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Dr. Lou Shuman is the CEO of Cellerant Consulting Group, dentistry’s leading corporate incubator and accelerator; a venturer-in-residence at Harvard’s i-Lab; the chairman of the technology advisory board at WEO Media; a long-time contributor to Dental Products Report; and the founder and creator of the Cellerant Best of Class Technology Awards.
Introducing OrthoFX, a company ready to realign the teeth straightening industry, one case at a time.
Are there limits to the convenience culture? In a world where Amazon Prime, GrubHub, and Casper can keep you well read, well fed, and cozy in bed-all without ever leaving the house-consumers have come to not only prefer just-in-time service, they expect it.
Dentistry is not exempt from this sea change in customer service and in the orthodontic market we’ve seen a number of direct-to-consumer companies spring up and try to get aligners into the hands (and mouths) of people skipping over the actual art, science, and safety of dentistry. Enter OrthoFX.
One of the things I appreciate about OrthoFX is its leadership and team represent deep orthodontic expertise. Co-founders Ren Menon and Nichole Garcia both worked with Invisalign-Menon for nearly 14 years-before transitioning to venture capital roles. They looked for ways to support innovative new companies and concepts, many related to the dental field. Having significant clear aligner industry experience, they recognized the need for a technologically savvy, patient-centric solution, where orthodontists and GPs were still the essential part of safe and effective outcomes.
“We started to see these DIY teeth straightening companies looking for funding and we realized that people with no dental background were trying to copy the Dollar Shave Club model in dentistry, without considering the impact on outcomes,” Garcia shares. “That really concerned us, and we felt like we had the right perspective and relationships to do something to help the dental community and consumers. We brought together a brilliant team and set out to see if we could create something that was differentiated from Invisalign or Clear Correct, but not one that cuts dentists out.”
Their hybrid business model uses a direct-to-consumer promotional concept, along with transparent patient pricing, and delivery from the hands of their curated network of GPs and orthodontists around the country.
“We drive patients to the dentist’s office through Facebook, Instagram, and 22 other digital channels,” Garcia says. “We are trying to create a frictionless environment, an Uber-like approach where we take care of services for both the patient and the doctor, including financing, merchant fees, and insurance verification. It is almost like a patient can just walk in for treatment and walk out. This resonates with GPs, who already have so much going on.”
OrthoFX’s model of building a doctor network allows them to also work with practitioners to present OrthoFX to their existing patient bases.
“We’ve built a doctor platform web system where they can convert their patients to OrthoFX. We can do co-op marketing with the office and on its website to drive interest and conversion. Anything we send to patients-calls, materials, etc.-is uploaded to the doctor portal so that they can see what comes from us versus them,” Garcia says. “The patient experience is seamless. If they’re interested, the doctor can take a scan, upload it to our system, and an OrthoFX team member will reach out and get the patient moved through finance and insurance. We have it set up so that the doctor-worried about minds changing as patients walk out the door-can take a payment before the patient leaves. It is very helpful, and the doctors are happy that we are stepping up to help support their patients.”
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OrthoFX assembled an inside Customer Success Team of six individuals who, in addition to sending surprise and delightful gifts to patients, act as indirect reminders to wear their aligners. They also follow up on leads, convert them, and then take care of all the insurance claims and verifications, helping patients through the funnel. They collect the fee directly from the patients and then pay the doctor to deliver the treatment. Practices no longer have to buy products and carry inventory that can lead to large costs at the end of the month.
Another pain point the OrthoFX team observed was the trend of alignment treatment plans designed by lab technicians, requiring multiple revisions by doctors. For this reason, all OrthoFX treatment plans are created by dentists, for dentists.
“We hired doctors who have been doing treatment planning for 10 to 15 years, so our plans are accurate from the start,” Garcia says. “They can, of course, revise if they want, but the need for revision is significantly less. Practice partners also have the opportunity to engage in one-on-one communication with our treatment planning team as needed.”
Another differentiator is the polymer material innovation OrthoFX has invested in, resulting in a nearly 80 percent reduction in refinements, shorter treatment times, and greater comfort for the patient. Their next generation polymer, FXTetra™, has a lower starting force yet higher retained force after five days compared to standard aligner material. This provides a firm but gentle force to teeth continually, which leads to predictable, effective results.
FXTetra is a combination of three layers-two outer layers that provide a tough barrier against bruxing or grinding from the opposing dental arch, and an elastomeric inner layer that provides comfort to the patient while still maintaining needed movement. The aligners are comfortable, stain resistant, and incredibly clear.
OrthoFX’s aligners are FDA approved for all indications and for moving all teeth; not just for anterior teeth and esthetic-only corrections. Their clear aligners can be used to treat mild to the most comprehensive cases. They have 510(k) clearance to print in the U.S. with the latest in 3D printing technology allowing for fast delivery.
What comes next?
In partnership with hundreds of providers, thousands of patients have gone through treatments. According to Garcia, the feedback OrthoFX has received so far is fantastic, with performance and quality exceeding expectations. So, where does the company go from here? They’ll be reinvesting in innovation and design and will soon launch an innovative retainer product, with the ability for patients to enroll in a retainer subscription.
“We want to continue building products and processes that benefit doctors and patients. That means not only continually improving our material science but investing in innovative concepts like sensors and remote monitoring, Garcia shares. “Ideas like remote monitoring are worth making a reality in a category like ortho because if there is one thing we’ve seen confirmed time and again, it is that patients want to come to the dental office as few times as possible. They would prefer to minimize their number of appointments, so we want to work on reducing the overall number as well as the efficiency of those appointments.
“Innovation also doesn’t have to be something that happens in a lab or on a computer screen,” Garcia continues. “We’re working with our partner practices in key cities to create more weekend and evening appointments for OrthoFX patients. It is a major need and we’re doing what we can on our end to make it happen.”
Though OrthoFX is a start-up, it is a team of seasoned clear aligner experts, many of whom helped build this sector. For more information, go to orthofx.com/fordoctors.html or call 415-936-0006.