Presenting the Modern Dental Practice

modern practice podcast

In the third episode of Rectangle Health’s 5 episode series on DentalCast Productions “Live with John”, Chief Technology Officer, Michael Peluso joined John Stamper to share how technology unifies data and workflows into an ecosystem that improves the business side of care.   


John Stamper 00:00

What’s going on everybody? Welcome to another episode here on Live with John. Super pumped to continue this learning series with some of the amazing people from Rectangle Health. This is episode three and what we’re going to go over tonight, everybody, is presenting the modern dental practice. As you may remember, our first episode is really kind of highlighting some of the opportunities in the industry around technology. In episode two, Michelle and Taisha really kind of set the stage for 2022. In talking to you about setting up your practice to be successful, they touched a little bit on implementation of actually how you can be successful. So that brings us right into episode three, which I’m very excited about. Our special guest this evening is Michael Peluso, who is the chief technology officer at Rectangle Health.

How are you doing, Mike?

Michael Peluso 01:14

Hey, John, I’m good, how are you? It’s good to be here. I’m super well.

John Stamper 01:19

Yeah. Well, thanks for coming on and I know we got a lot to talk about today. Before we get into that, we’d love to have you share with everybody a little bit about yourself career. And then I think what I’m really interested in is the attraction that you had to Rectangle Health and I think more importantly, the opportunity that you saw here to really make a difference. And we’re going to kind of get into a deeper dive of looking at the modern practice, but love to hear a little bit about your story.

Michael Peluso 01:45

Yeah, for sure. I kind of started out a long time ago when I got into college on all things healthcare payments. It sounds like an interesting career path, not a lot of people choose, but I was really intrigued as to how the payment processing, the payment world, how claims got paid, how it all got put together in healthcare. So I actually started my career paying claims for Cigna. Healthcare. Did that for years. And really what it allowed me to do is understand how it all works, understand how an insurance company decides to pay a claim, not pay a claim. And it was really healthcare focused, but I learned a ton. And when I left there, I actually went to work for a hospital and that kind of gave me that provider side of the world, like what’s the provider feeling.

It was interesting because I had come from the dark side of insurance, but I went to the light side of the provider world and I understood the pain. I understood how claims get denied. I understood how the whole point of an insurance company to make money is to not pay claims. And I kind of grasped that and I really said, well, I’m going to build software that’s going to help providers, whether it’s healthcare, medical, dental, get paid. And I actually entered into the software industry around that time, and that was before I joined Rectangle Health, but I built out a product before this that actually helped patients pay at the time of service as well. Then I got introduced to Rectangle Health, and it was such an interesting opportunity because the organization had a tremendous amount of dental customers when I joined.

And just there was no efficiency, there was no sort of that coolness to the digital transaction that existed in healthcare. So my idea was to take all that I learned in healthcare, transacting, all that I learned in hospitals, real huge collections of scale multibillion dollar organizations, and bring it down to the dental practice level. And I was able to do that at Rectangle Health. I’ve been here nine years now, and every year we come out with a new innovation or a new technology that helps drive better collections in the dental practices.

John Stamper 03:52

I love that. And on the last couple of episodes, Michael, particularly with Michelle and Taisha on the last one, talking about actual implementation in the practice, and some things where I would love for you and I to go is to maybe have you craft this vision. I know the title of this is the Modern Dental Practice, but as you know, there are a lot of practices that even though they see that technology is here, that it can make a difference for their teams and for their patients. There’s still a lot of those roadblocks. And I almost feel like at times in an industry, and I think you mentioned it from the medical side, right? In dentistry, we’ve always wanted to get to that next level.

And as you know, to get to that next level, you need to invest not so much a lot of times in these systems, but just in your whole belief in your practice that you want to have a modern dental practice. And that means incorporating technology into that, but for the practices that for whatever reason, can’t get over that hump, what do you say to them?

Technology is the New Normal

Michael Peluso 04:48

It’s the new normal, is really what I say to them. And I know everybody loves that term, but it is the new normal. Everything is digital now. I scheduled an appointment to get my hair cut at a barber shop. I don’t call, I don’t even walk in anymore. Remember those days where you just walked into the barbershop and they cut your hair? I went online and scheduled that appointment. I went online and left my card on file. And then when I went to the barbershop, I just showed up. So I use that example to kind of say to providers, especially dental providers, that this is the way it’s going to be from now until forever. It’s not going to go backwards. We’re not going to go back to the days where we call and make appointments.

