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An Interview with: Parkell, Inc.
Karen Mitchell, MS, Chief Executive Officer
INSIDE DENTISTRY (ID): What do you see as the most significant changes in the oral healthcare arena over the past 5 to 10 years?
KAREN MITCHELL (KM): The most obvious changes have been the rapid rise of cosmetic dentistry and the continued push for simpler, cheaper, and faster ways of doing procedures, particularly with regard to product packaging (such as cartridge-based materials and single-use packaging), infection control, and digital electronics. Also, the general public has proven to be more dental savvy. They are more aware of types of procedures and interestingly, can name branded products. Patients have been known to suggest brand name products to the dental professional and ask that these products be used during their treatment.
Globally, the marketplace continues to become more unified. The Internet has been a causative factor in the cohesiveness for product introductions, education, and purchasing all over the world. There are many vehicles via the Internet to assist a company in launching products internationally, while allowing dental professionals to research and purchase products at their convenience. Some examples of this, of course, are a company’s Web site, Webinars, podcasts, and even social networks such as Google Groups, Facebook, and Twitter. These tools are not only cost-effective for both the dental professional and the manufacturer, but the information is readily available at any time. It’s fast and efficient.
ID: How, internally and in the broader marketplace, has your company responded to these changes?
KM: Parkell has always made an immense effort internally to design new products that simplify the way doctors practice, by making materials that eliminate procedure steps without compromising performance (such as Brush&Bond® and HyperFil™), and making equipment that is smaller, more effective, and require less maintenance (such as the Aurora™ LED Curing Light and the Integra™ Ultrasonic Scaling System). We try to keep things simple, that’s why our products are straight-forward in presentation, operation, and adaptability. We’ve never believed in building in features that don’t offer a distinct advantage to the dental professional or the patient, just to demand a greater price point.
We’ve also had customers tell us that they know Parkell to be an honest company that is very easy to do business with. We constantly implement systems that allow our customers to continue to trust and feel confident in doing business with us.
ID: What do you see as your biggest responsibility to the marketplace, and why does your choice rank as your top priority?
KM: Our biggest priority is to maintain the quality of our products so that dental professionals may be confident that they will perform as advertised (or better). We think there is nothing much worse than an unhappy patient caused by a product failure even though the doctor followed all of the instructions. We stand behind this high quality with risk-free trials, and a well-trained staff of customer service reps (and two practicing staff dentists) available to answer any product questions—even while the patient is in the chair. Product reliability and patient safety has always been our focus and will remain that way.
ID: What product categories do you feel are most in need of innovation based on what’s currently available?
KM: Restoratives. Between functional and cosmetic restorations, this is still a large portion of the typical dentist’s repertoire, and there is still great room for improvement—in durability, success rate, postoperative function, ease of use, and cosmetics. Of course, diagnostics for oral cancer and other pathologies are very important to all of us (even though Parkell does not currently have such diagnostic products), and we hope innovation continues rapidly in this field.
ID: What do you think is the best approach to research, development, and ultimate delivery of needed advancements?
KM: Because we sell direct, we have a closer relationship to our customers than many other manufacturers. So, we find the best approach is to find out what problems the dentist has, through research studies, focus groups, surveys, and our panel of evaluators, and then focus on solving those problems throughout the design process. Along the way, we remove any clinical step that can be eliminated or combine steps where possible, as long as there is no sacrifice to the ultimate effectiveness of the product. Of course, in the end, it always comes down to: Does the clinician like the product enough to buy it?
ID: How is your company helping to resolve the challenges facing dentistry and oral healthcare today?
KM: Parkell remains active in trade groups, trade shows, and dental research conferences, and a Parkell employee was recently the industry representative to the FDA Dental Products Advisory Panel for 5 years. But primarily, Parkell maintains two practicing dentists on staff who constantly monitor the industry and the profession, through journals, online interactions, and especially direct doctor-to-doctor phone calls, to identify those challenges and bring them to the attention of the rest of our product development team.
Right now, the economy presents a big challenge to dentistry as a profession and to patient access to quality care. Our philosophy has always been to provide a direct sales channel with low overhead to keep our prices affordable and our value as high as possible.