Coalition of dentists join to improve access to care

2013 11 20 17 55 48 885 Liu Samson 200

A coalition of dentists have formed the Dentists for Oral Health Innovation (DOHI) with the goal of improving access to care in the U.S. The group seeks to expand access to quality, affordable dental care using advancing models and methods.

The coalition comes at a critical time as the U.S. faces a serious gap between patients who have access to dental care and those who don't, noted DOHI President Samson Liu, DDS. As many as 130 million Americans do not have dental insurance, and many face a number of barriers getting oral care.

Samson Liu, DDS.Samson Liu, DDS.
Samson Liu, DDS.

Since its formation a few months ago, DOHI's members include solo practitioners and dentists in group practices. Dr. Liu hopes to recruit labs and manufacturers for the comprehensive effort as well.

Dr. Liu, also the vice president of clinical affairs at Heartland Dental Care in St. Louis, has long participated in free dental clinics and Give Kids A Smile days. As a young dentist, he recalled being disparaged at a meeting of the local dental society because he worked for a corporate practice and for donating his time to treat poor patients.

"I was perceived to be a black sheep because I worked for Heartland, so I was automatically less somehow," Dr. Liu explained to DrBicuspid.com. "The dental society president didn't believe dentists should work on Fridays. And if you worked at free dental day clinics, he said it was self-serving, because it makes the rest of us look bad," he recalled. "I was young, had no idea, and I was scared. It was just one of those things that left a mark. He never asked how many patients I took care of or congratulated me on giving free dental care."

The group will use progressive systems to handle issues related to human resources, marketing, legal matters, and insurance processing. This will enable dentists to not only meet paperwork requirements, but will also allow them to devote more time to patient care, Dr. Liu said.

“If [dentists] can be more efficient, they can take care of more patients, and that increases access to care.”
— Samson Liu, DDS, president, Dentists
     for Oral Health Innovation

"Doctors really need more support," he noted. "The biggest 'aha' moment for me came when I realized that to increase patient access, you have to increase doctors' access by giving them more support, better information, and better training."

DOHI's themes include advocacy, continuing education, and philanthropy.

Dr. Liu noted that many dentists like to go on continuing education vacation trips. "But how much are they really learning?" he asked. "The better the doctor, the more efficient they are. If they can be more efficient, they can take care of more patients, and that increases access to care."

Dr. Liu mentors other doctors, visits offices, and puts on training classes for dentists. "The reason I'm still at Heartland is I had good mentors," he said.

He also visits third- and fourth-year dental students in the Midwest to let them know about opportunities of affiliating with Heartland. "If you really like oral surgery in school, we have doctors who are very good that the students can shadow or spend a week with," Dr. Liu noted. "It's about learning what other people do and visiting their offices."

More information about the group can be found at oralhealthinnovation.org.

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