A Warm Thank You from Three Dental School Grads

We received this touching video from three recent graduates of University of New England College of Dental Medicine. They are the most recent recipients of the Northeast Delta Dental Loan Repayment Program. In exchange for their scholarships, these awardees agree to practice dentistry in the most underserved regions of Maine. Here at Northeast Delta Dental, my colleagues and I consider bringing oral healthcare to the underserved as an integral aspect of our mission. According to the Dean of the College of Dental Medicine, Jon S. Ryder, D.D.S., M.S. – “We view the loan repayment program to be one of our highest achievements and a true measure of our partnership. We are all delighted and grateful.” Please click here to enjoy their thank you video.

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The public needs all its healthcare heroes during the current health crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued interim guidance on providing essential oral health services in the context of COVID-19, advocating that preventive dental care be delayed until there has been sufficient reduction in transmission rates.

The American Dental Association (ADA); Delta Dental Plans Association (39 member companies); Northeast Delta Dental; the Boards of Dental Examiners in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont and other dental industry leaders at the state and national levels respectfully disagree with WHO’s position on preventive care during the current health crisis.  

The WHO is a worldwide organization. Its interim guidance does not account for differences in safety practices and equipment around the world. In the United States, the ADA did recommend in March that dental practices suspend preventive care and focus on emergency procedures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments.

Thereafter, the ADA, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), developed rigorous safety, equipment and practice protocols designed to protect patients, dentists and dental auxiliary staff. In each state, local Boards of Dental Examiners presented these protocols to state reopening taskforces for recommendation to, and approval by, state government. State governments only permitted dental offices to reopen for preventive care when they were satisfied that dental offices could do so safely.

Dental offices are again open and providing a full range of dental services that are critical to the health and well-being of their patients. They follow safety protocols that are much more rigorous than usual, though dental offices are safety-conscious in the best of times. Many thousands of people nationwide have received routine dental procedures in the last few months without incident. The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) will document this more fully in an article in its upcoming issue.

On the topic of its interim guidance, one of WHO’s dental officers was quoted as saying, “We think that the most pressing issue is related to the availability of essential personal protective equipment, PPE, for all health care personnel undertaking or assisting in the clinical procedures.” We agree. That’s why Northeast Delta Dental has distributed tens of thousands of masks and thousands of gowns to our network dentists and is helping them with the ongoing costs of PPE and other COVID-19 expenses.

As they plan their next visits, we encourage patients to contact their dentists to learn more about specific protocols in place for health and safety. Dental professionals are on the front lines of health care, with their expertise often detecting, and/or impacting, such diseases as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Let’s not limit our healthcare system’s ability to treat the whole patient by discouraging people from visiting their dentists, when both national and state public health authorities have determined that they can do so safely.

Tom Raffio, President & CEO Northeast Delta Dental

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ExcellenceNorth Alliance Presents Award to Bristol Health, Bristol, Connecticut

One bright spot during the COVID-19 pandemic is that, recently, ExcellenceNorth Alliance (ENA), in partnership with Partners in Performance Excellence (PiPEx), announced that Bristol Health in Bristol, Connecticut, earned a Silver Recognition in the 2020 ENA Baldrige-based Awards and Recognition Program.  

Bristol Health is an integrated healthcare system offering services that include hospital and specialty health services, home and hospice care, skilled nursing, and emergency medical services. It was recognized for demonstrating a system-wide commitment to safety, reliability, transparency, and community service. This commitment is built on a culture of Communication, Accountability, Respect, and Empathy. Each is implemented through its Rock Excellence Journey by incorporating performance improvement methodologies and continuous assessment to identify improvements. Both its culture and Journey connect with its vision to advance the health of the community by providing integrated, innovative, and individualized patient care.

The recognition process evaluates an organization’s strengths and improvement opportunities against the Baldrige Framework for Performance Excellence, which represents the leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice. Earning the silver level of recognition involves the submission of an application for evaluation by a team of trained volunteers. The volunteer examiners conduct interviews with the applicant, after which they provide a confidential feedback report with strengths and opportunities to support continued improvement based on world-class best practices.

