Sarrell Dental on Wednesday won second place in a prize given to the most innovative health care models in the world. The award was given by Ashoka Changemakers, a Virginia-based nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurship in more than 70 countries. Sarrell Dental is an Anniston-based nonprofit and the main provider in Alabama of dental care for low-income children on Medicaid, with 15 clinics across the state.
According to a press release from Ashoka, Sarrell competed against 264 applicants from 61 countries before winning its prize. In the final stage of the contest, residents were encouraged to vote to decide who should win the top prize.
"We're extraordinarily honored that among 61 countries involved, we were selected," said Jeff Parker, CEO of Sarrell Dental. "We were not just recognized statewide or nationally, we were recognized internationally."
Parker said Sarrell will use the money to continue technology upgrades through the organization. He said the group should receive the money in the next few weeks.
Sarrell has already spent more than $1 million in recent months to upgrade its technology to increase efficiency and expand its reach in the community. The upgrades include the addition of telecommunication equipment to provide health care from a distance, a growing practice called telemedicine. Sarrell will also soon have a digital teeth scanner that can create three-dimensional teeth impressions dentists can use for various procedures, such as creating crowns and bridges for patients. Dentists have traditionally used a hardening gel to create molds of patients' teeth.
Even without technology upgrades and expansion, Sarrell's business is booming, with gains in revenue and patients, Parker said. Last year, the organization received about $15.9 million in revenue, an increase of 17.1 percent from 2011. Also, the center had 124,717 dental patient visits last year, an 18.6 percent increase from 2011. The center also provided $690,000 in free, unreimbursed work and reduced the average cost per patient visit by 4 percent in 2012, saving taxpayer money.
"It was another record year for us," Parker said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.