Integrated dental medical program helps motivate at-risk individuals

May 15, 2009
Clinical studies indicate that 20 percent of working population with at least one chronic condition still skips seeing a dentist every year.

HARTFORD, Connecticut--Aetna has supported not only the clinical connections between oral and systemic health but also member awareness, education, and outreach to help motivate members with chronic conditions to seek appropriate dental care.

Last year Aetna's Dental/Medical Integration program became a standard offering at no additional cost for plan sponsors with Aetan dental and medical benefits. In 2008, nearly 67,000 medically at-risk members sought dental care after being enrolled in Aetna's Dental Medical Integration program. At-risk members are identified as those with diabetes, heart disease, and pregnant women who have not seen a dentist in 12 months or more.

"The association between oral health and systemic health is consistently demonstrated in clinical studies, and the findings are positively impacting the treatment and management of patients," said Mary Lee Conicella, DMD, national director of clinical operations for Aetna Dental. "Yet, at least 20 percent of an at-risk population is not getting regular preventive dental treatment. This number rises to 35 percent in older populations."

Aetna Dental launched its DMI program in 2006 following a published research analysis it conducted with Columbia University College of Dental Medicine that found that high-risk individuals who sought earlier dental care lowered the risk or severity of their condition and, subsequently, lowered their overall medical costs. A 2008 internal analysis performed by Aetna proved that these results have been sustained.

"It is the right combination of automation and education that enabled us to impact such a significant number of members," said Alan Hirschberg, head of Aetna Dental. "Aetna's technology makes it possible for us to automatically identify members by condition, gender and age. With that information we can make our educational outreach relevant and meaningful. We know the program will only work if our members take advantage of it."

Aetna's DMI program is offered at no additional charge to plan sponsors with an existing Aetna medical plan in conjunction with any of Aetna's dental plans (DMO, DPPO, or Dental Indemnity). Aetna has also incorporated educational content into existing disease management programs for chronic conditions.

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References available from company upon request.