One year after Hurricane Sandy: How one dental office survived

Oct. 16, 2013
Dr. Michael Masella's dental office was able to stay open after the storm

It will be one year the end of this month since Hurricane Sandy crashed into the U.S. eastern seaboard, bringing with it extensive destruction and unimaginable loss.

One of the areas that received the most damage and publicity was the Jersey Shore. Further inland from that shore were thriving businesses that took a hard hit, and some are still recovering to this day.

The dental office of Dr. Michael Masella, Masella Family Dentistry in West Caldwell, N.J., rebounded fairly quickly, thanks to a great staff and a patient commuincation system called Solutionreach.

Dr. Masella recently took the time to answer a few questions for DentistryIQ.

DIQ: What was it like when Hurricane Sandy hit?
Dr. Masella: It was pretty chaotic right after the storm hit. The power and phones were out for almost everyone, and the storm's remnants were everywhere in the form of debris and damage.

The storm caused nearly $70 billion in damage, making it second only to Katrina in terms of the havoc it dealt to the buildings and infrastructure of one of the most heavily populated areas in the world, and we definitely saw the brunt of its destruction in New Jersey.

DIQ: What did the storm do to your dental practice?
Dr. Masella:
Our physical building survived the storm remarkably well, but communication with patients became very difficult in the storm's immediate aftermath. It took weeks for access to phones and power to be restored in some places, so my patients were really in the dark about whether my practice was still in operation and their appointments were still on our calendar.

DIQ: What role did technology play in keeping your practice up and running?
Dr. Masella: We use a platform called Solutionreach (formerly Smile Reminder) to manage all of our patient communication. After the storm, we wanted our patients to know that we were still running the business and keeping our appointments, so we coordinated with our Solutionreach rep on a communication plan that could be executed quickly and effectively.

We started sending emails and text messages to confirm existing appointments and let people know the general status of the office. Rescheduling a canceled appointment can be extremely costly for a small practice like mine, so the ability to leverage technology that lives in the cloud to communicate with patients on the only medium that was universally working — their cell phones — was central to keeping business afloat after the hurricane. We even served some patients who were referred to us because their regular dentists were unresponsive, which helped us stay financially viable in spite of the chaos and destruction.

DIQ: How is the recovery going?
Dr. Masella: The recovery is going well, and using Solutionreach daily is a large part of that as far as my dental practice is concerned. The newsletter feature is something that has been especially beneficial to Masella Family Dental. We actually sponsored a golf outing just the other day, and Solutionreach allows me to roll the photos from that event into a newsletter that will help me stay in touch with our patients.

DIQ: How was the dental office led to Solutionreach?
Dr. Masella: Dr. Lee Frost, one of the first dentists to use Solutionreach, introduced me to the platform.

DIQ: Why did you think it would be a good fit for your office?
Dr. Masella: Dentists need to be in constant contact with their patients. Solutionreach makes patient engagement simple and frees me up to care for my patients. It also takes the stress off of the front office to confirm appointments.

DIQ: Were you a technologically advanced office to begin with?
Dr. Masella: I purchased the practice on January 1, 2011, from my uncle. At the time, we had some fairly new computers and digital X-ray machines, but we didn't have a patent engagement solution in place. I knew on day one that I would need to continue to add technology and patient services that weren't offered previously if I wanted to build my practice.

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