One recurring issue in dentistry is the silo mentality, which hampers dentists’ collaboration with other healthcare stakeholders. For instance, over the years, patients have perceived dentists as isolated healthcare practitioners who do not collaborate with mainstream medical care. The belief that dentists should offer occasional attention to patients and only cooperate with physicians when the need arises in offering care has made it challenging to improve dentistry quality. I first came across the siloed healthcare problem at least ten years ago when my uncle suffered an injury while snowboarding, and we had to wait for hours to receive much-needed care.
The accident took place when my uncle fell face first into a pole before falling on his gluteal area. He knocked out his two front teeth. Our snowboarding fun came to an abrupt stop as we rushed to the scene, trying to help my uncle, collect the broken teeth, and administer first aid. My older brother was on the phone trying to contact the local dentist, who offered advice on how to best salvage the situation and save the teeth.
In the next twenty minutes, my uncle was rushed to the local dentistry, where the dentist opened the doors to the clinic and received the patient. However, the dentist could only offer first aid as they waited for insurance authorization from the billing department and the patient’s medical files from his physician. During the wait, I realized a need to refine how the healthcare facility’s various units, such as dentistry, insurance and electronic health record management, operate. Realizing there is a need for holistic healthcare management in dentistry led me to consider possible activities, which would address the silo problem. The development of holistic dental care would allow patients to receive timely and quality care from their dentists. For instance, dentists can get billing approval and patient documentation quickly.
The accident and the sluggish care my uncle received in the local dentist’s facility was a watershed moment. For instance, I realized that a dentist is not a medical practitioner I should see periodically but a critical component in holistic healthcare management. Before the accident, I had never thought of the dentist as a crucial component in a healthcare setup and considered their services pale compared to those offered by other physicians. Witnessing the crisis after the accident, made me realize the need for prompt service delivery in dentistry, considering such an undertaking can improve the quality of care and the outcome. I became aware that the healthcare system’s success and the delivery of effective care to patients depend on all stakeholders’ involvement in the system.
Upon registering as a dental assistant, I got the opportunity to work in the front office, giving me the chance to improve the efficiency of dental services within the dental facility. For example, I took the initiative in my new role to check eligibilities and insurance benefits when a patient arrived, helping reduce the wait time for every patient. I would then wait for hours to speak to representatives to get the full breakdown needed by my employer, easing the processing of bills and claims within the facility. The ability to take on the responsibilities and work towards improving the engagement between the various stakeholders that influence the delivery of services in dental care, was instrumental in changing the time spent by clients at the facility.
The silos in the healthcare industry make it challenging for patients whose insurance does not cover additional needs, to receive comprehensive care. For example, the doctors will likely limit the checkup for the low-income earners to the outlined Medicaid cover, making it impossible for them to access dental care because Medicare does not cover numerous dental procedures. Learning this, prompted me as a dental assistant to invest more time in improving the processing of insurance claims and eligibilities, helping streamline care delivery.
Managers of dental care can find themselves affected by the existence of silos, making it challenging to perform their duties exceptionally. The segregation of dental care from other healthcare services can impact the patients’ care quality and effectiveness. Therefore, there is a need to refine how patient information is shared between insurance, billing, and dentists. The reduction in dentistry delays is bound to ensure more people can get quality care when they need it and are not undervalued by their dentists. Identifying dental care as a primary need for all individuals will ensure it is prioritized, and people can receive it frequently alongside other medical services they need.
The dental care delivery system needs to be in tandem with medical care. Considering the separation between the two can be detrimental to people at high risk of poor oral health. Realizing oral health care affects an individual’s overall wellbeing will motivate more healthcare management stakeholders to break silos in medical care. Developing frameworks for interoperable electronic health records, insurance coverage, and knowledge sharing will ensure more people can access quality dental care and discrimination does not occur. For instance, medical care practitioners’ willingness to engage dentists on their patients’ cases would ensure they can deliver tailored care. The streamlining of dentistry and mainstream healthcare services would encourage more people unable to access healthcare because of constraints, such as poverty and lack of education.