With hospitals and other health care providers being forced to delay elective or routine medical procedures because of the pandemic, the health care industry has experienced a major blow in both jobs and revenue over the last couple of months, especially the dental industry.
Health care employment in the U.S. declined by 1.4 million, leading to the loss of 503,000 dental practice jobs in April, according to the U.S. Department of Labour’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 82% of dental practices in North Carolina were closed except for emergency patients and 12% were closed and not seeing any patients the week of April 20, according to a study from the Health Policy Institute and the American Dental Association. About 48% of N.C. respondents said they were only able to give staff partial pay and nearly 38% said they were not paying staff at all during the week of April 20.
Ryan Vet is hoping to aid impacted dental workers with his Durham-based startup Boon, a platform that connects licensed professionals to temporary work opportunities on-demand. Vet says the company has seen a major uptick in users since the beginning of the pandemic. Boon recently created a partnership program where licensed dental professionals can sign up to launch their own agency powered by Boon in a geographic area of their choice for free. We spoke to Vet about how the pandemic has effected the dental industry and how he expects the traditional landscape of dental practices to change post-coronavirus.
Can you describe what Boon does? What industries do you serve?
Boon is a platform designed to connect licensed professionals to temporary work opportunities on-demand. In dentistry specifically, a dental practice can utilize Boon to find a temporary team members in real-time. Boon focuses on a variety of industries including dentistry, veterinary, health care, construction and law.
Why did you start Boon? How much money were you able to raise since its start?
Finding the right person for the job has been critical in all my various ventures from the beverage industry to dentistry and everything in between. Matching the right team member to the right opportunity is critical not only for success but for the satisfaction of all parties involved. As a national dental speaker, author and consultant, I saw a growing concern and need for dental temps. Not to mention, my wife is a full-time practicing dentist that has also expressed the need for high-quality, well-matched dental temps. After seeing a high level of frustration in finding good, quality and verified temps from my clients in dentistry, I launched Boon. I personally funded Boon from its inception and in mid-2019, brought in $200,000 worth of private, angel investments. The funding of these early investors funded the entire development of the platform as well as provided funds for critical operations for the company to secure early revenues. As of early 2020 and due to COVID-19, I have continued to personally fund Boon to allow the company to remain operational, providing essential temporary team members to practices in need during this time.
How has the pandemic effected the dental industry?
COVID-19 has undoubtedly had a profound impact on everyone across the globe, the U.S. dental industry not excluded. In light of the outbreak, the American Dental Association issued guidance recommending that only emergency dental cases were tended to. As recommendations have eased, some dental practices have resumed semi-normal operations. Though there was a temporary pause on the industry, Boon has assisted in providing temporary team members to practices providing care in accordance with ADA recommendations.
Many industries are expected to transform in one way or another post-COVID-19. How do you think the traditional dental industry will change after pandemic restrictions are lifted? How does Boon play into that?
Many dental hygienists and dentists feel unsafe to work. Multiple articles over the past ninety days have indicated that the dental profession is one of the most dangerous professions in relation to the coronavirus due to the aerosols created by nearly all dental procedures. As a result, many dental professionals are choosing not to work for the sake of their health and of their families. For some roles in the dental office, in many areas, the unemployment benefit is higher than the compensation received for working, causing some to remain on unemployment. Many practices are facing the reality that some team members are not yet ready to return to work due to safety concerns or financial reasons. As a result, Boon is more important than ever, allowing individuals looking for work opportunities to fill the voids in many dental practices needing temporary assistance due to the high demand. A large majority of dental practices are seeing a higher than normal demand as they are trying to make up for lost hygiene and preventative appointments. At the same time, many individuals have been laid off from their jobs or have had benefits limited. In light of this, many are trying to take advantage of their bi-annual cleanings before their dental benefits expire or go away. Boon has been able to help some practices with the increased demand.
Have you seen increased interest in Boon since the pandemic began?
At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a massive spike in the sign-up of new providers looking for work. Licensed dental professionals were desperately looking for any sources of income. Since then, the rate of new users has somewhat leveled, but the demand for temporary team members has been greater than ever before as practices (the hiring entity) are looking for temporary team members (providers) to fill in the gap where their regular employees were unable or unwilling to work in light of the pandemic.
Can you explain Boon’s new partnership program for dental professionals?
Boon has an Agency Program in place that allows existing staffing agencies to leverage Boon’s technology to streamline and enhance their business operations. During this time, Boon has allowed any licensed dental professional to come along and join the Agency Program at a reduced cost — or in many cases, for free. The goal is to empower dental professionals to create pools of providers and practices that can work together to meet the demand of the patients. Some licensed dental professionals that are unable or feel unsafe to work are now able to leverage this new Agency Program to still earn an income while “practicing good” in their local community.