The Columbus startup is growing and expanding its reach beyond just teeth
For people who have simple access to their dental care providers, appointments and logistics can be easy to take for granted. But for patients who have to travel from rural areas or to specialty doctors, the process of receiving important care can be much more difficult, especially when children are involved. And anyone who has experienced tooth or mouth pain can tell you that those particular procedures often cannot wait. So to close those gaps and improve patient care, a team of co-founders launched SmileMD in Columbus, which began specializing in the delivery and logistics of anesthesia and similar specialty medicine.
“The challenge we saw was that there were all these pediatric patients that needed to come into the hospital to get access to safe and quality anesthesia,” said CEO Saket Agrawal. “They were facing six- or nine-month wait times for procedures that needed to be done quickly. Our idea was that if we could bring safe, quality anesthesia to the dental office, we could eliminate that backlog and treat these patients in a timely manner. Our goal is to drive better outcomes for our patients and reduce health care costs by delivering better access to care in a timely fashion.”
While SmileMD’s services are helpful for people of all ages, they’ve made their biggest impact among young patients. Unlike adults, who can drive themselves somewhere they need to be, make their own decisions and schedule their own time, treating children often complicates matters, especially in rural areas. By bringing care to their youngest patients, SmileMD has its best demonstration of the difference they can make.
“Dental pain is one of the most common reasons kids miss school,” Agrawal said. “Having to wait months for a procedure is just not conducive to quality health care. If we can eliminate those wait times, we can get them their treatment faster. Oral health affects nutrition, the ability to sleep and behavioral health of a child. By treating it sooner, we can help that child get back to a better place. So by bringing the procedure to them in their local communities, we eliminate those barriers. About 3 percent of children in America need this type of care, so when you scale that across the country, millions of children need this service.”
While the team places their emphasis on dental care at the moment, they aren’t stopping there. SmileMD has launched an umbrella platform called OFFOR Health that will serve as a way to bring their methods to other services in the health industry.
“When we launched SmileMD and started developing the business around delivering care in dental offices, we saw that there was a big impact on patients,” said Agrawal. “We were able to save over 300,000 miles driven for our patients and over 30,000 months of waitlist time. As we built this infrastructure for specialists, we thought about how nurses and paramedics could use our infrastructure of delivering care, and OFFOR Health is an extension of that. While SmileMD is very focused on the oral health space, OFFOR Health is now a method to deliver this in the medical space, too.”
Amid the medical innovations and infrastructure in Ohio, SmileMD and their plans for OFFOR Health are growing rapidly. As they continue to expand SmileMD’s adoption, the platform will serve as a proof of concept for OFFOR Health, which has already drawn major investment and has the potential to expand across the country. And for those lofty goals to come to fruition, the team says they’re in the ideal location to make a lasting impact.
“Our co-founders all grew up here in Ohio and a majority of us went to Ohio State,” said Agrawal. “Columbus has been very welcoming to us as we’ve identified the need for this type of care. Beyond that, Ohio is very innovative in enabling new methods of care delivery. The state has been great to work with, and sees our vision and what we’re trying to do in delivering value to patients. With its expertise, infrastructure and support, Ohio has created an environment that allows us to figure out how to deliver this type of service and do it on a large scale, which is what has enabled us to grow. Without the support of Ohio, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”