The new decade has begun in a very unexpected fashion. We are dealing with a viral pandemic, an economic catastrophe and millions of health care providers facing issues they never anticipated.
As a consequence of this pandemic, most of my speaking gigs have been cancelled or postponed with the exception of an international webinar for Colgate. The webinar I created was on integrating oral health into primary care, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out over 4,000 live viewers watched it. For those who are interested, here’s the link to their Webinar page: Colgate Webinar.
While we all try to manage our personal lives with many families staying home, some travelers stranded and jobs evaporating – we must try to use this difficult time to rethink and possibly reorganize our health care system so it provides a means for providers to work more collaboratively, payers – including insurers – must work to promote prevention and the integration of overall health care while reducing costs – while still making a profit, Healthcare should be about promoting health and not greed.
The separation of oral health/care from medical care years ago has continued to promote a siloed approach with separate health records, payment mechanisms, and a real lack of collegial collaboration of providers who are still very provider-focused rather than patient-focused. To meet the needs of patients, providers should consider opening their offices open during lunchtime, as well as on occasional evenings and weekends, in order to be more patient-centric.
In addition, the expansion and reimbursement of tele-health procedures will increase the access of care to rural, elderly and isolated patients. The innovative discussions among health industry leaders – including, manufacturers, distributors, providers, educators and payers – need to address how the health professions can do better and be more efficient and equitable by consolidating. Potentially, dentistry could become a specialty of medicine. Harvard School of Dental Medicine started in their Medical School, and continues to this day, to incorporate the first two years of basic sciences side-by-side with medical students. I would not be surprised if in this decade we witness dental education and practice blending with medical education and practice.
We need to put the mouth back into the body and treat it as a specialty of medicine. Some specialties of medicine include – ophthalmology, cardiology, neurology, etc. – why not include oral medicine? This idea isn’t new – it just needs to be more seriously evaluated. Dr. Don Giddon, DMD, Ph.D former NYUCD Dean and Harvard faculty has been promoting this idea for decades. This is food for thought as we all try to make the best of a difficult situation.