Employing Value-Based Care in the Dental Practice


Dental practices looking to employ a new type of patient-centric, affordable care might not know where to start. CareQuest’s new tool can help.

Employing Value-Based Care in the Dental Practice. Image credit: © Prostock-studio – stock.adobe.com

Employing Value-Based Care in the Dental Practice. Image credit: © Prostock-studio – stock.adobe.com

With the world changing every day with universally rising prices for services, dental patients are increasingly seeking treatments and solutions that provide real value. Value-based care (VBC) in dentistry is an emerging approach that emphasizes the quality of care and patient outcomes rather than the volume of services provided.

This model focuses on preventive care, patient satisfaction, and long-term health benefits, aiming to improve overall dental health and reduce costs associated with extensive treatments. By prioritizing effective treatments and patient-centered care, value-based dentistry seeks to deliver better health outcomes, enhance patient experiences, and foster a more sustainable health care system, according to Danielle Apostolon, program manager and value-based care expert at CareQuest Institute for Oral Health.

“The overall goal is to align the system of care and have a system that is truly integrated, holistic, patient-centered, and innovative. The aim is to focus on achieving those health outcomes at lower costs,” Apostolon says. “In dentistry, for decades, the fee-for-service model has been the dominant model. It's a means of reimbursement, but there's no link to quality.”

This traditional fee-for-service model operates on a reimbursement basis where dental practitioners are paid for each service or procedure they perform, regardless of the outcome. As a result, the focus often shifts toward the quantity of services rendered rather than the patient's overall health and long-term outcomes. This disconnect can lead to unnecessary treatments and higher health care costs without necessarily improving patient health. The absence of an emphasis on quality and preventive care can contribute to inefficiencies and patient dissatisfaction.

And while value-based care and payment arrangements are growing in physical health care, VBC is only beginning to emerge in oral health care, according to Apostolon.

What Is Value-Based Care?

Apostolon says that VBC can be signified by a variety of things, but there are a few key ones to pay attention to when considering this care model.

“In dentistry, VBC is focusing on prevention, minimally invasive care, care that's risk-based,” she says. “It’s moving on from just treating the disease. It’s asking how we prevent dental disease or slow the progression to keep our patients healthy.”

To facilitate this switch, CareQuest Institute has created the VBC Readiness Assessment Tool, an online, in-browser questionnaire that will examine whether your dental practice is ready to make the shift toward the VBC model. The VBC Readiness Assessment Tool is tailored for federally qualified health centers, dental service organizations, hospital-based dental programs, public health departments, university dental programs, dentists in private practice, and physicians who provide oral health services, according to CareQuest Institute’s website.

In creating the Readiness Assessment tool, CareQuest Institute aimed to cater it toward dental practices specifically, according to Apostolon.

“Many of the tools out there were focused on medical health care. So, this tool opens it up to those dental and health care leadership teams, and it helps them really evaluate their organizational readiness,” she says. “What is their current snapshot of where they are? It then helps them to identify any gaps in readiness. It gives them this starting place of where they are currently, and [then] some things that they can begin to work on.”

The VBC Readiness Assessment tool ensures each topic area is covered, including behaviors, leadership, and insights that can enable practices to shape the future of the care they provide. These carefully crafted questions are designed to help dental professionals assess their current practices, identify areas for improvement, and align their services with the principles of VBC. By leveraging insights from past clinical experiences and robust data analysis, the tool guides practitioners in evaluating their treatment approaches, patient engagement strategies, and overall care delivery. This initial assessment serves as a first step in transitioning toward a model that prioritizes patient outcomes, preventive care, and cost-effectiveness.

Clinicians can use the tool to pinpoint specific actions and strategies that can enhance the quality of care, streamline operations, and ultimately improve patient satisfaction.

In practice, the tool has helped practices such as MyCare Health Center in Detroit, Michigan, to optimize their workflows and shift toward the VBC model, according to Lauren Rush, DDS, chief dental officer at MyCare.

“It forced us to look at some of our processes and reduce some inefficiencies. Because [VBC] is so new to the dental world, there’s not a lot of guidance available, because nobody really knows what this is going to look like. The Value-Based Readiness Assessment tool is filling an otherwise unmet need,” Dr Rush says. “And so, it did force us to look at some policies and some workflows and things like that, to reduce some inefficiencies that will help us get ready for that transition at some point.”

The tool stands as an accessible option for any dental practice or organization, offering a user-friendly and cost-free solution that is entirely conducted through a browser-based questionnaire.

Once practitioners take the VBC Readiness Assessment, they receive their Readiness Assessment score, which helps inform their next steps in their VBC journey. Categories help clarify specific areas for improvement, according to Apostolon.

“It breaks it down into 5 domains, which are prevention, culture and leadership, integration, alternative payment, and data and analytics,” she says. “An organization can be really strong in prevention but might not be in integration. It helps locate or identify specific areas to work on.”

Also key to VBC is its ability to empower clinicians to employ more medical-dental integrations and reduce the siloed nature of many dental practices, according to Apostolon.

“A big piece of this is breaking down the silos between medical and dental. The fee-for-service can sometimes accelerate the ‘one service one provider’ concept versus the whole system working together to achieve health outcomes for their patients,” Apostolon says. “We know that oral health is directly linked to conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, and adverse birth outcomes. Despite that understanding, the current healthcare system has been fragmented and oral health is often separated from medical care.Value Based Care is an opportunity to create a better integrated system and really value that whole person care.”

To learn more about the VBC model, or if you’re ready to take the VBC Readiness Assessment, visit CareQuest’s website here.

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