Smile Advantage: Ryan Corby and Shelly Otte

modern practice podcast

On this episode of The Modern Practice Podcast, host Gary Tiratsuyan is joined by Ryan Corby, Partner and CMO, and Shelly Otte, Partnership Success Manager, at Smile Advantage.

During the discussion, Ryan and Shelly share background about Smile Advantage, how the organization has evolved, and the value of partnering with Rectangle Health for their members.

See how Rectangle Health’s technology solution Practice Management Bridge® can help your practice or healthcare organization increase revenue, automate daily workflows, and improve communication with patients today.


Gary: Hello, everybody, and welcome back to the Modern Practice podcast! I am super excited to be joined here today by two very special guests from the team at Smile Advantage, Ryan Corby, Partner and CMO, and Shelly Otte, Partnership Success Manager. Ryan, Shelly, thank you both so much for taking the time to come on the podcast.

Ryan Corby: Yeah, Gary, thank you so much for having us. We’ve been looking forward to a chat like this for quite a while. So, we’re excited to be on here. So, thank you.

Shelly Otte: Yes, we really appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion. We’re so excited about it.

Gary: Awesome! Well, before we really dig in here, we would love to give our listeners a chance to get to know more about you both and about Smile Advantage. Ryan, I want to start with you; as partner and CMO at Smile Advantage, can you tell our audience a little about Smile Advantage and your position with the organization?

Ryan: Yes, absolutely. So, smile advantage is what we call a subscription dentistry platform. Or in the world of dentistry, we work with private practice or some DSO practices as well. Dental offices that want to offer an alternative to traditional insurance to their patients. Some offices refer to that as an in-house plan or a savings plan; that concept has really morphed over the last couple of years into more of a membership sort of model. So that’s what we do. We help practices put that in place, we help them market it, we have software that helps them automate their memberships, and we have a lot of coaching and training and support that goes behind helping a practice get up and running or continuing with membership and really be successful with dental membership program, which is really a fee for service sort of concept for dental offices. And my role with the organization is the managing partner; I’m head up with the majority of our marketing to help our offices with their marketing content. We come up with new helpful marketing content for them to use with their patients and their database in their communities. And then, I work with our team internally on a technical side to develop our software platform and, and overall, help enrich the tools and offerings and the support that we have for our practices and for our clients.

Gary: Thanks so much, Ryan, and an incredible journey so far. Shelly, you recently joined the Smile Advantage team as Partnership Success Manager. Can you tell us a little about your career journey and what Smile Advantage was doing as a company that drew you to the organization?

Shelly: Oh, I’d love to. I am so excited about being part of the Smile Advantage team. So I could talk about this all day. I love dentistry. I have been in dentistry for many, many years; I started out actually on the clinical side and moved into the front office. Really the bulk of my career has been in practice administration/office management. I absolutely loved it, learned a lot of things, met incredible people. Really continued my education with AADOM, the American Association of dental office management, you know. Really fine-tuning my experience and skills and coming up with solutions for the practices I managed. And one of those things was a membership many years ago; I just kind of took this on, developed it, tried to manage it, market it, do all of these things, and really understood the pain points of dental membership plans when trying to do this in an office. I just kind of created it, you know, to help my doctor who wanted to go out of network with dental insurance and be fee for service. And, you know, we had great success with it. But I understood its pain points and where things fall through the cracks. So the next practice that I was managing, I knew that I wanted to partner with a company, a third-party vendor, to really help me with that and optimize it. Through all of this, be it connecting with Smile Advantage and understanding what they were able to offer from a very customized perspective, is just it’s what drew me to Smile Advantage, on top of the fact that we have an incredible team of people that are extremely talented, passionate and are there to support me in the role that I have. So it was a great marriage. We’re doing incredible, innovative things for the dental membership industry.

Gary: Thank you, Shelly, and again welcome to you both. Let’s get into it! Ryan, I want to start from the beginning before Smile Advantage partnered with Rectangle Health. Can you talk to us about the needs of the organization, specifically, what you were all looking to address when it came to running the day-to-day, centralizing systems, data, and payments?

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. So, the journey here started a number of years back, actually, with my now business partners that started Smile Advantage before I kind of joined a partnership with them, and who are both dentists and kind of really started utilizing this concept of their practices and Smile Advantage sort of initially started helping other practices again, learn what membership is how to set up your fee structures, how to set fees for patients, and how to manage and grow a membership program. And really, the concept of Smile Advantage started with more of a coaching and consulting sort of activities or processes and just helping offices kind of coaching and consulting there.

Then, as my partner continued to grow the business forward and technology advanced and more technology was involved, they saw the need. And that’s kind of where I jumped in here: I saw the need to start utilizing, like you said, those systems and processes and automating things to help that be successful. And the number one thing was to automate the payments and really automate a payment plan or our recurring subscription. Again, suppose we’re trying to create this. In that case, we always default to the Costco subscription, or the Amazon subscription, or your gym membership, you know, setting up recurring payments for the end user, which in this case of the patient, or we call member patients, was a really key part of what the future smiley manager is going to be. And also, this sort of niche in this tool in the industry here.

