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What Happens In Vegas…

Virginia Health Catalyst serves as a statewide convener and trusted advisor on oral health integration; we do not, however, provide direct care in communities. Because of this, we rely on our incredible partners across the state to lift up “boots on the ground” issues like challenges at the clinic, barriers to accessing care, and policy concerns at the state and local levels.

In October, Samantha and I (the mighty programs team!) traveled to the National Network for Oral Health Access (NNOHA) conference in Las Vegas to hear about these issues from a national audience. Catalyst’s mission aligns well with NNOHA’s drive to improve oral and overall health in America’s federally-qualified health centers; the NNOHA conference deepened our understanding of community health center oral health programs that provide care to more than six million individuals each year.

Virginia’s own Dr. Scott Wolpin was honored at the 2019 conference for serving as NNOHA president. We commend Dr. Wolpin’s talent, partnership, and leadership nationally and in Virginia!

Unlike the Las Vegas motto, what happens at NNOHA does not stay at NNOHA – here are a few key takeaways that will inform our work going forward:

  • The future of oral health rests on integration, collaboration, and innovation. Many sessions echoed the need for system reform when it comes to oral health - combining medical and dental services to increase access and change public behavior and perception. Marko Vujicic, Chief Economist and VP of the Health Policy Institute at ADA, proposed a shift in care from volume to value, adding that this change will replace high cost and barriers to care with sustainability and trust. Speakers stressed the importance of coalition building with nontraditional partners such as AARP and increasing advocacy efforts - starting in your own organization.

How can Catalyst help?

  • Create efficiencies in all aspects of care. Oral health providers wear multiple hats no matter the care setting, so it can be difficult to manage each task on a daily basis. NNOHA created the Dental Dashboard to help community health centers with quality improvement efforts in many areas such as sealants, recall rates, and patient satisfaction. Quality improvement and assurance were prevalent throughout the conference. One strategy they suggested was Plan, Do, Study, Act or “PDSA,” a part of the Model for Improvement that allows clinics to go through small, rapid cycles of change and continual feedback to enact positive changes. These changes can be as simple as changing the process for one patient, one time, one session; see an example here.

How can Catalyst help?

    • Our Learning Collaboratives help clinics through effective quality improvement strategies. Contact us to learn more.
  • Expand on the role of health care provider. Because patients regularly visit the dentist more than once a year, oral health providers have a unique position play a larger role in their patient’s health. We know the importance of oral health in overall health, and some sessions took this to another level by asking dental providers to educate patients about HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and the HPV vaccine, and identify ways to care for patients with compromised immune systems as a result of cancer treatment. Presenters encouraged all dental professionals to review their state practice guidelines and perform to their fullest capacity.

How can Catalyst help?

    • Interested in expanding your role? Join one of the many workgroups with Catalyst and its partners:
      • School-based Health Workgroup
      • Early Dental Home Committee
      • Clinical Advisory Board
      • Community Water Fluoridation Rapid Response Team
      • Water Equity Taskforce