Delta Dental of Colorado recently hired Dr. Cheryl Lerner to fill the newly created position of vice president of professional services. Drawing on her 30-year experience in clinical dentistry and dental insurance administration, Dr. Lerner will lead the company’s provider network initiatives and support efforts to educate members about the importance of oral health. Following a 13-year career practicing general dentistry, Dr. Lerner went on to serve as vice president of professional network relations for UnitedHealthcare Dental, directing service initiatives related to the company’s national provider network. She also served as dental director for Delta Dental of Pennsylvania for seven years. Most recently, she helped lead a leased dentist network, Maverest Dental Network. We recently sat down with Dr. Lerner to talk to her about her new position.
Q: What is your role at Delta Dental?
A: As the VP of professional services, I have two major roles: DDCO’s clinical expert in oral health and the primary liaison with the Colorado providers. The clinical quality and network development strategy fall into my bucket.
Q: What were you doing before you joined Delta Dental of Colorado?
A: I’ve had multiple roles in my professional life, beginning as a general dental practice owner, an instructor in dental school, and moving to corporate roles in claims review, quality assurance, and network management.
Q: You started as a practicing dentist. Did you always want to be a dentist?
A: When I was 16, I realized that my interests were in science and math, as well as art and people. For some reason, that made me come up with dentistry as my professional goal!
Q: Is your current role similar to your previous role at Delta Dental of Pennsylvania?
A: It is. In my former role, we were focused on the local and regional aspects of our contracted dentists and how we could recognize and celebrate the nuances of that to increase the value of Delta Dental to our participating providers.
Q: What prompted you to return to the Delta Dental family?
A: My colleague at another Delta Dental let me know about this newly created position in Colorado, and he felt that DDCO and I would be a perfect fit. He was right!
Q: What are your priorities in this new position? What do you hope to accomplish?
A: Overall, I want to enhance the provider experience. Some of the focused activities will include collecting feedback from the providers via the Dental Advisory Council and Voice of the Customer surveys, increasing connections with our network dentists and local organized dental societies, and finding innovative ways to bring value to our participating dentists and clients. It’s also high on my priority list to advance oral health for Coloradans by getting patients into our providers’ chairs for necessary preventive care.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing dentists today?
A: Hands down, it’s the pace of changing technology balanced with the need to act like a competitive and efficient business. Patients are so much more aware because of the information available on the internet, and they are demanding value. We all have to become more customer-focused, while improving operations and delivering more quality service. It’s a tough balancing act for all of us!
Q: What is Delta Dental doing on that front?
A: DDCO has brought a very effective tool that, right now, is just for increasing preventive care to our members. Each participating dentist has the ability to use Dentalytics to identify their patients who have not had all of the appropriate preventive care based on the ADA quality measures. Dentalytics will create a customized outreach list for the practice. Nationally, studies and Delta Dental’s own data show people are going to the dentist less and less. How troubling is this from a public health perspective? And how can we reverse this trend? Maintaining optimal oral health is so necessary for overall health and personal self-esteem. There is a good deal of evidence that inflammation in one area of the body affects us systemically. Seeing the dentist twice a year allows for regular review of the patient’s overall health and the possibility identifying issues beyond the oral cavity that can be treated by a colleague in another medical specialty.
Q: What is one thing you’re excited about for 2016?
A: I’m most looking forward to brainstorming innovative ideas to enhance provider engagement with DDCO and also to develop some new takes on benefit plans.