How Will a Dental/Medical Integration Model Affect DSOs?

Reception area at the new Cedar Hills Dental and Medical Office in Beaverton, Oregon

This week, Kaiser Permanente (KP) launched the first ever medical-dental integrated clinic in the US.  Beaverton, Oregon is the location of this pioneering effort.  In fact, as the largest integrated care delivery system in the country, KP Northwest is the only system in all of Kaiser Permanente and in the country with a care model that has integrated dental care into its system.

As Kaiser Permanente opens and provides this unique addition to their delivery system and patient care, we raise the question: is 2017 the year that medical-dental integration starts to disrupt the traditional stand-alone dental practice? If so, how does that affect DSOs and their evaluation of and integration into the healthcare landscape?  The integrated model opens up opportunities for hospital systems to acquire a DSO and integrate the DSO’s dental services within that hospital system.  Additional opportunities may lie within walk-in medical clinics, which could expand to offer dental hygiene services and/or tooth extraction services within the same building, and operated by the same or different entities.

KP’s mission is to address patients’ total health: mental, physical and oral.  This ideology and business practice may become a trend as other healthcare delivery systems see the benefits to shared resources. These benefits can be passed on to the customer in the way of cost savings, thereby encouraging the patient to seek total health services in one locale. Just as certain medical conditions affect oral health, so, too, does oral health contribute to various conditions — endocarditis (infection of heart’s valve(a)/inner lining); stroke, heart attacks, premature birth and low birth weight have all been linked to poor oral health. Fact: A diabetic patient who has access to both oral and medical care has better diabetes control, improved quality of life and saves up to 40% in health care costs.

More than 80 years ago, in the early 1930s, Dr. Sidney Garfield forever disrupted and changed American health care with the birth of Permanente medicine — a multi-specialty, integrated care delivery system with a prepayment model. Neither he nor Henry Kaiser, his co-founder of Kaiser Permanente years later, could have imagined that, in the Northwest, KP integrated care 2.0 would be the next disruption and mean incorporating dental care and medical care under one umbrella (since 1974). And, now, with a clinic that combines medical and dental staff and processes, using the same electronic medical record (EMR): KP integrated care 3.0.

Source: Imelda Dacones CEO and President Northwest Permanente