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Putting the Patient at the Center – If it Works for Brain Surgery …

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When was the last time you had an outstanding health care experience? Where you as the patient were at the center of the event, you understood what was happening and felt in control? Where the costs were clear, and the outcome was positive?

Outstanding health care experiences do happen occasionally and seem to be happening with increasing frequency. For instance, in the summer before her freshman year in college, my daughter required brain surgery. Not only did the surgeon schedule the operation so she could arrive at college on time, he also agreed NOT to shave her head. Without a shaved head, she was a normal freshman. She didn’t arrive with that visible sign of being the girl who just had brain surgery.

When the bill arrived, the hospital walked me through it and explained everything that was confusing or unclear. In each semi-annual scan that followed, the whole medical team was there, asking questions that clearly show they know her, explaining the testing protocol and continuing to be flexible in order to accommodate her schedule. Four plus years later, her prognosis is positive with no sign of reoccurrence. What was a traumatic and incredibly frightening experience was mitigated by medical professionals who focused equally on my daughter’s experience and outcome.

In the past several years, medicine has begun to adopt a patient-centered and value-based care (VBC) model, and the oral health industry is following suit. Under a VBC model, there is greater focus on the care experience for each person, quality health outcomes are valued more than the quantity of procedures performed, and ultimately the cost for care falls while population health improves.

Oral disease is almost completely preventable, yet the current fee-for-service payment system incents fillings, extractions and other interventions as the standard responses to disease. Most dentists do stress the importance of prevention, but often don’t break through to their patients. Following these reactive procedures, patients are left in the same cycle – seeking more care instead of following individual care improvement plans. Once disease is under control, preventive treatments are far more cost-effective and much easier on patients and caregivers alike. That’s because they reduce the need for scary, expensive and complex restorative procedures.

Finding ways to proactively prevent dental disease, rather than reacting to it after the fact, is something we’re quite passionate about at DentaQuest. We believe that value-based care is a critical component of improving the oral health of all Americans.

We recently commissioned a study – Reversible Decay: Oral Health is a Public Health Problem We Can Solve – to dig deeper into the issue. Our research found marked agreement among dentists (73%), physicians (82%) and employers (87%), who said that dental insurance should prioritize healthy outcomes over volume of services. They also agree that value-based care helps their organizations improve patient outcomes and reduce costs.

Patient opinions are similarly aligned: most patients think dental insurance providers currently base decisions on cost but instead should focus on the impact a given procedure will have on a person’s overall health.

According to our research, employers are also interested in taking steps to advance this transition. More than four in 10 are open to considering innovations in employee benefits, providing convenient access to urgent dental care (40%), and offering options for telehealth or e-visits (38%).

Achieving true person-centered and value-based care in oral health care will take time. But redesigning payment models to reward providers for keeping patients healthy is an idea that’s ready now. And the good news is, as we’ve seen in our study, an impressive range of stakeholders are already in agreement.

If a patient-centered approach works to make brain surgery less scary and its after-effects less intrusive, it can work in oral health as well.

Originally published by Alison Corcoran on LinkedIn