June 8, 2015
The Pacific Center for Special Care at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry was recently awarded $250,920 from the DentaQuest Foundation to support the expansion of the Virtual Dental Home (VDH) system for oral health care.
The VDH system was developed over the course of a six-year pilot program in the state of California, explained Dr. Paul Glassman, director of the center. The pilot program demonstrated that the system, using telehealth-connected teams, can reach traditionally underserved populations; apply prevention and early intervention care; and promote education and adoption of healthy behaviors. It also lowers the cost of providing these services.
Under the Virtual Dental Home model, specially trained dental hygienists in advanced practice, dental hygienists in public health settings and extended function dental assistants can provide dental care to underserved populations in a community setting, such as a school, community center, nursing home or group home. The hygienists and assistants virtually collaborate with a dentist using telehealth technology such as hand-held x-ray devices to provide critical dental services, assessment and care.
In 2014, the state of California passed a law that added teledentristy to a list of specialty health care services for which face-to-face contact is not required in order to claim reimbursement from Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program. The legislation took effect on January 1. The law incorporated new duties that were tested in the VDH program into the scope of practice of dental hygienists and extended function dental assistants. The law also created a payment mechanism for telehealth-supported procedures. This new funding will enable the Pacific Center for Special Care to develop and test tools and methods for spreading the VDH system throughout the state.
The VDH system has been implemented at a number of sites throughout California, including elementary school-based facilities, nursing homes, Head Start centers and community residential facilities for people with disabilities.
The VDH system is also attracting attention outside of California. The Pacific Center for Special Care is now supporting funded projects to replicate this system in several other states. According to Glassman, individuals in other states are also in conversations about bringing this system to their states as well.
For more information about the Virtual Dental Home project, visit http://www.virtualdentalhome.org
The DentaQuest Foundation is the philanthropic arm of DentaQuest, the second largest oral health enterprise in the United States.