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California Expands the Virtual Dental Home

California has enacted a new law (Assembly Bill 1174) that expands the virtual dental home, an innovative program.

California has enacted a new law (Assembly Bill 1174) that expands the virtual dental home, an innovative program that uses telehealth technology to bring dental services directly to patients in community settings. Delivery of oral care in such settings, including preschools, elementary schools, and nursing homes, is needed to meet the growing number of Americans who are now eligible for dental services under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Under California law, dental hygienists and dental assistants are now able to perform preventive care in community settings, with patient information delivered electronically for review by an off-site dentist. The dentist can then authorize community-setting-based clinicians to perform additional services, such as placing temporary fillings, or provide a referral to a dentist. Lawmakers had argued that California residents with limited access to dental services will fare best from implementation of the virtual dental home.

“Pilot programs of the virtual dental home are already improving access to care at dozens of sites throughout the state,” said Shelly Gehshan, director of children’s dental policy at Pew Charitable Trust, which was part of the coalition supporting the bill. “The state’s action will allow the program to grow and serve even more people who are going without care.” Not only does the law expand the scope of practice for clinicians, it also ensures payment for telehealth- enabled dental services under California’s Medicaid program.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. November 2014;12(11):16.

 

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