CDA co-sponsored legislation passes Assembly committee

CDA co-sponsored legislation that would provide key funding for the virtual dental home (VDH) model of dental care passed unanimously in its first Assembly committee hearing.

AB 648, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose), would create a grant program under the direction of the state dental director to expand the VDH model into the state’s areas of greatest need. Public and private funds would be used for training, equipment, technical assistance and other support for VDH implementation. The bill passed in the Assembly Health Committee on a 19-0 vote and several committee members offered positive comments.

The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Through the VDH, as signed into law in 2014 through AB 1174 (Bocanegra), specially trained dental hygienists and assistants collect dental diagnostic records, including X-rays and intraoral photos, from patients in community settings such as schools, Head Start sites and nursing homes. They send that information electronically via a secure Web-based system (called store-and-forward telehealth) to the supervising dentist at a clinic or dental office. The dentist uses that information to establish a diagnosis and create a dental treatment plan for the hygienist or assistant to carry out. The hygienists and assistants provide basic care at the community site and refer patients to dental offices for procedures that require the skills of a dentist.

The VDH model, as it was laid out in AB 1174, implements the primary elements of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development’s Virtual Dental Home Health Workforce Pilot Project. The functions of this model of care were tested over the last several years as a part of this pilot project and are now continuing as a permanent program. During the pilot project, nearly 3,000 patients were seen at more than 50 sites around the state with overwhelmingly positive results, with approximately two-thirds of the patients able to receive the care they needed at the community site.

CDA identified expanding the use of proven technology to facilitate collaboration between dentists and allied dental health professionals working in community settings as a strategy to reduce barriers to care in its access plan, Phased Strategies for Reducing Barriers to Dental Care in California. CDA worked with the author of AB 1174 and other stakeholders to ensure that the VDH model enacted into law included important provisions related to treatment settings, supervision and education.

Dentists interested in learning more about implementing the VDH model of care can attend a lecture about the VDH model and telehealth-connected teams at CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry in Anaheim on Saturday, May 2, at 11:30 a.m. Led by Paul Glassman, DDS, MBA, the lecture, titled “Expanding Dental Practices Using Telehealth-Connected Teams and Virtual Dental Homes,” will discuss advances in science and technology that enable the expansion of dental practices through virtual dental homes using telehealth-connected teams and will review a list of strategies and best practices. For more information on this lecture, visit cdapresents.com.