Finding dental care can be a challenge for those who are uninsured or on Medicaid, and when things become too much to bear, going to the ER may seem like the only option. However, many hospital ERs often aren’t equipped with the proper resources to tend to these dental needs, leaving providers to treat the pain or infection, but not the root of the problem.
In Seattle, community dentists voiced their concerns about this gap in dental care, so to help connect patients with the care they need, Swedish First Hill partnered with Neighborcare Health to streamline the system, connect patients to care more efficiently and provide the proper resources to patients who need complex care.
Through the partnership, patients who arrive at the ER with non-life-threatening dental emergencies are referred to a Neighborcare Health clinic, which serves as a “home” for the patient’s care. Simple procedures can be done at the clinic, but patients in need of more complex care — such as difficult extractions or surgery — return to the Community Specialty Clinic at Swedish First Hill for their procedures.
At the clinic, an attending dentist treats patients and oversees residents treating patients, and a volunteer oral surgeon comes in once a week. The clinic provides its services at reduced rates for Medicaid patients and free of charge for patients under a certain income threshold who cannot afford to pay.
One of the more unique aspects to this partnership is access it affords to this complex care, as it becomes much quicker and more affordable. Few oral surgeons accept patients on Medicaid, and those who do often become booked out months ahead of time.
Identifying gaps in care and providing a system to connect patients with the resources they need is one of the many ways Washington hospitals are improving the health of their communities.