Legislation aims to promote telehealth care

After being signed into law in 2014, the virtual dental home (VDH) model of dental care would receive key funding through a recently introduced piece of legislation.

AB 648, co-sponsored by CDA and authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose), would authorize a one-time, $4 million general fund appropriation to establish a VDH grant program. This program would fall under the leadership and direction of the state dental director for the purpose of expanding the VDH into the state’s areas of greatest need.

Through the VDH, as signed into law in 2014 through AB 1174 (Bocanegra), specially trained dental hygienists and assistants collect dental diagnostic records, such as 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 is now continuing as a permanent program.

"With the VDH model now permanently in place, AB 648 would provide valuable support through an upfront investment in training, equipment, technical assistance that will help the model develop a critical mass needed to spread statewide and truly be integrated into California's dental delivery system," said CDA President, Walt Weber, DDS.

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.