So, my partner Jeff came across Rectangle Health and really said, “Hey, there’s some technology here to sort of help promote that.” That’s how we ended up navigating towards working with Rectangle Health and seeing those automated systems and being able to vault credit cards and store them securely; PCI-compliant store credit cards and set up recurring payments for our patients or our clients are their patients. That was really a key part of what we needed to do to centralize those systems and manage the data, the patient’s data. And then we built a dashboard, technology that kind of works with that we’ve got a simplified interface that the clients can use, and they can manage their patients, because they really, ultimately, we need to know a couple of things. One, they need the ability to charge our patient’s credit cards, you know, obviously with a great rate and support and secure platform. But they also need help knowing how it’s growing and keeping track of that.

So again, our platform also helps them see that at any given moment, they can see how many patients members they have on their platform or their program, what types of memberships they are; again, we help kind of coach them through that by some that were really decentralized need for a company like Rectangle Health to help us and partner with us on providing technology backend.

Gary: Ryan, I want to take another second and dive deeper if we can. Knowing you had these needs, When you started to look for a healthcare-specific technology company to work with, what were the must-haves as far as functionality and sort of part B, what elements of Rectangle Health’s solution stood out most to you?

Ryan: Yeah, you know, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of different credit card processing companies, if you will, and gateways, but really one thing that we have really liked with working with Rectangle Health and the team Rectangle Health from day one is really just being that industry niche specific partner. And knowing that Rectangle Health is in the dental space and other medical spaces. And we feel like there’s a lot of collaboration and helpful information working with a partner that is familiar with our industry. And we work with Rectangle Health reps that are in dental practices every single day. And they see the need for our platform and see the value in us partnering together. And so just really having big organization, aside from the technology perspective of their technology, technology portion of that, but having just the team and understanding to what we do, which also helps support growing our business.

And then again, just sort of the kind of cross-collaboration of teams in different spaces. And we know that Rectangle Health reps will reach out to us when they’re at a dental conference or sort of bring us together. So I think that just the commonality of being in the same industry, in the same niche, is really beneficial to us. And that was something that we have worked with a couple of other companies that tried to do some just white label credit card processing. And we just continue to bang our heads on the table because, you know, we tried to bend and customize how well we wanted to do to meet the dental industry. Some of the other partners said, “Now we’re not going to do that, or we’re not going to customize that, or that’s not an option with us, you know, it’s a one-size-fits-all sort of thing.” And that just really wasn’t going to work with us. Smile Advantage’s real advantage has been that we really help practices customize it. We always say this is your membership program powered by Smile Advantage with payments powered by Rectangle Health. And so we customize it in a lot of different ways. And while dentistry is similar in many ways, every single practice is different. That’s why every single practice has a different DNA and community and culture, and the way that they do their dental memberships needs to reflect that and so again, some of the other technology partners that we started to work with just were very stiff and rigid and really did not allow that flexibility for us. So that was an important part of looking for somebody to power the payments, store payment information, and automate those payments.

Yeah, that was a key thing for us to focus on, and that’s why we’ve continued moving forward with Rectangle Health.

Gary: So in comes Rectangle Health. Shelly, Ryan outlined the technical/feature list of wants…from the Smile Advantage side, but I want to know, when we think about front-office staff, and the end users, can you share how their day-to-day has changed because since these feature sets were made available?

Shelly: These sets, these feature sets are so critical, and the front office team, which is, you know, then the whole team, being able to offer a patient experience that exceeds expectations, it’s five-star customer service.

When you get in the weeds of managing things on your own, worrying about PCI compliance, HIPAA compliance, and the accounting side of things, it’s a lot to handle as a front-office team. And in today’s culture with a lot of turnovers, different things like this, having that taken off of our plates and having features provided by Rectangle Health, and by Smile Advantage that make their everyday easier. And it optimizes their every day is really crucial. And it gives them the ability to put their energy in places that the patients will appreciate, you know, so much more, and they’re really going to be able to give a great experience to their patients. And that’s because they know they have trusted partners that they can rely on to handle these day-to-day things that can be automated and are put up and set in systems for best practice by experienced companies like Rectangle Health and Smile Advantage.

Gary: That’s amazing, Shelly. And you had the chance to head over to AADOM 2022, which feels like yesterday, WOW! But in person, did anyone (or more) conversation(s) really stand out to you when you spoke to the office managers at the practices, using the technology every day?

