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Analytical Tools May Help Improve High-Risk Patient Outcomes

It’s no surprise that good oral health is critical to overall health. During the past decade, there has been growing evidence documenting the relationship between oral health and systemic diseases. That message resonates with patients, too. Today, most Americans recognize the connection between their oral health and overall health.

Analytical Tools May Help Improve High-Risk Patient Outcomes 

By Dr. Keith Libou

It’s no surprise that good oral health is critical to overall health. During the past decade, there has been growing evidence documenting the relationship between oral health and systemic diseases. That message resonates with patients, too. Today, most Americans recognize the connection between their oral health and overall health.

In the face of ever more compelling evidence about this link, many in our profession are taking a deeper look at how to improve and maintain the wellness of Americans—particularly those who have or are at higher risk for oral and systemic diseases. How can we make a greater impact on a patient’s total health?

This is more than just a philosophical question. The U.S. healthcare system is increasingly focused on identifying clinical practices that lead to better patient outcomes. Hospital systems measure their performance rigorously against those quality metrics. They found that when they do well against the metrics, their patients also do better. It’s a win-win.

While dental practices are different than hospitals, both face many similar issues. Like their medical brethren, dentists must begin looking at how to develop performance analytics and integrate them into our clinical patient care. This translates into being able to identify which patients are at highest risk for developing dental disease--and then taking appropriate clinical action to prevent or mitigate its effects.

Our profession has already identified critical factors for what makes a patient high risk for dental disease, and how to manage those conditions. Delta Dental’s Preventive Dental Care Study (the largest claims study of its kind) found that many individuals at higher risk for tooth decay or periodontal disease don’t receive proper preventive dental care. More than a quarter of children age 18 and under are at higher risk for tooth decay. Of those children, more than 65 percent don’t receive two fluoride treatments a year. More than 68 percent ages 6-9 didn’t receive sealants on their first molars. More than 86 percent ages 10-14 didn’t receive sealants on their second molars.

And, nearly 2 million of Delta Dental’s adult enrollees are at higher risk for periodontal disease, yet nearly half did not receive two or more dental cleanings per year!

Clearly, this study shows that many high-risk patients are falling through the cracks. They miss out on critical treatment that could help them avoid the pain and complications caused by tooth decay and periodontal disease.

As dentists, we know what these patients should do. Unfortunately, our practices can’t always quickly identify who those patients are, or easily determine if those patients are doing the right things. The challenge we face is how to make sure these patients who are most at risk get the necessary preventive care they need to maintain good oral health.

Gartner, Inc., the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, addresses this need in “Healthcare Provider CIOs Must Drive Value-Based Performance Into the HDO Analytics Portfolio.” This report said that healthcare entities attempting to make the transition to value-based care will require tools that integrate data from a variety of sources, including clinical and claims data.

Delta Dental of New Jersey and Connecticut, along with several other Delta Dental companies, have teamed up with WhiteCloud Analytics, a healthcare performance management company, to develop Dentalytics™. Dentalytics is a web-based software program that helps dentists help their patients reach optimal oral health. It uses a visual “dashboard” approach, allowing dentists to see how their practice is doing against key performance measures based on submitted claims.

Delta Dental of New Jersey and Connecticut is making the Dentalytics tool available free to participating dentists early in 2017. It will analyze Delta Dental of New Jersey and Connecticut claims data from the past four years, so that on day one, dentists will be able to see how many at-risk patients have received their recommended fluoride, sealant and periodontal maintenance treatments—and who have not. 

Dentalytics will also show overall trends for each of the performance measures, to really let dentists look “under the hood” of their hygiene departments to identify underlying care patterns that they may not have been aware of. The database will be updated monthly, so dentists will be able to get an accurate picture of their at-risk patient population on a regular basis.

Analytical tools such as Dentalytics will become increasingly important to dental practices and patients in the years ahead. These tools deliver critical information to help dentists take the concept of preventive care to new levels. It’s a win for better patient oral and systemic health, and for the dental profession.

About the Author

Dr. Keith Libou is Chief Clinical Officer at Delta Dental of New Jersey.

Take a Peek At Dentalytics: Take a look at our YouTube video about Dentalytics, featuring views of the dashboard and interviews with dental office users about their experiences.
Dashboard Dentalytics

 

 

 

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