Chairman, TAG - The Aspen Dental Group/Founder & CEO, Aspen Dental
Building teams that are passionate about delivering great care and great service - to both patients and doctors - is critically important to Bob Fontana, chairman and CEO of The Aspen Group (TAG), a business he founded more than 23 years ago and which he rebranded last year.
“The company has recently evolved,” explains Fontana. “It went from primarily a dental support company, supporting a brand called Aspen Dental, to now supporting multiple brands. We reorganised into The Aspen Group to help us provide support services to all the brands that we support.”
Fontana’s experience from over the past two decades has significantly shaped his current role as founder, chairman, and CEO.
“It's been a learning journey, there's no doubt about it,” said Fontana. “I mean, we've been doing this for a long time, but what hasn't changed really is our focus on a real patient-centric and doctor-centric model. Aspen has the underpinnings of all the brands that we support. You realise during this journey that having people connected to what we're doing is critically important. We're really excited about the other brands that we recently acquired and are continuing to develop, WellNow urgent care centres, ClearChoice dental implants, and more recently, Chapter medical aesthetics.”
Many will know TAG from its popular Healthy Mouth Movement, which has provided more than US$24mn in services, to people in need since 2014 through:
- TAG’s annual day of service for veterans
- The Healthy Mouth Mobile
- The overseas outreach programme
“Teams love doing that work, to be honest with you. They really do! It's just sort of a part of who we are,” says Fontana. “We've had I don't know how many trips overseas to bring free dental care to some really tough areas overseas and very underserved. So our doctors, providers and teams love to be able to do that. We expect to be able to do more of that as we continue to grow in each of the healthcare verticals we support. We just think it's an important part of our culture. So we absolutely will continue to do that as we grow across the country.”
Supporting patients and listening to doctors
Back when Fontana founded Aspen Dental, he had a clear vision for what he wanted the company to achieve.
“My vision has really remained the same,” confirms Fontana. “That's to take friction out of the system. Aspen Dental was created with the mindset that the patient experience could be better and delivering a great patient experience, sort of consumerism in healthcare was sort of the early idea. I think we really have led that, the consumerisation of healthcare and that has really sort of been an important part of who we are, a part of our DNA. Building a model around that, continuing to listen to what our patients’ needs are, what their expectations are.
“On the professional side, the doctor side, we must listen to their needs and expectations too, because they really are the engine behind what the brands do day in and day out. Providing and developing a great doctor model is really critical so they can focus their time, not on running the business, but on really providing great patient care and a great patient experience.”
Healthcare companies have undergone transformational change through the pandemic, including at TAG.
“Everybody's reimagining what they need to do, because the pandemic has shaken up a lot of companies. I think healthcare is no exception.”
According to Fontana, the good news is that TAG understands its patients’ needs.
“We meet the patients where they want us to meet them, in terms of the experiences that they have. We understand that access is really critical, affordability is critical to them, making sure that they continue to have less friction in their experiences. That continues to be the cornerstone of what we do and the brands that we support.”
Fontana thinks healthcare is starting to learn that, too.
“There's more emerging models now, that you're seeing which say, listen, we understand technology can play a big role in providing convenience and access to patients in whatever modality they're in.”
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Concentrating on continuing to reduce future morbidity and mortality, and really giving people healthy life years, remains our key strategic focus.