09:01 AM

Applying Participatory Medicine in Oral Health

It takes powerful partnerships and collaboration to achieve a measurably healthier community. That’s why we work with partners across the health care spectrum to make this a reality.

One relatively recent partner is the Society of Participatory Medicine (SPM). SPM’s mission is to transform the culture of health care so that (1) clinicians and patients are partners, and (2) patients have the information and context they need to make informed decisions about their own care. SPM’s membership includes clinicians, patients, insurers, researchers, and patient advocates. It’s the only organization of its kind that includes this range of stakeholders, necessary to catalyze collaborative engagement across the continuum of care to optimize health and health care.

What does it mean to be participatory?

Dr. Danny Sands, co-chair of SPM, has described patients interacting with the present health care model as too often being like a car in a car wash. The patient moves through a care visit passively and is awash with health services, coming out of the visit supposedly on a healthier path but not really understanding what has happened and why.

We need to think about expertise in a new way: If the clinician is an expert in diagnosis and recommending treatment, then the patient is the expert in them-self. Both sides of the equation--clinician expertise and patient self-expertise – are required for optimal health care. To have participatory care, patients need to be engaged, educated, enlightened and empowered. Clinicians need to be partners with patients and change the differential in power that exists between them and their patients. Quality and satisfaction rise and costs decrease when this happens.

What does it mean to support the advancement of participatory medicine?

SPM has a peer-reviewed research journal that’s building a fact base for the relevance and value of participatory medicine. The journal publishes articles that cover, for example, how having full access to their own care records reduces anxiety among the seriously ill. SPM also has an online community where members can share strategies to improve self-advocacy and how providers and care delivery settings can be more patient-centric. Policy discussions at the federal level relating to emerging care standards are also key, and SPM is a regular contributor to those discussions. In addition, SPM has developed participatory medicine curricula for clinical training programs and an adoptable manifesto. It describes in “I will” terms what clinicians and patients should do to support the goals of participatory medicine.

The U.S. health and dental care systems are on the brink of highly disruptive change. Digitization of health and dental care, the transparency movement, universal coverage, big data, AI, value-based care, ACOs, and personalized medicine are all expected to fundamentally change a system that is flawed. Hopefully, system costs, which run roughly 50% higher than other developed countries with no better health outcomes, can stabilize. It’s never been more important for SPM’s voice to be heard clearly – the values it advocates for must be understood more broadly and integrated into the system, as it evolves in this period of disruption.

If participatory values can be more fully integrated, then there is the potential for greater satisfaction, lower costs and higher quality of care. That is as important for dental care as it is for medical care. You can help make this future a reality; I encourage you to read the manifesto: https://participatorymedicine.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/SPM-Manifesto.pdf.


Guest Post by DentaQuest Director of Product Strategy Mary Hennings, who has been member of SPM for several years and was recently chosen as president-elect of their board of directors. DentaQuest supports the Society for Participatory Medicine [SPM].