Shelly: Oh, yeah, I mean, oh, gosh, I wish AADOM was only just yesterday. It does still feel like it. And I’m like, “Okay, is it September 2023 yet?” Because oh my gosh, you have got such an incredible group of professionals that attend this conference every year. And every year, they get more savvy, just, you know, more passionate about what they’re doing, and their jobs have gotten harder. And that’s the thing, you know, you’ve got these people that are really so passionate about performing at the highest level. And I think, you know, one of the biggest takeaways for me at the conference was remembering, it’s not that long ago that I was an office manager just like them and realizing how much we juggle on a daily basis, we have become savvier, there have become more options out there. And we’re bombarded by all the different third-party options for every possible solution; they’ve really adapted to this; it comes down to these professionals really valuing the time that they can spend with their teams and with their patients. And that means taking some of these tasks that can be automated and managed by those trusted partners is really critical to them, and they’re seeking these solutions.

I think that’s, you know, the biggest theme across the board is that, hey, we’re talking to very educated, very savvy professionals out there. They’re expecting very high-level technology and very high-level service from us as third-party vendors; it’s exciting to be able to bring it to them.

Gary: Shelly, I love what you said about letting the system do the work so that they can get back to focusing on the patients because they are bombarded like you said, they’re overwhelmed, overworked, and managing so many tasks every day. So, to have that system in place to sort of alleviate that and really hone in on the patient experience and produce good strong results, beyond the care to have those personal relationships developing is really, really important to a practice of success.

Thank you for sharing those stories. Ryan, I want to come back to you and ask, as you look within your organization, can you share in your eyes what the greatest positive impact has been for Smile Advantage in working with Rectangle Health? Could be more than one, but I won’t hold you to one!

Ryan: (laughs) It’d be hard to hold on to only one. Yeah, you know, for us, there’s things that we are great at, and things that we excel at, and things that we want to do, and then there are things that we don’t want to do and something that we have to provide for our clients that we don’t know anything about. And, you know, getting deep into the world of the technical side of managing and facilitating payments and credit card payments.

You know, there’s so much stuff in there, let alone the legal liabilities for stuff that we would have no clue or even know where to start, you know, so to speak. And so having that kind of on the shoulders or, you know, on Rectangle Health’s plate in our partnership, that’s been a huge positive thing that, again, that’s why we initially were kind of seeking out a partner like this to help assist and not education expertise in that area, which is a very critical and crucial part of our business. But to be able to have just like our dental offices, clients rely on us to be the industry partners and technical partners, and membership stuff, you know, to have a partner that we can rely on and lean on for, you know, managing the technical, scary stuff to us, like PCI compliance and vaulting credit cards and payment liability and all that stuff has been, you know, a huge, huge benefit to us in our care the Rectangle Health.

Gary: Thanks, Ryan. And that’s a perfect segue here for the last question to Shelly. We’ve spoken about the technical must-haves list that Smile Advantage had. And when you were looking for a solution, we talked about what the end users are saying about it. But new needs ultimately come up every day, you know, the market changes, needs change, patient experience requirements change or they’re looking for a different experience. When you have to contact Ryan Chambers, your practice Solutions Consultant, to communicate back, my office managers are looking for X, Y, and Z. How can we help? What’s that experience been like?

Shelly: I’m so glad I got this question. I mean, I get to talk about Ryan Chambers and how incredible he is. And I mean, how much there’s just this really awesome partnership and communication between the two of us. I mean, the ease of it, wow, you know, he makes himself so available to not only myself but our entire team. And even more importantly, to our clients. I can count on Ryan chambers; it is literally just a matter of reaching out. And halftime, I don’t even have to. He anticipates things, so he’s very experienced and what he’s doing, but to be able to do a handoff to him and know that I can 110% Trust the fact that he is going to follow through and serve our clients at the level that I serve our clients is a huge sigh of relief, it just it’s a really good feeling. And he comes at things with a very solutions-based thought process. He’s very innovative and can pivot and just collaborate, you know, with myself and my team and our clients just to get optimal results. Five stars, for sure.

Gary: Thank you so much, Shelly. I’m sure when Ryan hears this, he will also be thrilled. And you know that it’s important. You know, as I said, the healthcare landscape evolves, patient experience requirements evolve, it’s important to have that sort of relationship where you can constantly adapt and, you know, really meet their needs, because ultimately the solutions for them, it’s their success that we all want.

That’s how this partnership was built. And it’s that the foundation of the partnership is to help the end users to achieve success, have a great patient experience, and, you know, really grow. So thank you for that. And before we wrap up, I want to thank you both for taking the time to come on the podcast and share your experiences with us. It’s been an absolute pleasure for me to get to speak to you both today and learn more about Smile Advantage partnership, what you guys were looking for, and how that relationship has evolved. So thank you very much.

Shelly: Oh, man, thank you, Gary; we really again appreciate the opportunity to educate people on Smile Advantage and what we’re doing and how we can be an incredible solution but also to sing the praises of Rectangle Health and what you guys have done to help us in our success.

Ryan: I concur.

Gary: Thank you both again, and for our listeners interested in learning more about Rectangle Health healthcare technology, you can do so by visiting the link in the description below. I appreciate you all tuning in till next time, everybody.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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