We’re not going to go back to the days where we get a paper statement in the mail and we actually write a check. A lot of times people don’t have checks anymore. When I talk to dental practices and I talk to them often, this is the new normal. If you’re not adopting these types of technologies, whether it be online bill pay, whether it be Text-to-Pay, whether it be Card on File, even recurring payments, you’re behind the times. And COVID actually pushed you farther behind the times. So that new normal of, hey, this is sort of the way your patients are going to expect it. This is the way it’s being delivered and served to them everywhere else they go. So coming to a dental practice or even a medical practice, we work with both, but it’s got to be that same experience.

And that experience will create happier patients. It’ll also create a more efficient office. But you can almost expect that if you don’t adopt these types of technologies, patients will go to practices that do have them.

John Stamper 06:34

Yeah, and it’s interesting, I’ve watched in dentistry the explosion of data which started to surface itself in dentistry. And initially, a lot of dental practices and dental teams were really afraid of it, right? I mean, dentistry has always been this situation. We want to take care of our patients. And so data comes on the scene, and it can be a little bit scary. There’s numbers attached to it, there’s dollars attached to it, and have kind of watched that. But it’s been encouraging to see that a lot of the practices are learning new ways to use the data. I see technology in that same regard.

Michael Peluso 07:05


John Stamper 07:06

When I think about buzzwords in dentistry, I think empathy, compassion, care, and we all know that’s what practices want to do. But your point is so important, I think, because that is the new way of showing empathy, compassion, and care to your patients. It’s implementing these technologies that makes their life easier or gives them the confidence. I mean, I think through the pandemic, and I think about just some of these technologies just from a perspective of infection control, not even all the other efficiencies that it provides. And that to me is just one reflection of showing empathy and compassion and care to their patient base. But you’re right, I think for those practices that don’t find a way to implement this, it’s going to be tough moving forward.

And I’m just glad that there are companies out there like with what you guys are doing that are more importantly, educating the teams on, okay, this is what it’s going to be. But then here are some solutions on how you can move forward and actually become the modern dental practice, for sure.

Michael Peluso 07:57

And I think that word care that you touched on is the critical word. Providers want to deliver care and providers, dental providers, they care about their patients, so they want to be able to continue to do more of that. These digital tools are great, but they actually enable that to happen. And I’ll use my example of the barbershop. The barbershop gets to cut more hair. He’s not worried about answering the phone. He’s not worried about taking payment. We’ll take the same thing in a dental practice. The dental practice can actually see more patients. They can actually take care of more patients. And as they spend time with the patient, that time actually focused on care actually gets extended because they’re not spending a lot of time doing a registration or a check in. That’s all done digitally by the patient at home.

They’re not spending a lot of time doing that checkout process where the patient leaves and they stop at the desk to sign. What if that could all happen, where it’s all digital and it’s all automated? Well, what it does is it allows that provider to deliver more care, even things like, we have an option called care now, pay later. So it’s very similar to the buy now, pay later in the financial world, but it allows that provider to say to a patient, hey, I know you have a really expensive procedure today. There’s not much we can do about the price of the procedure or about the negotiated rate of the procedure. Implants cost a lot of money, or root canals cost a lot of money, whatever it may be.

But I have this option where I can give you the care and you can actually pay for it over time. And the entire experience is digital so that the provider is focused on talking to the patient about the care, not necessarily about how they’re going to pay for it or how they’re not going to pay for it. That all kind of gets handled seamlessly in the background.

Increasing Efficiency through Technology

John Stamper 09:47

Yeah, and it’s interesting you used a word a little while ago, technology enables. And when I look at some of the current challenges that dentistry is up against, staffing is one of them. And I think about how can the practice embrace a lot of these newer technologies so that if the situation hopefully it’s temporary, who knows if it’s a permanent new thing that dentistry has to figure out with a lot? Of the shortages and that or what have you, but the technology is here to help those practices at least find ways to continue to give great patient care and at the same time, run their business. So I’m curious, your thoughts on that, on just the combination of the technologies in conjunction with a challenge such as staffing.

