patientsIn a recent post, I shared an article that resonates with me regarding dentists shifting the paradigm from tooth fixers to a business of giving patients what they want – health. Healthcare as an industry has been slowly attempting to create a new identity for years ("Obamacare," Affordable Care Act, Insurance Exchanges, Coordinated Care Organizations, etc.) and, believe it or not, there is some consensus on what it could and should look like. The issue is that the new identity is not just about putting on some new makeup, losing a few pounds and changing jobs. Sadly, even moving to a new city won't quite do it.

It's like an overhaul that starts with the mind and the heart, changing patterns, personal philosophy and finding some new friends to help support the transition unconditionally. And that might take some time.

Flipping the Triangle for Patients

It's almost like flipping a triangle for our patients– a term that has been embraced in healthcare and creates a clear and simple vision of the dramatic change that can and needs to happen for success. Currently in healthcare, a small portion of the total amount of time and resources are invested in prevention, primary care and behavior health changes for patients.

A much larger portion is spent dealing with patients that have chronic illness, advanced testing and specialist care. Sound familiar?

Another term or initiative setting the foundation for this transition is called the Triple Aim: improving the individual experience of care; improving the health of populations; reducing the per capita costs of care for populations.1 In this foundational document by Berwick, et al, the authors note that "…the obstacles are daunting. Among the biggest barriers are supply-driven demand; new technologies including many with limited impact on outcomes; physician-centric care," and that "today's individual health care processes are designed to respond to the acute needs of individual patients, rather than to anticipate and shape patterns of care for important subgroups."

Can you imagine dentistry's version of flipping the triangle for patients? Yes, specialists will always be needed and should be properly compensated. I get it. But if the general dentist was actually compensated for education and prevention, helping people make healthy choices, the triangle would be flipped and we would all be adequately compensated, while supporting the triple aim. Sounds so simple, right? Berwick notes, however that "The pain of the transition state—the disruption of institutions, forms, habits, beliefs and income streams in the status quo—is what denies us."

In my next article, I will continue this discussion and introduce other significant article pertaining to this topic. Stay tuned!


  1. The Triple Aim: Care, Health, And Cost. The remaining barriers to integrated care are not technical; they are political. by Donald M. Berwick, Thomas W. Nolan, and John Whittington. HEALTH AFFAIRS ~ Volume 27, Number 3

Looking for answers to questions posed in this article? Take your questions regarding implementation to a few thousand dentists, including the esteemed Spear faculty, on Spear's discussion boards. Don't have access? Sign-up for free today.