New Anthem tool helps bridge the medical-dental divide

By Theresa Pablos, DrBicuspid.com associate editor

August 12, 2019 -- Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has launched an online tool that gives dentists access to a patient's medical history and current prescriptions. The tool is the first step to better integrate dentists into Anthem's medical ecosystem.

Anthem designed the Dental Patient Health History portal to help dentists manage chronic conditions, improve patient outcomes, and, hopefully, reduce costs. It includes a list of prescription medications, medical diagnostic codes with explanations, and lab test results.

Jeff Spahr, MBA
Jeff Spahr, MBA, vice president for specialty business development, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

"We want to help the dentist understand more about the health of the member walking through their door," Jeff Spahr, MBA, vice president for specialty business development, told DrBicuspid.com. "This is the first step to a much richer opportunity to connect the dentist into the broader healthcare system."

The tool stemmed from conversations the Anthem team had with optometrists, who noted the health history form patients fill out at their first visit was usually not updated over time. The portal provided a way for the optometrists to get updated patient information and better tailor their care.

When Anthem turned its focus to dentists, the company heard a lot of the same concerns. Both dentists and optometrists wanted prescription medication information, in particular, because pharmaceuticals affect oral and eye health.

"Whether you're a dentist or a primary care physician or an optometrist -- wherever you sit, at the end of the day, that's the face of healthcare to a member," Spahr said. "That's the trusted provider. We want to help them with the right information."

Anthem built the Dental Patient Health History portal directly into the company's benefit and insurance information platform. When a dentist searches for the benefits for an Anthem preferred provider organization (PPO) member, they can also see the patient's health history and current medications.

The tool also provides clinical alerts for conditions the dentists should be aware of, such as if a patient is pregnant or has diabetes or cancer.


Click image to enlarge.

Screenshot of the Dental Patient Health History portal. Image courtesy of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.


Screenshot of the Dental Patient Health History portal. Image courtesy of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

"Those are all useful pieces of information that a dentist can be aware of that may have an impact on what they're seeing in that patient's mouth," Spahr said. "For example, if somebody has cancer and they're going through chemotherapy, that has the potential to decrease saliva."

“We want to help the dentist understand more about the health of the member walking through their door.”
— Jeff Spahr

Historically, dentists and dental benefit companies have been isolated from the rest of medicine, and, as of now, the tool is relatively unique in the dental industry. However, Spahr thinks that's likely to change.

"As people understand the advantages of treating the whole person and the value of clinical integration, there's only a handful of working organizations that can do that," he said. "We're happy to be a leading organization in this respect, but we think it's going to become more common for organizations that can do this."

The portal is currently available to dentists in Anthem's PPO network. Spahr stressed that it's only the first step of bringing dentists into the larger healthcare picture.

"This is an opportunity to develop a much richer dialogue with dentists," he said. "This is a tool and a capability that we will continue to invest in because we want the dentist to be part of the healthcare ecosystem and helping to care for their patients."


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