My team at DentaQuest knows I often talk about the importance of being “all in” on everything we do. Now more than ever, I’m seeing that “all in” mentality come to life with the extraordinary measures everyone — governments, institutions, businesses, the public — is taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and combat this public health crisis.
Business leaders play a critical role in navigating COVID-19, keeping our employees safe and healthy and providing critical support and services to our many partners, clients and customers. And to find the best solutions for a path forward, it’s vital that we share our experiences, crisis response strategies and lessons that these recent weeks have taught us. And I’m happy to start some of that sharing.
At DentaQuest, we take very seriously our responsibility to provide high quality and safe oral health care to 27+ million members, including many of the country’s most vulnerable populations using Medicaid services. We understand the importance of working quickly and diligently to protect the health and safety of our clients, providers, employees and patients, while also ensuring the continued successful operation of our business. Here’s what we’re doing and continue to learn from and refine:
Prioritizing Safety. With more than 85 oral health centers in six states, stringent health and safety procedures are ingrained in the daily operation of all our DentaQuest-owned and affiliated practices. However, we made an early and tough decision to close our dental practices for all non-emergency dental procedures, in line with CDC recommendations, to help stem the spread of the virus and protect our patients. Because dental providers are one of the groups at highest risk for COVID-19 infection, we’re sharing federal, state and the American Dental Association’s recommendations on infection control procedures with our dentists, who remain on-call for emergency cases.
We’re helping DentaQuest members across the country access urgent and emergency care, while sharing guidelines for safe care across our provider network. Where possible, we are encouraging consultation or treatment via phone or video to allow people to remain in the safety of their own homes.
And we’re keeping our employees safe. Well ahead of government mandates, we placed a company-wide ban on non-essential travel and moved the vast majority of our employees to a remote work environment. Early implementation of business continuity plans and fast deployment of technology needed for remote work, enabled us to maintain our operations with very few interruptions. Our employees feel secure, and we continue to answer calls, execute referrals, complete utilization reviews and process claims in a timely manner.
Providing Community Support. As this pandemic continues to unfold, we’re exploring different ways to engage and guide providers, professional organizations and academia on how to deliver support and relief to their communities. We continue developing and sharing resources to ensure prompt claims processing, payment and guidance on alternative care options. We’ve also launched dental consultation hotlines in Alabama, Kentucky, Oregon and Texas to enable patients to speak with a dental professional about a wide range of dental issues, during a time when in-person care is limited.
The DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement is providing free webinars on critical issues faced by the industry during this health crisis, such as infection control and teledentistry. These initiatives were designed to help the communities we serve understand the important safety practices they can use right now, as well as solutions that can help address concerns around today’s limited access to dental care. The DentaQuest Partnership is also providing grants for communities that are likely to experience disproportionate suffering during the pandemic.
Looking to the Future. The pandemic helped us realize that we can and should be making better use of today’s technology, while also planning for the future. For example, we’re transitioning to 100% electronic provider communications to prevent gaps and address incoming questions and requests. We also maintain a fully functional remote call center environment, and our representatives continue assisting members in finding and scheduling emergency care.
To keep providing oral health care for people in need while minimizing risk for both patients and clinicians, we’ve been encouraging greater use of teledentistry to consult with patients, triage their needs and offer limited emergency services. We continue to work with our networks to ensure providers are aware of teledentistry options and how to properly document and submit claims.
To streamline the transition, and as a short-term solution to this current environment, we have allowed many dentists in our network to use standard billing codes even when care is provided remotely. We’re also re-configuring our systems to seamlessly process claims for defined teledentistry codes. While teledentistry has enabled us to provide an immediate and effective response in this time of the crisis, we also see this solution as a part of our long-term strategy focused on increasing access to care and reducing costs for states and consumers.
And, while we have long advocated for the shift to value-based care and value-based payment models, the pandemic has made clear that these models are needed now and will be even more important in the future. We’re seeing greater interest from both clients and providers, and this will inform how we move out of the crisis and into the recovery period.
COVID-19 has presented a challenge unlike any other and has changed the way DentaQuest and countless companies around the world operate in just a matter of weeks. But we should all remember that the most valuable lessons learned in business often arise during the most challenging of times. While we know the impact of the crisis will be felt far and wide for some time, we will be better positioned to develop innovative approaches and solutions to ensure the best outcomes for all through continued collaboration and communication. And as we continue to navigate this uncharted territory, we’ll all be better off for being ‘all in’ together.