Michael Peluso 10:31

Well, the technologies gain a lot of efficiency. And again, I could use another analogy. I like analogies. John movie theater, right? You used to go to the movie theater. You had to stop at the front desk, buy a ticket. You had to go to the next person and hand them the ticket, and then they would rip it in half. And you’d go to theater. It’s a pretty common experience today. People go online to the website, they pick the show they want to see, they buy the ticket, they show up to theater, and they walk in. Well, that theater now needs two less people to sell the tickets, right? That technology has handled it well. Think of the same thing in a dental office. You eventually want to get to the point where you need a dentist and a hygienist.

Maybe you don’t need a front desk check in person because the patient has checked in online. The patient’s given all their information, the credit card is on file. That patient is going to come in. And to go back to my comment from before, they’re going to sit down and they’re going to get actual dental care. They’re not going to be dealing with patient administration. They’re not going to be dealing with sort of that cumbersome experience of filling out paperwork or paying. Paying is a cumbersome experience. It’s all handled digitally, and it’s all enabled, to use your word. So the patient comes down, comes in, sits down for care in the chair, gets their care, and then goes about their way, and they can be sent text. They can be given online portals. They can have apps on their phone.

There’s just so many options to enable that. And again, almost all the way back to the first question, it’s not uncommon. I think sometimes in the dental world, we get scared, like, oh, my patients aren’t going to want to do that, or that seems like a lot for my patients. It’s pretty common. Again, my haircut, my movie theater trip, it’s almost daily interactions now are all handled that way. And if your dental practice isn’t there, it needs to get there. And to sort of tie it all in, you’ll actually pick up the efficiency while you do it. And you may have to have one less staff member, or you may be down one staff member already, and that person’s life is going to get a little bit easier. That is covering for two people. So I see that as sort of a win.

Your office gets a better digital presence. Your office becomes more like a lot of the other offices out there, and you pick up some efficiency.

John Stamper 12:57

Yeah. And I was just thinking about something when you were talking about some of these technologies and the practice being a little bit leery of the demographics. I almost want to challenge everybody that’s watching in a dental practice, like every day for the next week. Go peek out into your waiting room and look at how many people in the waiting room are on their phones. And I think what they’re going to find, Michael, as you know, is it’s not just the millennials, it’s everybody. I mean, there are times when I’m sitting somewhere with my father in law and he’s looking up something on his phone.

And I think that what happened before our eyes, as you know, is so many of the patients out there, all of us as consumers, like we woke up one day and this is all a part of our life now. And so I say that just hopefully in an effort to bring down the fear for a practice to think that a lot of the patients, like you said, are not going to appreciate or value those technologies. And I think you touched on this at the beginning. The reality is that with so many of the other services that they’re consuming, it’s the way it is now. So it almost feels like if it’s not incorporated into the dental practice, then they could go somewhere else and as you know, they’re going to talk.

It’s not often that I get a chance to speak with the chief technology officer of a company. So while I have you, I also would maybe like to get a little bit of backstory about the rectangle health, like the practice management bridge and maybe kind of like a little bit of a story of how you guys came about that on an effort to be able to simplify some of the things in the practice.

Michael Peluso 14:24

Yeah, absolutely. I’ll even take you back a little further to pre practice management bridge where we actually got our start. And it’s very similar to the story that we’ve been saying. Years ago, early 90s, our original founders walked into dental practices and said, hey, are you having trouble getting paid at the time of service? And every single one of them said, yeah. So our next question was, do you guys accept credit cards? That was our core we actually started doing credit card processing and then at the core of our application is credit card processing. And the dentist said, no. What do you mean dentists can’t take credit cards? That’s for grocery stores, that’s for gas stations, that’s for restaurants. And our original founder said, no, you can take credit cards that get paid the same way as your patients are paying for other things.

And the dentist said, well, perfect, this is what I want. And at the time the technology was that remember those little yellow box, those little boxes with the little yellow receipt that came out of them? But that was the technology. But that was proven technology that consumers started to get used to at gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, whatever it may be that we brought into the dental practice. Fast forward a few years later, we said, well, can we make this into more of a platform? Can we make it into a software? So think about when you go to a restaurant now they all have like a POS system that does a lot of different things.

