Dr Daniel Heredia, HBF Executive General Manager Health, argues new branded dental clinics still offer people choice.

As HBF transitions from being a passive payer to an active participant in health services, such as dental, it raises some questions for HBF members and healthcare practitioners. 

Dr Daniel Heredia, HBF Executive General Manager Health

Why dental?

HBF’s overarching goal is to keep downward pressure on premium increases and one way to do this is to reduce our reliance on health insurance revenue alone and diversify, which includes growing outside of WA and expanding into health services that will provide value for members.

Unlike most of the other large health funds, HBF is not for profit and members’ interests (not shareholders) are at the heart of our decisions. When we considered our diversification options, we began with the question, ‘what would our members value?’

Dental is by far our most claimed non-hospital service line, so it was an obvious place to start. We then set out to redesign the dental experience for our members, giving them everything on their wish list – high quality no- or known-gap treatment, delivered in modern, clean centres which are conveniently located and offer family friendly extended opening hours (i.e. seven days a week and Thursday evenings). 

Dentistry standards 

We also considered, ‘how will we attract the best dental practitioners?’ We recognise that as a health insurer our expertise is not in running dental centres, so we partnered with the experienced Pacific Smiles Group (PSG) which has a proven track record of running more than 100 practices on the east coast. Our partnership with PSG gives HBF dentists access to a continual stream of education, training and upskilling opportunities.

Our business model is designed to allow ‘dentists to be dentists’, freeing them of the administrative burdens that come with running a dental centre. Our dentists can focus on providing the best clinical care, knowing they have the full support of HBF Dental in areas such as HR, marketing, finance, taxation and law.

We also fully support flexible working arrangements. Our seven-day trading with extended hours provides opportunity for both part- and full-time dentists, and we are equally comfortable for our dentists to also work at other dental practices. 

Will this lead to managed care?

Our dentists have full clinical autonomy. We are focused on providing the very best patient care, so in our centres the ‘dentist’s call’ is the only call regarding treatment.

Who can go to HBF Dental?

Our dental centres are available to anyone, not just HBF members, and our members will always have choice of where they go for dental care.

Our plan is to open 15 HBF dental centres in metropolitan and regional WA in the next three years. We will never have enough practices to service our whole membership (around 900,000 members in WA), so we will continue to encourage our members to visit a dentist that is part of the HBF Member Plus provider network – be that one of our centres, another dental chain or an independent practice. 

Which centres are in the pipeline?

We opened our first HBF Dental at Lakeside Joondalup shopping centre in February and our second at the Galleria shopping centre in Morley in April. Plans are underway for centres to open in Mandurah, Karrinyup and Cannington later this year. 

We intend to continue to open practices in major shopping centres in response to our members’ desire for ease of access. Lakeside Joondalup had 300 online bookings at the time of opening, and 500 within our first two weeks.

Will HBF move into other health services?

Yes, dental is the first, but we are looking at moving into other areas of health that will add value for our members and help positively impact their overall health.

When I think back to my medical training, I recall only one lecture on oral health. How times have changed. Nowadays, we are abundantly aware of the impact oral health has on general health.

Through HBF’s relationship with PSG, we have a wealth of educational material that we intend to share with our members to highlight this important health message. It is an exciting time at HBF, and we look forward to being an active contributor to the WA healthcare system.