Dental hygienists have a unique role in health care reform

October 18th, 2013

Dental hygiene school software has the potential to play an important role in preparing students to handle the challenges currently facing the U.S. health care industry.

Medical professionals have been paying close attention to enhancing the efficiency and quality of care patients receive. Not only has recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act paved the way for expanding health insurance coverage to more U.S. citizens, but it has also encouraged clinics, hospitals and private practices to consider utilizing technology to reduce overhead costs in the long term. Dental care has also become an increasingly important factor in the discussion.

Today's industry challenges
Oral Health America, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago, recently released issued a new report titled "State of Decay: Are Older Americans Coming of Age Without Oral Healthcare?" in which it conducted a state-by-state assessment of the quality of care senior patients receive. According to a press statement announcing the release of the study, OHA used a formula weighing various contributing factors to the health of older adults, such as oral health plans, community water fluoridation and so-called dental health professional shortage areas in which there are few medical providers. Results from the report indicated the quality of oral health care in individual states has largely to do with the educational structure of dental hygiene.

"Using the dental hygiene workforce in a manner that allows dental hygienists to work with flexibility and up to the level they are educated will help to open the doors of access for many," American Dental Hygienist Association President Denise Bowers said in the press release. "Patients will benefit from a provider who can deliver both the preventive scope of a dental hygienist and the focused restorative scope of an advanced dental therapist."

The report offered a variety of suggestions for improving the quality of care throughout the U.S. For example, the authors said expanding access to Medicaid is one way to ensure patients of all household income levels receive proper medical attention. Additionally, the report said a robust public health infrastructure can enhance outreach and better communicate the virtues of maintaining proper oral hygiene.

The role of technology and education in solving future problems
No matter what the overall goal, dental software can help academic institutions prepare students to handle these challenges in positive ways. By implementing advanced technology into both clinical and educational operations, universities can obtain access to federal electronic health record incentive programs. These initiatives offer cash to organizations that incorporate these tools into their existing systems. Schools benefit even further by having an advanced, easy-to-use system to handle an influx in patient activity associated with Medicaid expansion. 

Software for dental hygiene schools also makes it easier for researchers to collaborate with other institutions to share data. These efforts can lead to more accurate and up-to-date information that can ultimately inform public outreach campaigns that encourage individuals to be actively engaged in their overall health. 

Students who develop meaningful experience with this technology will be able to take the lead in reforming the oral hygiene process in the near future. 

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