What a year…
Needless to say, 2020 has been a year for the history books. At NCOHC, we are so incredibly thankful for the front-line health care workers and essential workers who put their lives on the line day in and day out to keep communities healthy and safe. And our hearts go out to all who have lost loved ones and friends.
Despite its challenges, this year has also been a testament to the power of diverse coalitions oriented toward positive change. Here’s a brief recap of what was accomplished to improve oral health in North Carolina in 2020.
Rule 16W Change
NCOHC kicked off 2020 with a bang.
The North Carolina Rules Review Commission gave its final approval to a rule change that we co-sponsored with the North Carolina Dental Society. The change to Rule 16W eased restrictions on dental hygienists, increasing access to preventive oral health care in high-need settings, moving us one step closer toward a more equitable landscape.
You can read about the rule change and the incredible coalition that worked for decades to make it happen here.
COVID-19 & Access Map
…and yet, the 2020 we anticipated shifted dramatically in early March. As heroic health care workers across the globe turned on a dime to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and our community partners adjusted their workplans for maximum support, NCOHC adjusted our services in support of NC’s our most vulnerable communities.
NCOHC quickly published and continues to maintain a COVID-19 information page. This page includes our interactive COVID-19 Access Resource Map, which connects at-risk communities with safety-net dental providers across the state. As of December, nearly 30,000 people have engaged with the map.
The NCOHC Teledentistry Fund
In the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, most dental offices closed for routine services, only seeing emergency patients. As offices began to grapple with reopening, we partnered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to launch an NCOHC Teledentistry Fund.
With $60,000 to purchase teledentistry software subscriptions, NCOHC has provided more than 15 safety-net clinics with an innovative tool to help maintain patient care while prioritizing patient and provider safety.
NC Medicaid Teledentistry Billing Changes
Prior to the pandemic, NCOHC intended to focus on teledentistry policy in 2020. While teledentistry has incredible potential in a pandemic-free world, COVID-19 made its application even more relevant.
In response to the pandemic, NC Medicaid modified its billing policies to temporarily allow providers to be reimbursed for services provided across asynchronous, synchronous and telephonic teledentistry modalities. You can read about the billing code updates here. NCOHC was thrilled when NC Medicaid announced its temporary teledentistry provisions and, as we move forward, we are hopeful that these payment changes will be made permanent.
Even in a post-pandemic world, teledentistry will play a critical role in increasing access and equity in oral health care.
Oral Health Day(s)
Despite having to cancel the in-person portion of our annual advocacy event, Oral Health Day, we were still able to host not one but two successful virtual events this year! Oral Health Day Parts 1 and 2 focused on teledentistry and its potential in North Carolina, convening 230+ participants. Catch up on the events and hear from our star-studded lineup of special guests here.
In 2020, NCOHC and the communities we serve had many successes, but there is much to do as we dive into 2021. As we look forward to the New Year, we are ready to hit the ground running, and we need your help!
While 2020 was fruitful for our coalition’s expansion in size and diversity, we always have additional room for all who are interested in working together to create a more equitable oral health landscape. We believe access to quality, affordable oral health care shouldn’t be a privilege or luxury, but a right.
Will you join us in the movement?
To kick off 2021, we’re excited to announce our new online platform to provide a more efficient and effective way to join the movement — North Carolinians for Change! Please join us over at oralhealthnc.org/nc4change/