Well, we knew the offices had practice management systems but we knew that they didn’t have that side of credit card processing, that side of patient engagement, that side of recurring payments, that side of card on file. So we built the platform practice, management bridge. And what that allowed us to do was sort of deliver a software product that enhances the practice management system to do all of that good stuff that we’re talking about. I’d love to come up with a better word than good stuff, but that’s exactly what it is, right? It’s all the things that patients like outside of the dental practice. I like to leave my card on file. I love shopping on Amazon. It’s just so easy. How do you incorporate all that into the dental office?

We do that through Practice Management Bridge, and it enhances their practice management system to have all of that functionality, but it also gives their patients this digital experience that they couldn’t deliver any other way. So we launched Practice Management Bridge about, I would say, ten years ago. And again, it was to deliver that platform. And then we layered in some new functionality. Again, card on file started to get pretty exciting out in the real world. Recurring payments started to get pretty exciting out in the real world. So we layered that in today. Things like Text-to-Pay are pretty exciting out in the retail world. Things like online payments, the ability for the patient to go to the website and make a payment. So we put all of that into practice. Management. Bridge.

And again, we kind of get lucky because we learn from the retail world. We look at what’s going on and what do consumers see and what are consumers used to using, and we take that and we tailor it for the dental office. And that’s really been our business model since that day we first helped dental providers take credit cards at the time of treatment. We’ve just expanded on that over the past, and we’ve been doing it quite a while now over the past 25 years.

John Stamper 17:59

It’s fun how it evolves, right? You start with one service, you solve one pain point in the practice, you learn a little bit more. And one of the things I have loved in my career in dentistry is to watch what companies do, like rectangle health. When you start to build these relationships with the practices that utilize more services and this feedback loop of you learn more, you can leverage that with all of your insight and resources to provide better services and all that. And it’s just we wake up one day and it’s not like that in a lot of industries, as you know, Michael, where the relationship between a dental practice and the companies that provide the products and service to them have this really good relationship.

And I can only imagine, especially just man, just in the last couple of years, the feedback, the positive feedback that all of you have received in regards to what type of benefits really this has provided the practices. And I wish right now that every practice in the dental country was watching this. Who knows? Maybe they are. We’re not Joe Rogan yet. But if it was, if you had the opportunity to speak with every dental practice right now and share with them how integrating a technology like the practice managed bridge and things like that, what would you say to them? What would be the positive impact that they really could garner from implementing something like that?

Michael Peluso 19:17

Yeah, and I love the sort of the word to use the feedback loop. So after we deployed all of our customers, we call them back a few weeks later, or we interact with them a few weeks later, and almost the number one response from all of them is, we can’t believe we waited this long. Why didn’t we do this sooner? It wasn’t that hard, it wasn’t that scary. And the way we deploy our system, the practice management bridge, is you don’t have to do if it had 150 features, you don’t have to do all 150 on the first day. Why don’t we start with online payments? Or why don’t we start with payments at the time of treatment? Or why don’t we work on getting card on file to eventually eliminate paper statements?

So that’s almost the number one response is, I can’t believe we waited this long. We can now get more feedback from our patients and we’re now and this is sort of the ultimate, we’re collecting more payments, we’re seeing more patients. We actually have the ability to deliver more care and see more patients. It wasn’t a monumental shift in the thinking for the office or the patients. And a lot of them have even said to us, our patients were wondering when were finally going to do this. That’s probably the big sort of eye opening thing that we learned from the patients and that I’d like to say or learn from the practices that I’d like to say out to all the other practices is there’s no reason to wait. It’s pretty simple, it’s pretty easy, and it’s not overwhelming.

I think a lot of people think, well, it’s overwhelming, it’s a lot to do. We bite it off in small chunks and we get you the right digital tools to meet your patient needs over a long period of time. Again, when we get into a relationship with our customers, we want them to be customers forever. But a lot of them are easily stay customers for 7810 years. So we do that by sort of delivering that technology in small increments that they can handle over time.

John Stamper 21:19

Yeah, and I think what’s great about it is that with a lot of these newer technologies, by nature, the relationship has to be strong.

