MemorialCare, a prominent nonprofit Southern California integrated health system, and Pacific Dental Services® (PDS), one of the nation’s leading dental support organizations, today announced a first-of-its-kind partnership to bring dentists and doctors together under one roof to provide patients comprehensive whole-person health. The joint venture is propelled by the power of shared electronic health records on the Epic system – ensuring a seamless coordination of care and easy access to health records for patients and providers.
Through the unique partnership, several co-located practices will open each year over the next five years to reach a total of at least 25 locations, with PDS-supported dental offices located within select MemorialCare Medical Group health centers throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties.
“MemorialCare has a long history of partnering with innovative organizations that share our vision of delivering best practice medicine and improving community health,” says Barry Arbuckle, Ph.D., President and CEO of MemorialCare. “This unique, innovative venture provides our patients and community with seamless integration of primary care and oral health, an essential clinical service not previously offered.”
Decades of clinical research have determined oral health is a critical component to overall health. Bringing oral health care to the primary health care setting supports MemorialCare’s mission of providing easily accessible, high-quality care along with PDS’ unwavering dedication to medical-dental integration to improve health outcomes while reducing hospitalizations and annual healthcare expenses.
“This unprecedented partnership is a natural extension of Pacific Dental Services’ goal to bring to light the link between oral health and overall health – what we at PDS call The Mouth-Body Connection® – in an effort to improve the health of patients,” says Stephen E. Thorne IV, Founder and CEO of Pacific Dental Services. “Because many systemic diseases, conditions and even medications can affect a patient’s oral health, we have long advocated for closer collaboration between medical and dental professionals. This partnership brings that to fruition.”
The fact that both organizations use Epic’s comprehensive electronic health record system paved a path for this collaboration, as primary health and oral health clinicians can use the system to seamlessly view patient data, including past dental and medical visits, lab results, and prescriptions, creating a comprehensive picture of a patient’s health for any provider they visit.
“Healthcare outcomes are vastly improved when providers have quick access to all relevant information on a patient,” says Judy Faulkner, Founder and CEO of Epic. “Our partnership with Pacific Dental Services that achieved final implementation to their 900+ dental practices earlier this year was a significant step forward in linking dental and medical professionals. We’re proud to be a part of extending that link to now include merging our software with dental and medical professionals under one roof.”
In the United States, 2 in 5 adults are affected by some form of gum disease, which is one of the earliest warning signs of systemic health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and even certain cancers. Now physicians and dentists who historically have worked in silos, will be able to easily communicate potentially life-saving information about their shared patients.
The partnership also allows patients to take more ownership of their health, by enabling them to view their acute health, primary health, and dental health history all in one place. By accessing their own health information through Epic’s MyChart patient portal, patients can communicate with providers, schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and have a better chance of identifying diseases early, based on changes in gum and oral health.
This announcement comes at a time when integration between medical care and oral health care is top of mind. Among the many parallel efforts in this area, in 2021 the CDC announced a medical-dental integration partnership with the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors, and just last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced its final ruling on the expansion of coverage for medically necessary dental services as part of Medicare. These efforts highlight the importance of dental-medical integration to form a seamless, comprehensive healthcare system focused on the health of the whole person.