We know that oral health is indistinguishably linked to overall wellness, but despite this well-documented fact, visits to a medical doctor rarely include any questions about oral health. Ignoring the interrelationship between medical and dental health can result in undiagnosed illnesses and diseases, causing long-term patient suffering, as well as social and financial ramifications.
The chasm between the disciplines has deep roots in our society and has existed since at least 1765 with the establishment of our nation’s first medical school, the College of Philadelphia, which excluded dentistry. In fact, the first science-based curriculum in dentistry was not established until 1840 when the University of Maryland became the first school in the world to offer it.
Thankfully, things are changing and groups like Aria Care Partners are breaking down the barriers of the past. Group Dentistry Now recently sat down with the onsite geriatric ancillary medical services provider to gain a deeper understanding of their model and the dental medical integration landscape.
GDN: Aria Care Partners is a provider of onsite ancillary medical services (oral, vision, and hearing) within a skilled nursing environment. Can you briefly explain your model?
ACP: Aria Care Partners (ACP) believes every senior deserves access to the highest quality care, when and where they need it—without having to leave their resident facility. That’s why we offer a full range of onsite dental, vision, and hearing services and budget-friendly insurance plans that help enrich the quality of life for seniors living in skilled nursing and long-term care communities.
Our model is simple. After the necessary paperwork is complete, there is an educational outreach to the families and residents introducing them to our dental, vision, and hearing services. Then Aria’s Care Advocates proactively reach out to the families to answer any questions and help them with enrollment. Once a resident is enrolled in one of our care programs, our clinical team works with the facility to schedule the dental, vision, and hearing visits as well as the treatment plans. All these services are provided onsite by specially trained clinicians to deliver the care.
We understand the importance of providing a positive resident experience, which is why we act as an extension of the community’s care team, striving to provide expert service with compassion and personalized attention.
GDN: Aria seems to emphasize the connection between dental, vision, and hearing services to resident health and well-being. How are your onsite services coordinated?
ACP: Aria does emphasize the connection between these services because they are linked to quality of life for seniors, which is why it is so important to us that we are offering all seniors an opportunity to receive the most essential ancillary care onsite.
All of Aria’s onsite dental, vision, and hearing services are managed by an exceptional in-house clinical team. This team coordinates care for residents in over 25 states. The clinical team works with the skilled nursing facilities and Aria’s care providers to schedule the on-site visits and ensure care is delivered. Keeping our patients informed and on a regular schedule of preventative care and treatment means we keep their ears, eyes, and mouth healthy to help enrich their quality of life.
GDN: What dental services are provided onsite?
ACP: Aria offers a full range of onsite dental services, whether a resident has their natural teeth or dentures. Our dental services include preventative, restorative and denture care. Aria’s dental care team will provide exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments. As needed, we can also do onsite extractions and fillings. For seniors with dentures, we provide professional cleaning, denture maintenance, adjustments, relines, as well as fabricate complete and partial dentures. Whether a resident has dentures or their natural teeth, we provide exams, oral cancer screenings and guidance for facility caretakers regarding oral hygiene and considerations with medications, patient abilities and conditions affecting oral health. Good oral care is vital to maintaining health and well-being; prolonging functional dentition is important for nutrition and enjoyment of meals; patient comfort and confidence is important in maintaining socialization.
GDN: Aria Care Partners began 20 years ago. You now provide a collaborative partnership with 3,500 + skilled nursing facilities. How has industry and care delivery evolved over the past two decades?
ACP: The industry has changed significantly in the past two decades. Twenty years ago, nursing facilities were not offering onsite ancillary services. Most residents had to be transported out of facilities to be seen by a doctor offsite. When Aria started over twenty years ago, we saw an unmet need for oral health in these facilities and from there it has it grown to include vision and hearing services. Two important factors that have had a major impact on our care delivery are technology and information sharing. The advances in these two areas have meant faster onboarding of facilities and patients, better imaging and diagnostic capabilities, new tools for sharing and securing medical information, and the ability for our doctors to go onsite at a facility and still easily access all of Aria’s resources.
GDN: How does your insurance program work and how does your program benefit the nursing home as well as the patient and their families?
ACP: Aria offers many insurance plans at no cost to the facilities. And for qualifying Medicaid residents (with income) there are no net out-of-pocket costs. For Medicaid residents (with income), we work with the facility to reduce their rent by the value of their policy and then Medicaid reimburses the facility for that amount, which means they get exceptional onsite dental, vision, and hearing care at no net additional cost. For other residents, we offer a private pay option that gets them the same great service and care but without the rent reduction.
Our programs have many benefits for the skilled nursing and long-term care communities. For the facilities, the biggest thing we help with is ensuring they are compliant with state and federal regulations. Oral health has been mandated as a necessary component of quality of life that nursing facilities must ensure is being met. Additionally, we provide exam status reports, individual chart notes, treatment plans, quarterly resident reporting, and monthly census reconciliation. Aria proactively identifies health risk factors, provides a dedicated support team for their staff, and most importantly provides compassionate care to their residents.
For patients and their families, onsite care is extraordinarily convenient. For seniors in these facilities, mobility and freedom to travel are huge concerns. Most are not self-mobile so going offsite for ancillary care becomes tremendously challenging and often significantly more time-consuming. Aria’s services are also life-affirming. Vision care ensures mobility and awareness of surroundings. Hearing care ensures that seniors keep the ability to be social and engaged. Oral health care ensures that, among other things, the senior is still able to eat.
GDN: What services does your care management team provide to simplify insurance and billing for your patient base?
ACP: Aria’s insurance team acts as an extension of the facility care team, answering questions and providing ongoing proactive support for residents and families. Just like our medical services, paperwork, billing, and general policy management are managed by Aria too.
GDN: What is your vision for the future of senior care?
ACP: Aria has a fantastic foundation on which we are always building. In 2023, Aria plans to extend audiology coverage to all our markets and expand podiatry coverage. After that, we’ll be looking at adding additional service lines. Ultimately, we want to be the premier provider of all ancillary care needs for seniors living in skilled nursing and long-term care communities. Regardless of where Aria goes, our mission will never change, to enrich the quality of life for seniors so they can get the most out of their lives.
Aria Care Partners key executives:
- John Griscavage – Chief Executive Officer
- Heidi Pantazis, D.M.D., M.S. – Chief Medical Officer for Dentistry
- John Rosenbaum – Chief Compliance Officer
- Doug Streifel, O.D. – Chief Medical Officer for Optometry
- Michelle Sporn, Au.D., ABAC – Chief Medical Officer for Audiology
- Mary Anne McLaren – Chief Financial Officer
- Bryan Johnson – Vice President of Sales & Marketing
- Ben Nelson – Vice President of Operations
- Anthony Miranda – Vice President of Strategy and Information Technology