Washington Update

HRSA Promotes Oral Health Competencies for Primary Care Providers

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In February, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released a new report titled Integration of Oral Health and Primary Care Practice. In addition to delineating a set of oral health core clinical competencies for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physicians and physician assistants who provide primary care in safety net settings, the report makes the following recommendations:

  1. Develop infrastructure that is interoperable, accessible across clinical settings, and that enhances the adoption of the oral health core clinical competencies. The defined, essential elements of the oral health core clinical competencies should be used to inform decision-making and measure health outcomes.
  2. Modify payment policies to efficiently address costs of implementing oral health competencies and provide incentives to health care systems and practitioners.
  3. Execute programs to develop and evaluate implementation strategies of the oral health core clinical competencies into primary care practice.

The agency hopes that the report and its recommendations will “serve as guiding principles and provide a framework for the design of a competency-based, interprofessional practice model to integrate oral health and primary care.” HRSA developed the Integration of Oral Health and Primary Care Practice initiative in response to the Institute of Medicine’s 2011 call for the agency to improve access to oral health care through the development of oral health competencies for health professionals practicing outside the dental arena.

The intent of the HRSA report is to underscore, and begin remedying, the fact that millions of Americans lack access to basic oral health care, including one of out every 16 children in the US because their families are unable to afford it.  HRSA anticipates the report to improve access to early detection and preventive interventions by expanding oral health clinical competency of primary care clinicians, leading to improved oral health. The report’s findings prioritize the identification and cultivation of shared points of opportunity to leverage collaboration and synergy between the provision of oral and primary care.

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