Q-and-A: DQA Virtual Conference keynote speaker addresses health equity through disruption

Dr. Anthony

Can disruption have the potential to eradicate disparities and promote health equity?

The 2021 Dental Quality Alliance’s Virtual Conference, themed Disruption for Change: The Impact on Oral Health Care, will tackle that question when it is held from 9 a.m. to noon Central time May 19-21.

Speakers for the conference include a former secretary of Health and Human Services along with various thought leaders from the health care landscape. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the disruptive forces within the health care system, especially with the sweeping changes in the past year and their impact on health outcomes.

The closing keynote speaker is Renaisa S. Anthony, M.D., who is personally and professionally dedicated to achieving health equity by improving the health and lives of underserved and low-resourced communities through medicine, public health, policy and technology as a social entrepreneur.

Prior to launching her own consulting and start-up companies — MOMentum Park and Womentum MD — she served as the deputy director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities and was a founding faculty of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for over seven years.

The ADA News conducted a series of questions and answers with Dr. Anthony in advance of the conference, with registration still open.

Q: How can patient-centeredness promote health equity?

A: Patients are more than their diagnosis or anatomy and represent a total individual with physical, mental, social and other factors that influence overall well-being. We know that the social determinants of health are predictive of health outcomes. Patient-centered care is as equally essential as quality and culturally considerate care when it comes to promoting health equity. Patient-centered approaches establish rapport and build trust where patients and providers have shared decision making with the optimal goal of health and well-being.

Q: What are social determinants of health and how can dentists account for them in the individualized care they provide to patients?

A: Social determinants of health represent social factors that are directly or indirectly correlated to health outcomes. Social determinants of health include education, zip code, marital status, income, etc. Some are modifiable like zip code, and others are not, like race. Dentists and all providers should consider social determinants of health for they impact overall treatment plans, compliance and outcomes. Consider a patient who is diagnosed with periodontal disease and two dental caries requiring a crown and filling. The dentist automatically books the patient for two separate visits. The ability for the patient to comply or to choose the crown vs. filling is based on multiple social determinant factors including time availability, work status, insurance status, income, transportation, child care needs, health literacy and more. Understanding a patient’s social determinants of health allows for true partnership for the better outcomes.

Q: How can we best leverage the current focus on social justice to advance the cause of health equity and make a substantial dent in ongoing health disparities?

A: The focus on social justice extends beyond just justice but includes racial/ethnic equity. We all have a role in ensuring our country lives up to our highest standards and that vision is afforded to all. As health care providers, our voices, opinions and stories matter. Local, state and federal policies are influenced by the stories of the people. As providers you can start with the policies where you work. What is your onboarding process and how do team members feel included and heard and share in decision making? This includes from the director level to those who clean supplies. Once you create an ecosystem in the workplace that values diversity, inclusion, equity and justice, it is much easier to deploy efforts beyond the office to your patient population, community and overall society.

Q: What does the word “disruption” mean to you, and how can disruptive innovations have the potential to improve disparities and promote equity in oral health care?

A: Disruption is one of my favorite words, and I am a proud disrupter. I define it simply as a diversion from the status quo with the intentionality, mission and vision of vast improvement from the baseline. Disruptive innovations have the potential to eradicate disparities and promote equity in not just oral care but every sector since patients are more than their dentition. Disruption can happen on different levels, scales and environments. Again, start within your own ecosystem. How are you leveraging the latest technology, incorporating social determinants of health into your practice, leveraging data from electronic medical records or ensuring patients have proper and timely follow-up? Identify areas in need of improvement that can have the greatest impact on patients and collectively identify ways to disrupt the status quo. This is the first step to becoming a proud disrupter, too.

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