February 14, 2012
Like the healthcare system overall, the oral healthcare system faces a number of issues currently being studied by various stakeholders in efforts to improve overall outcomes. A new report authored by Dr. Paul Glassman, director of the Pacific Center for Special Care at University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, examines the push to make the oral health care delivery system more accountable.
Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the DentaQuest Institute, the report outlines an approach to expand the oral health quality improvement effort through data collection, accountability and new ways of delivering oral health care.
"Oral Health Quality Improvement in the Era of Accountability" provides an overview of current efforts, including the increased use of electronic dental records and integrated health records, better measurement of oral health outcomes, new payment and incentive mechanisms and expanded delivery of care through allied dental professionals.
The report was released in January at a meeting of oral health professionals, government leaders, consumer advocates and others convened by the Kellogg Foundation and DentaQuest Institute.
According to Glassman, the factors driving the focus on quality improvement in oral health care - and the need to align payment incentives with health care outcomes and value for patients - are the same ones driving the overall movement to improve quality in health care. These factors include the increasing cost of oral health care, variability in the oral health system and increasing awareness of these problems in the age of consumer empowerment.
"The focus on quality improvement for overall health care is an important opportunity to improve the quality of oral health care," said Glassman. "The biggest problem now is we are developing many measures, but they need to be connected to performance of the system. This report provides an opportunity for a new dialogue on how best to collect and use data to improve quality and increase access to affordable dental care."
Dental expenses are now among the highest out-of-pocket health expenditures for consumers. In 2008, they accounted for $30.7 billion or 22.2 percent of total out-of-pocket health expenditures, second only to prescription medications, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to the report, the keys to better access and quality are better measurement of oral health care outcomes and promoting innovation at the systems level. It suggests that the pathway to better measurement will involve increased use of electronic health records to make collection and analysis of data easier; development and use of measures of oral health outcomes; development and use of diagnostic coding systems to better track oral health outcomes across large populations; innovation in payment; monitoring and incentive mechanisms tied to the oral health of the population served; delivery of care in nontraditional settings; developing new types of allied dental professionals; and use of telehealth technologies to reach people in geographically remote areas.
Contributors to the report include representatives from the Institute for Oral Health, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, American Dental Association, American Dental Partners, California Department of Health Care Services, Bedford Healthcare Solutions, Health Partners and the National Network for Oral Health Access.
"Oral Health Quality Improvement in the Era of Accountability," is available online at http://dentaquestinstitute.org/quality-improvement-initiatives/quality-improvement-an-era-accountability.
Category Type: Dental Issues and Research
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