Michael Peluso 21:27


A Look to the Future

John Stamper 21:28

Because there’s a lot of commitment on their side to implement these, make them a part of their everyday operations and their practice. But as you know, Mike, it’s a responsibility for you guys and one that I know you take very seriously. And I always think about on a daily basis, dental practices are doing what they do best and taking care of their patients. And companies that serve dental practices with these products and solutions are doing the same thing on a daily basis. Always out there trying to find new ways to make the technology better, but in a lot of cases, just be that support system. So I think that’s what’s most encouraging. And then we woke up one day and a lot of these technologies are certainly making a huge difference as we close out.

I’d love to just kind of get your thoughts when you look at the landscape now with what we’ve been through over the last couple of years. And I think more importantly, what you guys have built at Rectangle Health, what are you most excited about when you look out for the next couple of years in dentistry and a lot of the great work that you guys are doing, what are you most excited about?

Michael Peluso 22:23

Yeah, it’s a great question and I’m going to use another analogy because I love them, but think of the airline industry. Remember years and years ago we used to have to get paper tickets from a travel agent and then when went to the airport, we had to pay and we had to go through this sort of really extensive process to get on a plane and have it take us somewhere, right. And then fast forward a few years from there, they put these kiosks in. We all went to the airport and checked in at the kiosk and then the plane took us somewhere. Now it’s completely digital, right. Taking a flight somewhere is pretty extensive. From a safety concern, from an engineering concern. It’s almost as extensive as think of a dental visit. But they’ve made it.

So we basically self service everything until we get on the plane and then the pilot takes us wherever we need to go. So that time with the pilot, that’s the important time. Right. But everything pre and post is pretty much self service. Right. How do we get to that? Same point in the dental industry where everything is self service for me, I could schedule my appointment, I can submit my insurance, I could put my card on file. And then when I come to the office, I just sit in the chair, just like I sit in the chair on the plane. The dentist does what he needs to do and I get to spend time with the dentist and I get to sort of it’s more quality time. I’m not spent doing administrative work pre and I’m not spent doing administrative work post.

And then when I’m done with the dentist and he’s sort of taking care of everything he needs to take care of, I just walk out, I go about my business, and that’s where I think the dental industry needs to get to. I think that’s where the healthcare industry will get to as well. I think that’s sort of the perfect picture. And when dentists truly take the time to understand it will allow them to spend more time with their patients and deliver more care to their patients. But at the same time, they’re actually going to get paid more, they’re going to have more efficient collections, and they’re going to have more patient retention.

John Stamper 24:24

Yeah, I love that. So last friday, like many people that were flying when there was a snowstorm in the eastern part of the country, my flight got canceled. And while I don’t know where I was sitting on the tarmac or once I figured it out, I was able to go on my app and actually select the flight for the next day. When I landed in Atlanta and I got off the plane, there were 300 ish people in line standing there to get to the customer service counter to either schedule their flight or whatever the case may be. And I did have this feeling I felt for them, but I had this feeling of satisfaction that I was able to do that and walk on by that.

And so I only say that because there’s been a lot of talk on how these technologies make things better for the practice and make them better for the patient, where I really get excited. Michael, what you said is that there’s been a big push in dentistry for balance, right? I mean, dentistry is a very stressful job, and what the teams do is very stressful. And so it’s exciting to me when I see a lot of these things that can take off a lot of that stress of a dental practice and the practice owner and their teams can also start to live their life a little bit, right, and not feel like when they’re not working with patients, they’re having indignantly lost things. So I’m really looking forward to how these technologies even add to that element of dentistry.

There’s just so many positive upsides, and this has been a real pleasure. I want to thank you. It’s been great to continue to work with a rectangle health team and this learning series. And I want to let everybody know that right below us in the comments, there’s a link. Go click on that, learn more about a lot of the great things that rectangle health is doing in an effort to help dental practices and a lot of things that michael talked about today in an effort to move forward. So we’re going to continue this learning series. We’ll have episode four and episode five coming up. Lot of great subjects to continue to work with the rectangle health team. And michael, I just want to thank you, man. Thanks for coming.

Michael Peluso 26:20

Yeah, this was great. I’m looking forward. To talking to you again, hopefully. Thank you very much.

John Stamper 26:24

All right. Best of luck.

Michael Peluso 26:25

Have a good one.

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