2020 will go down in history as one of the most trying times for our country as result of the Covid-19 Crisis. With the spread of Covid-19 moving quickly from state to state, the country was forced to shut down in March. All non-essential business production and services were shut down or significantly reduced, unemployment rates soared, and business as usual came to a standstill. Most businesses closed temporarily, but many small businesses closed their doors permanently due to the financial strain. Despite these challenges, Elaine Mamola, CEO of Smiles by Delivery, in Surprise, Arizona, is ready to move forward using pivot strategies unique to her business. Smiles by Delivery specializes in delivering services to those over 65 years of age. Providing dentistry directly in the patient’s home or care facility. NABEDC had the privilege of learning the Smiles by Delivery Story in 2019 when Elaine and her company became part of the NABEDC Community.
Elaine began her dental career in the 1990s, working with Maricopa County’s dental sealant program, a portable dental program that provided a preventive care solution to the low income schools in AZ for the many students who were not able to go to the dentist. Years later, when working in the highly popular retirement area of Sun City, AZ, “I started to notice”, says Elaine, “that we weren’t seeing our patients who transitioned to nursing homes. I also was hearing from our patients who had parents in nursing homes, that there was no dental care for the residents of nursing homes. I knew this was probably a much bigger problem than I had thought and I knew that from my earlier career experience of delivering dental care to schools, I could look for a solution to bring dental care to nursing homes.” This experience is what motivated Elaine to start her own business. Now, with 20 Employees and a fleet of vehicles, Elaine and her team serve geriatric patients across the Phoenix Metro area. “We are in over 200 nursing homes and care homes in AZ and a fair portion of our patient base is Hispanic.” Elaine, who is of Pilipino decent, says, “We have several Spanish speaking team members to help communicate and educate the importance of dental care.”
According to Elaine, “there are lots of layers” to serving the 65 and older population. “Geriatric dentistry requires a great deal of coordination and logistics. Everyone who cares for patient needs to be on the same page.” Challenges include communicating effectively with the patient’s entire care team. Most of the Smile by Delivery patients have power of attorneys in place. This means coordination must occur between the patient, their power of attorney, consultation with medical doctors, and if the patient lives in a nursing home, the Director of nursing and staff are also involved. All of this before Smiles by Delivery even gets the patient in the chair.
On an average day, Smiles by Delivery is equipped to provide its patients with a comprehensive dental office experience, with “state-of-the-art-portable dental equipment”, complete with fully reclining dental chairs, digital x-rays and self-contained water systems. But for the last several weeks, the workday has been anything but average. Fortunately, Smiles by Delivery has offered patients Telehealth since 2012. Telehealth is a triage tele dentistry service that uses digital platforms to help patients in need. Patients can share their photos and get a diagnosis of sorts by doctors. While no hygiene care is provided during the pandemic, emergencies are still being treated.
When asked what major success she’d like to highlight, Elaine answered, “I think the ‘major’ success is that we have had a constant stream of smaller successes. The compilation of our successes, such as steady patient base growth, great work culture, refining our processes and protocols and growth to new cities has been quite a blessing for us.”
Elaine Mamola is incredibly proud of the work being done by Smiles by Delivery. She went to school locally, gained valuable professional experience, saw a desperate need for geriatric dental care, and filled that need. Elaine Developed her own business plan and offers this advice to anyone wanting to start their own business, “…Surround yourself with resources and people smarter than you! And always work on collaboration projects…”
Smiles by Delivery is currently the only contracted mobile practice for Veterans Affairs, providing house-call dental care for home-bound Veterans. “I love providing care to an under served population and to people that are challenged to get to a dental office”, says Elaine. In April, Elaine was delighted to learn that Smiles by Delivery was awarded a Success Grant from the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and its partners NABEDC and AscendPhoenix, which will help keep the tele dentistry staff available for emergency care. Always working on behalf of her staff and patients, Elaine Mamola works hard to ensure Smiles by Delivery is always ready to serve.