When it comes to addressing systemic barriers to healthcare, there’s a real opportunity for companies to get creative about the intersection of professional development and community impact. For a lot of years, TAG – The Aspen Group – has had two separate workstreams – a community giving program called the Healthy Mouth Movement that provided free dental care to deserving military veterans, as well as a comprehensive suite of learning and development programs designed to help providers advance their clinical skills.
Two months ago, we brought those two initiatives together in a powerful new model that is not only industry-leading, but will bring huge benefits to at-risk communities in our hometown of Chicago, with the opening of the TAG Oral Care Center for Excellence, a 25,000 sq ft, state-of-the-art clinic operated by a team of dentists and dental support staff who will deliver much- needed comprehensive dental care to thousands of qualifying patients each year.
In addition to providing free dental care, the TAG Oral Care Center will provide top-tier clinical development opportunities for providers across the TAG network in a unique model that’s paving the way for a brighter future.
Companies that wish to implement successful training plans will begin building programs now that incorporate CSR initiatives focusing on both building long-term organizational value and addressing healthcare disparities. We believe deeply in this model – investments in community development programs are central to our broader strategy of breaking down barriers and bringing better care to more people.
This holistic approach will have a measurable impact on our community, as well as the providers we support, who will learn the best new technologies and advanced clinical therapies that patients otherwise might not have access to.
TECHNOLOGY AND CLINICAL TRAINING
With research and technology in the dentistry world constantly evolving our field of work, most organizations understand the need to constantly develop their employees to not get left behind by competitors. However, it goes deeper – professional development also improves employee quality of life while at work by making day-to-day tasks easier and building confidence in their work product. Companies can help develop their team’s abilities by providing them access to the tools and accreditations required to enhance their skills and careers.
At the same time, by equipping providers to leverage new technologies, we can reduce the turnaround time for clinical treatments and simultaneously reduce the cost burden on the patients. For example, 3D printing can speed up the time to produce the materials needed for a prosthetic like an implant or a denture, taking care of the patient on the day they come in, versus dragging out the process for weeks.
It’s also important to consider the time and mental space it takes for doctors and teams to identify areas of interest for career growth, and research the best channels to learn and achieve that growth. In the spirit of taking care of the people who care for the patients, one way we’ve addressed this at TAG is by providing clinicians across the network with access to hundreds of hours of education over the scope of their career. Many of these hours can now be completed at the Oral Care Center while helping thousands of underserved patients. It is our goal to ensure that office team members across the network are qualified for the path of their choosing in a way that supports the broader goal of bringing more – and better – care to more people.
BUILDING TRUST WITH PATIENTS
While many people understand functional barriers to dental care, like the cost of care and the availability or accessibility of care, many forget to consider the emotional barriers that prevent people from going to the dentist. As in, fear of the dentist, fear of pain, or fear of the expense. Not to mention, patients who have delayed care also carry a lot of shame and are afraid of being judged. At TAG, that means we place an emphasis on ensuring that providers are able to connect chairside with patients in a way that breaks down barriers and builds trust.
As providers, the most meaningful experiences we have with patients are those who come in with a wall up, and we slowly see that wall come down over the course of their visit as they start to feel comfortable and confident with the doctor and the team. It’s life changing, and it’s incredibly rewarding.
At the end of the day, all of us across the industry share a responsibility to expand access to quality care and improve overall healthcare outcomes. Combining CSR initiatives with strategic professional development initiatives that create greater access to care will close this gap in both the short and long term. By developing more doctors and supporting teams, we’ll be better equipped as a collective industry to address the persistent needs of patients from every background and community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Arwinder Judge, DDS, is the chief clinical offer for Aspen Dental where he leads development and implementation for the programs that support dentists who own and operate offices across the Aspen Dental network. Dr. Judge serves as a clinical liaison to 3,800 providers across the country, providing professional development, support, and mentorship to dentists at various stages of their careers — from recruiting and onboarding new dentists to experienced professionals looking to grow their practices.