Jeff Lang is in his twentieth year as a practicing dentist. Asked how he feels entering his third decade of private practice, Lang answers instantly.
“It’s a gas,” he says, showing excellent teeth.
Quips related to sedation dentistry aside, one might expect witty repartee from someone whose website bio includes the following descriptor: “Passionate about his job, and his patients say they’re extremely comfortable placing their mouths in his hands.”
There’s no doubt Lang is passionate about his profession and the business of dentistry, of which he is an adept practitioner. The personal satisfaction he feels for his job and the success of the family enterprise spring from a common source.
“It’s about the patient,” says Lang. “RLJ Dental is always patient-focused, first and foremost. Has to be that way. And it always has been.”
Lang is the J in RLJ. Along with his father Robert and sister Lisa, Lang founded RLJ Dental, the independent dental practice that has grown from its original Appleton location to include locations stretching from Green Bay to Janesville, from Manitowoc to Waupaca.
Prior to the formation of RLJ Dental, Lang, already established in Appleton, was hired by his father to join him and his sister at the family practice. Lang threw himself into the business side of things and soon realized that it made sense for the three to form a company. Their initial success with a single location would lead to bigger things, as RLJ set its sights on bringing other dentists and practices to the fold.
At the time there were a plethora of practices available and willing to join the fledgling enterprise, but the family felt a deep desire that anyone coming aboard would need to share the same values that made the initial RLJ location a success.
“We place a high value on our patients and the whole process of the service we provide them,” says Lang. “We do what’s best for patients, and the rest takes care of itself.”
A decade later, RLJ finds itself with 14 offices and thoughts of expansion into new markets. The company, says Lang, could have been much, much bigger at this point, but RLJ is very particular about the practices it purchases.
“We focus on the relationship with each practice and what that relationship is all about,” says Lang. “We have to have that shared commitment, that sense of serving patients and providing them with the best possible experience.”
The RLJ vetting process ensures the onboarded practices have a clear path to success.
“We support our practices and let our clinicians be clinicians and make the decisions about the care of their patients,” says Lang. “We don’t micromanage, which you see a lot of in healthcare in general.”
Along with the laser focus on patient experience, Lang highlights RLJ’s ability to maintain high quality metrics throughout their growth. Agreement on the importance of these two topics was the catalyst for the dental group to join NOVO Health, the Appleton-based company that connects self-funded employers with independent providers to deliver medical services.
“We’ve been preaching the same things for some time, only we were doing it separately,” says Lang. “Now we’re doing it together.”
That means a focus on the patient (access, education, and a retail experience) as well as a warranty of service, something both NOVO and RLJ offer.
And while patient experience and quality are front and center in discussions of healthcare, no single conversation is more prominent than cost.
Lang looks at the issue of medical cost from the perspectives of the patient as well as the employer, noting that both need to become healthcare consumers as opposed to simply being users of healthcare. That means actively looking for providers that can give you what you want in terms of experience, quality, and value.
Zeroing in on his specialty to close, Lang points to a lengthy list of stats emphasizing the importance of dental care to a person’s overall well being.
“Bottom line is we know dental is so much a part of your overall health,” says Lang. “The numbers clearly show what happens when you don’t take care of your teeth.”
The dentist has spoken; the businessman has one final word.
“We are really excited about the future of RLJ and what we can do for our patients,” says Lang. “That means high quality, low cost.”
That excitement carries over to RLJ’s relationship with NOVO Health, which brings together independent private practices that provide options for employers looking to control medical spending.
“We want to move ahead and challenge the establishment. Our involvement with NOVO speaks to that,” said Lang.