Integrating Dental Care into Patient Centered Medical Homes and Accountable Care Organizations: A United States of America Perspective

Increasing evidence links oral health to total physical and mental health and, underscores the need to integrate dental health programs with medical care. The newly emerging transition to Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH) and Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) aligns payment and provides incentives for health systems to pursue this strategy. PCMH and ACOs are efforts to improve patient outcomes by creating partnerships between patients, physicians, hospitals, and other caregiving institutions to provide evidenced-based medical care, while slowing the growth of health-related costs. Although primary medical care is customary in ACOs and in PCMHs, dental care has been largely omitted from these new delivery systems. Many health systems are becoming ACOs and being certified as PCMHs. The adoption of electronic medical and dental records in many health systems creates an opportunity to bring together data from two traditionally separate systems. Information Technology (IT) integration of dental and medical records is more common as health care systems are purchasing integrated records. Therefore, the clinical integration for medical and dental interprofessional care coordination should yield financial and health outcome improvements. The goal of this article is to describe why and how dental professionals should and can participate in PCMH transitions to be a part of a Patient Centered Medical-Dental Home (PCM-DH) and ACO. This position paper provides valid reasons for developing a PCM-DH and ACO that includes dental care. This perspective is relevant to United States healthcare system delivery models that are part of the U.S. healthcare reform legislation of 2010.

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