A report funded by the Delta Dental Institute found that medical-dental integration can improve care outcomes for vulnerable populations.

Increasing communication between dental and medical providers reduces barriers to care, according to a report from the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine.

Medical-Dental Integration (MDI) improves positive health outcomes in vulnerable populations, such as at-risk children, pregnant women, seniors, and those in need of chronic disease management, according to the report.

Tamanna Tiwari, MPH, MDS, BDS, assistant professor in the department of community dentistry and population health at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus led the review of MDI models over the last decade.

“The review finds that in an MDI model, coordinated, streamlined communication and collaboration among the entire care team is critical for positive patient outcomes and provider engagement,” said Tiwari. “Identifying creative ways to adapt to specific situations may help increase access to oral health screenings, diagnosis and referral of patients for chronic disease management. This has the potential to reduce the number of appointments and providers a patient must interact with, which increases the likelihood that patients will receive critical preventive care.”

The Delta Dental Institute funded the report, which supports the research-based exploration of care delivery models like MDI that improve health care outcomes and advance patient-centered care.

“Oral health is a critical component of whole person health,” said Joseph Dill, DDS, MBA, head of dental science at the Delta Dental Institute. “Care delivery models that rely on collaboration and integration between primary and dental care teams, when implemented successfully, can create more inclusive approaches that help the healthcare system work better for everyone.”

The report found that to implement a combined medical and dental strategie requires coordinated and streamlined communication, collaboration, and adaptability among the entire care team. Electronic health record (EHR) integration and interoperability were also important while using warm hand-offs and emerging technologies, such as telehealth and teledentistry, to coordinate care, manage complex patients, and close referral loops.

To make integrated services more sustainable, the report recommends training medical professionals on oral health care, maximizing the contribution of dental professionals, and increasing the diversity and cultural competency of care teams to achieve long-term viability.

To achieve better health outcomes at lower costs, the report recommends implementing MDI’s value-based care model, which aligns healthcare systems, patients and providers.

The report found that there is no single formula for the success of an MDI model. Adapting to specific situations and finding creative ways to maximize success are crucial to continuing the evolution of integrated care.

The co-location of services model can improve coordination of care, which improves access to oral care, dental referrals, and preventive procedures. This model does not require full integration to be successful.

The fully-integrated care model involves the use of electronic health records (EHRs) and collaboration of providers to improve services to patients, which creates diverse referral relationships with dentists and can use strategies like teledentistry to improve access to care, according to the report.

Tiwari will present her report discoveries at the Interprofessional Collaborations to Improve Oral Health poster session on Nov 7, 2022, during the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting.

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