NCOHC released its first policy brief in the summer of 2020 to provide an overview of the many policy changes that could increase equity and access to oral health care in North Carolina. This is the second of three deep dives to further expand on the policies within the brief. You can read the first one here.
As North Carolina grapples with an oral health workforce imbalance, there are several opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of care delivery. The opportunities in this section are relatively simple—not requiring a change to scope of practice, but rather simply modernizing the Dental Practice Act to better utilize technology for patient care, and to open doors for collaboration between medical and dental providers.
Adoption of teledental service utilization
During the COVID-19 pandemic, teledentistry has proven to be an invaluable tool allowing patients and providers to connect in safe, socially distanced settings. Prior to the pandemic, teledentistry served as a vital tool for increasing access to oral health care, as well. Providers across North Carolina have effectively leveraged the use of technology in community-based and school-based settings, allowing those who traditionally would not see a dentist to receive care through teledentistry.
To learn more about teledentistry and the many ways it is used, join us for Oral Health Day Part 2 on Oct. 23 and hear from some of North Carolina’s dental directors and three renowned experts in remote care technology.
Although health clinics and other providers — in both public and private sectors — regularly have provided teledental services, NCOHC advocates that to ensure future use of teledentistry as a care modality, stakeholders need to take steps to codify its use in North Carolina.
First, NCOHC recommends permanently adopting language to include electronic service delivery within the definition of dentistry, under Chapter 90, Article 2. These changes would simply update the Dental Practice Act, since remote care technology wasn’t even on the radar when the original language was drafted. Not only will the addition of language to Article 2 further define and codify teledentistry as a care delivery modality in our state, but it will also add in consumer protections for the provisions of remote care.
Finally, and specifically to payment reform, NCOHC urges both NC Medicaid and the commercial dental benefit plans to allow for the reimbursement of teledentistry both synchronously and asynchronously. These codes, D9995 and D9996, respectively, have been a part of the national billing nomenclature since 2018. Because of the lasting impact that teledentistry could make — even beyond a pandemic setting — it makes prudent sense to permanently adopt these billing codes.
Integration of Care
NCOHC is a strong advocate for integrated care, another area where teledentistry technology could play an important role. Tools like intraoral cameras are easy to use, and simply capturing images of a patient’s mouth can assist in connecting that patient to the care they need. NCOHC sees a big opportunity for using teledentistry technology in primary care settings to capture supplementary patient information for referral to dental providers.
Finally, NCOHC outlined several options to expand the dental workforce, including the community care coordinator.
Check out what one of NCOHC’s interns, Parker Norman, recently wrote about care coordination, and take a look at how Kintegra Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center west of Charlotte, uses teledentistry and care coordination to complete a network of care for children in Title I schools.
NCOHC is a program of the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation. For more information and to stay up to date, subscribe to the NCOHC newsletter. If you are interested in becoming an NCOHC member, you can also fill out our membership form. It’s free!