As dentistry approaches nearly a year of operating under pandemic conditions, Stanley Bergman, chairman of the board and CEO of Henry Schein, discussed the lessons that his company has learned during the crisis and how the profession needs to ensure dental care in the future during a virtual address at the 2021 Chicago Midwinter Meeting.
“The pandemic has profoundly, of course, affected the world, each of our individual lives, and, yes, the dental community on a global basis,” Bergman said. “We would like to thank our customers, our suppliers, and the media in general for continuing to rely on us and for working so closely with us during this year.”
Bergman noted three vital takeaways from the past year. First, people are seeking moral leadership from business leaders. Second, the pandemic presents a key opportunity to hasten the integration of oral health and systemic wellness. Finally, Bergman cited the need for the company to integrate its various efforts under the OneSchein banner.
Business as a Moral Leader
“The role of business has very much changed,” Bergman said
While the Edelman public relations firm has found a significant decline in overall trust around the world in its annual poll, Bergman said, people now trust business more than government. Also, Bergman said, business outscores government on competency and is approaching the level of ethics reached by nongovernment organizations.
Yet “the pandemic has magnified the expectations of business, that business needs to be good corporate citizens,” he said. Calling it “stakeholder capitalism,” businesses must have “a purpose beyond making money,” he said, including commitment to environmental, social, and governance issues, as well as to their own employees.
“Our biggest asset for all of us is our people, and we need to balance the new dynamics that have emerged with personal commitments that each of us as leaders have to make to our teams. Sadly, mental health has emerged as one of the most important challenges faced as we are going through this pandemic,” he said.
Bergman additionally cautioned his audience that the vaccine “will solve many of the medical issues and will reduce the spread” of COVID-19, but it “will not immediately do away with the need to wear masks and other social distance requirements that will emerge in a modified way,” adding that the mental challenges “will remain for years.”
There will be a significant continued need for public-private partnerships as well, Bergman said. The PPE infrastructure remains fragile, he said, and the supply chain has been tested. Bergman noted Henry Schein’s involvement with FEMA in the United States and with the supply chain network at the World Economic Forum as examples of such partnerships at work.
Systemic Health and Technology
Bergman then turned his attention toward the connections between oral and systemic health, saying that the pandemic presented a “key opportunity to hasten” their integration. For example, dental practices could incorporate rapid point-of-care COVID-19 diagnostic testing, as dentists are “highly qualified” to administer these tests.
Similarly, he said, dentists “are highly qualified to administer vaccines.” More importantly, he added, the public trusts dentists. By adding dentists to the vaccination workforce, acceptance rates will significantly increase, he said. Testing and vaccines, then, will “reduce the cost of care, improve patient outcomes,” and help us become a healthier society.
Technology has seen significant changes during the pandemic, as Bergman said that “Necessity is the mother of invention” and that “Serendipity has resulted in new products and services.” This evolution will drive strategic change in the future in telemedicine, PPE, infection control, air management, and more, he said.
However, these changes should not overlook the human experience, Bergman said. Henry Schein, he said, will strive to continue to provide the “caring, empathetic” service that has been the company’s hallmark, adding that it needs “to deliver high touch through high tech now” via digital tools.
“The need for technology is thirst amongst our customers. And we must continue to embrace the tools that will make our customers’ journey as seamless as possible. These expectations for customer experiences will certainly continue after the crisis as ended. To stay ahead of our customer experience curve, we need to anticipate as an organization a quickly changing environment,” he said.
In its effort to grow closer to its customers, Bergman said, the company will focus on its OneSchein unified approach, which will enable practitioners to work synergistically with Henry Schein’s supply chain, equipment sales, and other value-added services.
“It’s an approach where we can offer a seamless way to access our national brands, Henry Schein, private label, and proprietary specialty products and solutions, surgical, endodontic, and orthodontic products,” he said. “In addition, customers have access to services including our software and value-added services in most parts of the world.”
According to Bergman, the OneSchein initiative will enable its customers to benefit from the company’s “ability to enrich patient treatment options and outcomes and simplify business operations in addition to the opportunity to drive practice success.”
Bergman said that the company’s Henry Schein One subsidiary, which offers practice management software, patient demand generation software, patient engagement software, and more, will assist in revenue cycle management and will be useful as practitioners manage their way through the pandemic.
“Of course, there’s a plethora of value-added services including financial services that are available to our customers. Business solutions are a key part of what we will make available to our customers, we do increasingly make available to more effectively help you drive efficiency in your practice so you can focus on providing better clinical care,” he said.