Pacific Dental Services Partners with Commonwealth Primary Care ACO to Improve Health Outcomes and Reduce Medical Expenses of ACO’s Medicare Patient Population

First-of-its-kind partnership will leverage medical-dental care integration to improve health outcomes and reduce medical expenses for the ACO’s patient population in Arizona.

IRVINE, CALIF. Jan. 25, 2022 – Pacific Dental Services® (PDS), one of the nation’s leading dental support organizations, today announced a new, innovative partnership with Arizona-based accountable care organization (ACO) Commonwealth Primary Care ACO (Commonwealth) with the goal of reducing the medical expenses and improving the overall health of the ACO’s patient population in Arizona. Through the initial phase of the partnership, both parties will prioritize medical-dental care integration so that patients within Commonwealth’s network who are diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes will receive proper oral healthcare and periodontal therapy as part of their clinical treatment plan. Eventually, the collaboration will extend to all Commonwealth patients in order to create a model for healthier populations throughout Arizona. 

Diabetes is a major public health concern in the United States, with 34.2 million Americans or 10.5 percent of the population diagnosed with the disease, according to a 2020 analysis produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the American Diabetes Association reported that the cost of diabetes is $327 billion per year for the U.S. healthcare system, and annual health care costs for a person diagnosed with diabetes are 2.3 times higher than for a person without.

Research has shown that the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease is bi-directional, meaning that both diseases and their inflammatory factors, when not treated or controlled, directly affect the other negatively. Additionally, periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes. Recent studies also indicate that treating periodontal disease in patients with high-risk conditions such as Type 2 diabetes can lead to a 40 percent reduction in hospital inpatient admissions, emergency room visits, and overall healthcare spending.

A 2021 report from Kaiser Family Foundation stated that nearly half of Medicare beneficiaries do not have dental insurance and haven’t been to the dentist in the past year. In Arizona, where PDS currently has over 90 supported dental practices, Commonwealth has a network of 24 multispecialty primary care offices and more than 130 independent physicians throughout the state. Of the 10,000 Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who are currently under the care of Commonwealth providers, roughly 25 percent have diabetes and many have no dental insurance. To help address the lack of dental coverage, PDS and Commonwealth are developing a customized dental plan which will be available to Commonwealth’s patients in order to reduce any financial burden that might prohibit them from seeking necessary dental treatment.

Jack Dillenberg, DDS, MPH, Dean Emeritus of A.T. Still University Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, commented on the partnership by saying, “The U.S. healthcare system is still largely siloed with communication misses and gaps in care between health care specialties – especially oral health and primary care – that lead to poor patient outcomes and unnecessary health care costs. This innovative, patient-centric approach between Commonwealth and Pacific Dental Services will enable and promote systematic communication between primary care providers, dentists, and care coordination teams to ensure that patients have access to the care they need.”

The unique partnership between PDS and Commonwealth was finalized in December 2021 and commenced this month. In its initial phase, care coordination will occur between Mesa Modern Dentistry and Orthodontics, a PDS-supported practice owned by Miran Ho, MS, DDS and located at 3440 East Baseline Road, Suite 106, and Velda Rose Medical Center, a practice owned by Mark Goldberg, MD and located at 5252 East Main Street. Both practices are located within five miles of each other in Mesa, Arizona. The collaboration will begin with a focus on Commonwealth’s Medicare Advantage members but will eventually extend to all Commonwealth patients, including those with other co-morbidities. 

“Pacific Dental Services is proud to be a leading voice in advocating for better collaboration between medical and dental professionals in order to improve systemic health outcomes for patients,” said Stephen E. Thorne IV, Founder and CEO of Pacific Dental Services. “In July 2021, we launched Union Village Modern Dentistry and Union Village Medical Group, our first fully integrated medical-dental practice in Henderson, Nevada. This partnership with Commonwealth is another exciting and unprecedented step towards fulfilling the promise of integrated care, enabling individuals with diabetes and periodontal disease in Arizona to receive comprehensive oral health care as part of their chronic disease management.”

Lance Donkerbrook, CEO of Commonwealth, added, “Commonwealth is pleased to partner with Pacific Dental Services to close gaps in care and provide better access for patients in Arizona. Both of our respective organizations have long respected and promoted the coordination of health with the understanding that improving oral health will improve overall health. This novel integrated medical-dental approach is unique because it brings together patient education, care coordination and targeted outreach across our collaborative medical and dental specialties to improve the overall health of the patients under our care.”

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