As I sit here in Jerome, Arizona I am trying to focus on not catching this disease while doing what I can as a public health provider and a community leader. I realize that this is a generational moment that could not have been imagined or predicted. Here in Jerome, a town of 457 people, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Arizona is being called upon to thrive while shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and wine tasking rooms, are closed and jobs are evaporating. I marvel at the generosity of a local restauranteur who opened the doors of his restaurants to distribute the remaining food for free to locals. Other healthy citizens are preparing food for those that are unable to leave their homes and the town shuttle driver is donating his time to bring food from nearby markets.
Those of us in the dental field are asked to not provide “elective” dental services – which has a significant financial impact on our practices and clinics. I wish that organized dentistry would work with our other health care professionals to see how dental personnel – dentists, hygienists, therapists, community health workers and assistants can be integrated into the overall health/medical environment. We need to work with the health insurers/payers to develop reimbursable ways that tele-health can be an effective means to provide needed services to our patients without them coming to our offices/clinics. We need to adopt reimbursement opportunities allow those with special needs – those with autism, down syndrome and other conditions to receive “elective” dental care during this time that is draining our health care resources.
Like everyone else, I too have had to make some significant adjustments to my calendar and travel plans. The Senior Dental Leaders program in London – at which I was to be a speaker – was postponed for a year. Additional speaking and meeting engagements in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Nantucket and Israel were all postponed for up to a year. While an inconvenience, these changes are not nearly as impactful as the significant effect the pandemic is having on so many.
Unfortunately, the strain on our health system and each other will get worse before it gets better – but it will get better! Please work together as leaders – though that may not be your personal aspiration – to engage our colleagues, elected officials and payers so that we can be part of the solution in creating a meaningful, responsive, caring health care system that adequately pays our providers while not over charging our patients for the care they need.
Please be safe as we all go thru this difficult time. Thank you for listening and for all you do to be part of the solution.