Integrating primary health care services with eye and vision care: are there lessons to learn from dental care?

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A new article in Health Affairs entitled “Bridging The Dental Divide: Overcoming Barriers To Integrating Oral Health And Primary Care” provides insights into the difficulties faced when aiming to integrate care to effectively address health needs. Earlier research has shown that infrastructure and accessibility across clinical settings must be developed and in place, along with payment policies and implementation of core clinical competencies,  to achieve increased access to care.  The authors here point to co-location as “necessary but insufficient” to fully integrate oral and systemic health care delivery, and the need for ongoing innovation in the key areas of reimbursement, interprofessional education, and health IT.  But, as the numbers (highlighted below) from this article show, promising opportunities exist to bridge the divide for many Americans who receive one ‘type’ of care (in this article, referred to as ‘systemic’ or dental) but not another.  Interestingly, how we frame and advocate for these ‘areas’ of total health care in language, regulation, and policy will play an important role, as optometric care is a critical part of the overall health care continuum – a continuum that most Americans may not fully appreciate, and one in which fragmentation and carve-outs can lead to less than optimum health outcomes…

“…roughly one in five Americans report needing dental care but lack adequate access, most often due to financial barriers. Integrating oral health services into routine primary care visits could help close this gap. Somewhat surprisingly, the converse is also true. One quarter of the 55 million Americans that do not receive outpatient medical care do see a dentist. Providing basic primary care services during dental visits could improve population health and chronic disease management…”

For more, click here.

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