practice patients. As you said earlier, there’s a big portion of the population that doesn’t see the dentist on a regular basis, because life gets in the way. They’re making hard choices every day. If they have little problem with your mouth, they might say, ‘Eh, not today. I’ve got to put food on the table, pay for my kids’ education, car payments, mortgage payments…’ All this stuff is going through their minds. They’re making real choices every day. And unfortunately, they push it off until they can’t push it off any longer. That’s our brand’s moment of truth. How will our organization behave for that particular patient?”

Evolution of a DSO to an HSO

The scaling expertise of the Aspen dental service organization is now being applied to solving healthcare needs. Fontana says, “You can have a great go-to-market strategy but if you can’t figure out the people’s side of the business, you won’t be able to scale it. You need to learn how to build great teams connected to the values and purpose of the organization. Do you know your patient? Are you brand forward? Are you solving problems? Once you have this well in hand, you can apply your DSO experience to health verticals and develop a differentiated HSO business.”

The Company Culture

“People can copy a lot of things about an organization–pricing models, strategies, how they go to market, and offerings. It’s hard to copy culture, and it’s the one big differentiator,” says Fontana.

Training and Support

Investment in Aspen Dental’s teams constantly takes them to a higher level. “We’re big believers in giving people the tools to be successful,” says Fontana. “People can do amazing things when given the opportunity. It’s our job as leaders to find them and give them the tools to support them to get there.”

Leveraging Technology

Leveraging digital and AI tools is improving care and transforming how dentistry is practiced. “Advancement in technology is speeding up, and we’re big believers in making investments in technology appropriately. We’re at an inflection point right now where we’re making huge investments in technology,” says Fontana, who reports on the technology they are investing in, across 1,000 plus locations. 

The Future of Orthodontics

For TAG, the future of orthodontics is focused on making orthodontics more affordable and a standardized brand experience. Because a direct-to-consumer platform has a lot of challenges and may not be the most convenient, TAG will be offering doctor-directed care with their proprietary Motto clear aligners at a cost that is roughly the same as direct-to-consumer models.

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