How Integrated Dental Care Can Help Your Practice And Patients?

Integration is not new. Think back to just 10 years ago when we already had a device for every form of technology that we use on a daily basis – mobile phones, desktop computers, GPS, digital cameras, and MP3 players. Now that we have smartphones, all of these features are available to us in one place: right in the palms of our hands. Can integrated dental care improve your practice?

At the same time, healthcare is evolving in a very similar way by integrating claims data and medical histories from disability, behavioral health, vision, dental, and/or pharmacy to provide a clear picture of the “whole health” of a patient. That results in lower costs, better care, and improved patient satisfaction overall.

There are a couple of ways that the evolution of our healthcare system can help both your professional practice and your patients.

How to Improve Patient Care?

The healthcare system, until recently, has all often been totally separated into various specialties, such as vision, dental, and medical, which limits it from achieving its full potential. That is due to the fact that the human body in contrast to our current healthcare system, functions as an integrated system. Therefore, it makes sense that health care that is designed for treating each system also should be integrated.

An increasing number of providers are discovering that integrated care improves the process of exchanging the health history of a patient between providers and improves the ability to see the whole health of the patient, which naturally results in better care.

Given that the mouth is the gateway for the rest of the human body, it is important to acknowledge that dental work needs to work in conjunction with the other care fields. Integrated care gives you more information about your patients and allows you to design treatment and adjust it as needed.

If you are aware that a patient of yours has asthma, you know an inhaler can dry oral tissue out and that decay is something that your patient is potentially more susceptible to. With that information available, you will be able to recommend to your patient an artificial saliva solution to prevent decay and decrease tissue irritation.

Periodontal disease is one of the major risks to a patient’s overall and oral health. If periodontal disease is left untreated may result in oral complications like tooth loss. The bacteria also can penetrate under the gumline as well as spread throughout the bloodstream, which leads to inflammation throughout the entire body. It has been shown by research that this can result in other severe health conditions, including increased risk of stroke and coronary artery disease.

Similarly, In pregnant women, an inflammatory response may be promoted by hormone level changes that increase the risk of a prenatal disease being developed. This may spread bacteria from the patient’s mouth, resulting in an increased risk for low birth weight and a preterm birth.

For patients who have diabetes, keep in mind they are more susceptible already to periodontal disease which results in inflammation, may make it more difficult for them to keep their blood sugar levels under control. If diabetes is left uncontrolled, it can place patients at a higher risk for various complications including lower life expectancy, vascular disease, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, and blindness.

Integrated benefits plans make it possible to identify patients who have health conditions, such as those with diabetes, pregnant women, and cardiac conditions, via their medical histories and can be automatically eligible for other dental services, including having more frequent fluoride, sealants, teeth exams, and cleanings.

Decrease The Misuse of Medical Errors and Medications

In addition, integrated benefits play a major role in our opioid epidemic gripping the United States, by offering a clear picture of the use of opioids. When you have real-time access to the pharmacy data of your patients that lets you see their opioid prescriptions history. If you discover that the patient’s prescriptions have been filled too often, you can work with your patient to address these issues and advise them on other pain control treatment methods.

Medical data and integrated pharmacy also can help to ensure that you have access to the most accurate and recent medical history for your patients. In an estimated 15-30% of dental records, preexisting medical conditions are misreported by patients, this can result in gaps in care as well as affect outcomes for patients. Having an overall total view gives you greater visibility into the medications that your patients are taking that have oral side effects, which include thrush, bone loss, cavities, enlarged gums, inflammation, and dry mouth.

Improve Your Dental Practice

Having access to integrated health information gives you more information on your patients’ health prior to their appointments so that you can maximize the use of your time together. Also, with integrated benefits, the oral health of your patients are more manageable because it allows you to access their entire health and can enable you to customize treatment plans with recognition of any other health risks or conditions the patient may have.

One future consideration is the evolving reimbursement and payment models. As value-based models are becoming more common in other care fields, many experts are expecting them to overtake fee-for-service models eventually in dental care as well. In this case, integrated care provides you with the necessary information to provide the best possible treatment for your patients.

How To Get Started?

Much of this responsibility lies with employers and patients to select integrated benefit plans. However, there are steps you can take to become more prepared for working with integrated carriers.

There are some insurers that offer integrated benefits that have dedicated implementation teams and programs to get you started. Those services may include demos and onsite visits, and continuous support as well. You can contact insurers to learn more about what services they provide.

Just be careful since some carriers might claim to be integrated but only have oneway data feeds that don’t actually connect patient information in meaningful ways. Be sure to speak with carriers who are able to demonstrate auto-sharing of information in real-team that is fully integrated across the whole care experience and that genuinely allows you to treat the entire person.

It is difficult to ignore the positive effects that integrated benefits can have on your practice and patients, so although insurers are doing their part by increasing their availability, you have the opportunity to learn more about the plan and how they can be incorporated into your practice.

We hope this article helped you achieve a better understanding of How Integrated Dental Care Can Help Your Practice And Patients? If you’re looking to learn more about how to help your practice grow – don’t forget to download our FREE 43-page Report on Increasing Case Sizes and Collections.

Kevin Steineman is a Digital Marketer, Entrepreneur, and Producer. Find out more about Kevin @KSteineman on Instagram, Facebook and wherever your heart desires. Be sure to also check out our Dental News Site - The Daily Floss!

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