The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Edward Fitzpatrick at email@example.com.
This week’s Ocean State Innovators conversation is with Blaine R. Carroll, president of Chewsi, a Providence-based subsidiary of Delta Dental that has created an app offering savings on dental work.
Question: What is Chewsi, when was it formed, and what led to its creation?
Chewsi is a whole new way to significantly reduce the costs of your dental care. A first-of-its-kind mobile app, Chewsi connects its members to a wide network of dentists and helps them save on any and all dental services they may need or want – all without having to worry about monthly or annual fees, exclusions, or other limitations.
Our goal when we launched Chewsi in late 2017 was simple: People need access to convenient, affordable dental care, and we wanted to create a new, disruptive platform that would provide that care for everyone.
We created Chewsi in an effort to empower people to improve their oral health in an affordable way. Due to the limitations and cost of traditional dental insurance, it’s extremely difficult for many to find alternative ways to save at the dentist. Left without options, people are far too often forced to choose between paying full price for care they may not be able to afford, or worse, putting off oral health services they truly need.
Q: Is Chewsi for people with or without dental insurance?
Chewsi can be a valuable resource for everyone. For people who aren’t covered by any traditional dental insurance, using Chewsi simply makes sense. Just by downloading the app, you’re gaining access to lower cost dental care you wouldn’t be able to get on your own, and you’re not paying any monthly or annual costs. You’re literally saving, on average, 24 percent on dental care in exchange for a few taps on your smartphone.
But Chewsi also makes sense for folks who do have traditional insurance. For example, most dental insurance plans would likely cover a routine cleaning, but they may not cover services like implants or braces, or cosmetic services like teeth whitening. Chewsi’s discounted rates apply to virtually everything under the oral health service umbrella. Plenty of our members use their insurance to cover routine visits and lean on Chewsi to help them save on everything else.
Q: How many dentists are in the Chewsi network, and in what states?
Our Chewsi network currently consists of more than 4,700 dental locations in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Hawaii, and Iowa, and we remain focused on our efforts to expand Chewsi’s services to other states across the country.
Q: How does the Chewsi app work?
We designed the Chewsi app to be as simple and as user-friendly as possible. From the user’s perspective, using the Chewsi app to save at the dentist is a three-step process:
1. Download the Chewsi app from the App Store or on Google Play, and register as a Chewsi member.
2. Find a Chewsi dentist near you and make an appointment.
3. Bring your smartphone to the appointment and use the secure app to pay for the services you receive. The savings will be automatically applied to your total bill.
Q: How does Chewsi differ from traditional dental plans and how you quantify that difference?
What makes the Chewsi model unique is the fact that it’s free to use. Unlike traditional dental insurance, there are no premiums, exclusions, or limitations with Chewsi. And unlike discounted dental plans, there are no monthly or annual subscription charges. Chewsi members, very simply, only pay for the care they need, when they need it.
We’re proud to announce that we recently reached a major milestone that helps us quantify the difference Chewsi is making for our members across the country: Since our launch, Chewsi has now helped members save more than $1 million collectively on a wide range of oral health services.
Q: How many people lack dental insurance?
The exact statistics vary on a year-by-year basis and depending on the source, but most industry leaders estimate roughly 25 percent to 30 percent of Americans do not have traditional dental benefits. A particularly underserved demographic is adults over 65, nearly half of whom do not have insurance.
Q: How many people does Chewsi employ, and do you have plans to expand?
Chewsi currently employs a staff of roughly 30 employees. Our workforce is primarily focused on recruiters and member service representatives. Our goal is to continue to scale our business, recruit more dental locations to the Chewsi network, and introduce Chewsi savings in more markets across the United States. As a Providence-based startup, we’re proud of the progress we’ve been able to achieve in the early stages of our company, and we look forward to the next steps.