Good health takes guidance, effort, and continuous monitoring. The Government and other Payers have voiced their concern over poor healthcare outcomes and escalating cost by asking Providers to demonstrate more value for their Care. State Departments of Health have challenged hospitals to decrease readmissions and to reduce the use of Emergency Room for primary care. However, several factors make this difficult to achieve including an unhealthy population with large groups of uninsured, poor health management by consumers who do not understand the impact of their habits on their health, and a healthcare system that focuses on fixing health problems instead of preventing them. Healthcare's efforts to enhance the processes that provide Care will always fall short of its goals unless Consumers are guided to become “partners” rather than “patients.”
There is a demonstrated correlation between the quality of oral health and the overall health; however, Dentistry continues to develop as a “surgical” discipline outside of Healthcare. Dentistry has progressed significantly in the technology and breath of services. Additionally, Dentistry is trying to include assessment of patient “risk” concerns to guide prevention and direct rehabilitation therapies. However, this progress remains outside of integrative healthcare. Evidence demonstrates that dental visits are declining and out of pocket expenses are increasing for dental care. Also, consumers question Dentistry’s value as it is not a component health (medical) coverage.
We now know that poor oral health can lead to chronic disease via shared risk concerns and oral inflammation. These oral-systemic connections have created a new opportunity for Dentistry to play a significant role in healthcare. Dentistry at a crossroads where either road it takes has long-term consequences on its future. The key obstacle for Dentistry’s is its perceived low value in support of Healthcare’s goals to improve quality and reduce cost. Beginning at birth, tracking oral health data from consumers and dentists can provide Healthcare three advantages: improve accountability, collaboration and integration. This data (a “new currency”) can transform Healthcare to become proactive and anticipatory. With these improvements in mind, Dentistry will realize a valued position and become a leader in an integrated healthcare system.