What's needed to advance medical-dental integration: CareQuest CEO

There are several key changes that will need to be made for medical-dental integration to be successful, according to one healthcare leader.

Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, is an internal medicine physician and the president and CEO of the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. She recently joined three other doctors in testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions about how to improve dental care affordability and accessibility.

Dr. Minter-Jordan recently spoke with Becker's about what medical-dental integration efforts can learn from the behavioral health field and the factors that will support medical-dental integration in the future.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How did the conversation about medical-dental integration start in the healthcare industry?

Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan: That would be difficult for me to say when it really started, but what I will say is that one of the first areas I focused on as an internist was behavioral health and medical integration. That was over a decade ago, and I think there's so many parallels between what happened in behavioral health to what needs to happen in oral health integration with medical. That [includes] cross-training providers, examining and improving reimbursement as well as creating systems that talk to one another. The whole focus for both behavioral health integration as well as what we are advancing in terms of medical-oral integration is that it should be holistic and comprehensive for the patient. This should center in on the patient and the patient's experience.

We know patients encounter their dental providers oftentimes more than their medical providers. So there are things that can be done in the dental office that can help to reinforce and treat some of the chronic diseases that are seen, an example of which is [doing] a hemoglobin A1C [test] in the dental office. There are also things that can be done on the medical side. We know many pediatricians treat their patients with fluoride, which we know prevents caries and prevents disease in children. The idea really is this holistic approach to care and ensuring that the systems, training and reimbursement support that.

Q: What needs to be done in order for medical-dental integration to continue advancing?

MMJ: I think what's needed is the continued reinforcement of the business case as we think about the overall cost of care. We know integrating basic health screenings into a dental setting, as an example, could save the healthcare system up to $100 million a year. [CareQuest has] a program called MORE Care, which means medical oral expanded care. Our focus has been on integration through that program, and through that specific program we've been able to serve over 13,000 medical and dental patients through the program. We increased the number of referrals from medical patients to dental. We also increased the reporting of caries risk assessments from 1% to over 50% since March of 2023. So we know programs like this are effective and we know we just need to continue to scale them and continue to reinforce the business case for medical-dental integration.

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