As ENA’s Executive Director, Anne Warner, said, “. . . The fact that this healthcare system opted to continue the evaluation during the COVID-19 pandemic further reflects a significant commitment to excellence in all aspects of its operations. We identified many examples that verify how its Rock Excellence Journey prepared Bristol Health to adapt and respond to the virus. Lessons learned during this time are being shared throughout the system to enhance daily operations and to prepare for the future.”

I’m a passionate believer in continuous quality improvement, so I place a high value on the Baldrige Framework for Performance Excellence. Its principles have helped my own business prosper, and through serving ENA as its Chairman of the Board, I can help other organizations in Northern New England thrive sustainably. I was thrilled in January to have been presented with a Leadership Excellence Award in the Health Care sector from the Baldrige Foundation.

To learn more about ExcellenceNorth Alliance and its mission to help Northern New England organizations and communities achieve their goals as the rate of change and disruption continues to dramatically increase across all business sectors, visit http://www.excellencenorth.org.

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Volunteering Makes Our Lives Better!

Since coming to NH in 1995 to lead Northeast Delta Dental, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with so many incredible nonprofits. Organizations filled with people so passionate about improving the business and everyday lives of the people in our region. Along the way, I have been recognized for my participation. I am truly humbled and honored by their acknowledgment. I want to thank all of my fellow volunteers for their efforts in the tri-state area! Together, we’re making a difference.

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Dental offices reopening: Heroes work here!

Have you seen the signs thanking heroes emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic? I haven’t seen one listing dental professionals, but I think they should be included. Outside of every dental office a sign should appear that says, “Heroes Work Here!”. When you consider that the disease is spread through small droplets from the nose and mouth, and where and how dentists and dental auxiliary staff work, the risk factors of dental health care professionals approach those of other medical care professionals—or exceed them!

On March 16, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommended that dental offices close to all but urgent and emergency dental care. After several weeks of being unavailable for all elective procedures, most dentists are back to business, following the recommendations of the ADA, CDC and their state departments of health and safety to ensure the safety of their patients and staff.

During the period when dental offices were closed, teledentistry helped patients with a dental emergency access the expertise of their dentist via HIPAA-compliant live video conferences to triage the problems and discuss next steps. Teledentistry visits can often alleviate patient anxiety and eliminate a trip to the emergency room. Many dental insurance companies appreciate the role played by teledentistry and reimburse for teledentistry procedures, and many dentists have added teledentistry as a service option. Dr. Bryan Hoertdoerfer, of Hoertdoerfer Dentistry, Manchester, says, ‘We have incorporated teledentistry as an option within our business. Teledentistry is here to stay.”

Dental offices are inherently health- and safety-conscious; even so, if you’ve visited your dentist’s office since they’ve reopened, you’ve seen several changes because of the pandemic. Because dental offices have been closed, you might have to wait a bit longer for an appointment, so schedule one soon. If you haven’t visited since they’ve reopened, here are some changes you can expect.

You may be screened for COVID-19 symptoms during your appointment call, and you may be asked similar questions the day of your dental visit. Some dental offices may want you to answer those questions outside of the office, or as soon as you walk in. Your temperature may be taken. You will most likely be asked to wear a mask, which you can remove in the dental chair. You may be asked to wait in your car and call when you arrive rather than waiting in the waiting room; in the waiting room, you may see fewer chairs and no toys or magazines. Visitors are unlikely to be welcomed, with the possible exception of one parent with a young child. You may be asked to use hand sanitizer. You may hear the hum of air purifiers. You may see office areas shielded, and dentists and dental auxiliary staff (dental hygienists and assistants) wearing more personal protective equipment than usual.

Dental office safety is a joint responsibility, so please reschedule your appointment if you develop symptoms, test positively for COVID-19, or are exposed to someone with COVID-19 to protect the dental health professionals who are protecting you.

Northeast Delta Dental is pleased to have been able to support our participating dentists with PPE and financial relief while dental offices are closed, and now as they reopen. To learn more, visit www.nedelta.com.

Tom Raffio
President & CEO
Northeast Delta Dental

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