ReachOut Healthcare America
2550 W. Union Hills Dr., Suite 202
AS SEEN IN THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/25/12
CEO of ReachOut Healthcare America Responds to The Arizona Republic
When I joined ReachOut Healthcare America in January of this year as the CEO, I never imagined having to defend the wonderful mission and long-standing track record of my company and the mobile dental practices it supports in caring for under-served children.
However, after reading Ken Alltucker’s recent article (Mobile Dental Clinics Drawing Scrutiny, 8/19/2012) and editorial (Dental Clinics Merit Scrutiny, 8/21/2012) written by The Arizona Republic Editorial Board which includes the CEO and Publisher, I felt compelled, on behalf of ReachOut’s employees, the many dedicated dentists and dental team members with whom we are affiliated and, of course, all the school administrators, district officials, and hundreds of schools nurses and teachers that have embraced and endorsed this school-based mobile dental program over the last decade, to set the record straight. I was particularly disappointed by the misleading and inaccurate statements that are not representative of the needed care provided to over 200,000 patients who have been seen in more than 500 Arizona schools in the past 10 years by 100+ local independent dentists working for dental practices that receive administrative and business services from ReachOut.
Since the article and editorial were published, we have received support from numerous superintendents, principals, teachers and nurses. A number of our largest districts representing over 250 schools have expressed their support for this in-school dental program and concern over the manner in which it was portrayed by The Arizona Republic. Let me share just one example of the positive support we have received, from the second largest school district in the state:
The article and editorial comments/accusations are based largely on one disputed patient visit that took place at a Camp Verde school in October of 2011. As we shared with The Republic reporter, we are prohibited from commenting on the details of any particular matter due to patient privacy laws (HIPAA). This is a matter that will be resolved through the legal system and it is only fair to await that outcome before making one-sided accusations. Nevertheless, I’d like to emphasize that the dentists I’ve had the good fortune of observing and meeting in Dr. Ralph Green’s practice have big hearts and do excellent work. They choose to do this work because they want to help these children. They care deeply about their safety and well-being.
10+ Years Dedicated to Arizona's Children
Any suggestion that ReachOut and the in-school dental practice of Dr. Ralph Green is a “scam” is absolutely untrue. This is an outrageous and unfounded allegation to make, especially for the many dentists that have devoted themselves to caring for children that have been largely left behind by the traditional fixed site delivery system. The article and editorial referred to ReachOut billing AHCCCS some $12.5 million over the past two years. Let’s put that into perspective:
Dr. Green’s mobile dental teams provided care to over 100,000 patients during that time period or on average 15 children per school day per visit. The vast majority of these procedures are preventive services (e.g. exam, cleaning, fluoride treatment, sealants) and fillings.
The article began by saying the dentists dispatched to these schools perform x-rays, root canals and fit crowns on low-income children. This is misleading. As is pointed out later in the article, root canals and crowns represent only 1.3% of all procedures performed by the dental practices with which we are associated. Furthermore, ReachOut, and the dental practices we support, have no contests, bonuses, or quotas for particular dental procedures. We voluntarily cooperated with Senators Grassley and Baucus in their inquiry into a number of companies referenced in the article, and we provided to them information demonstrating that the dental practices we serve do not provide the type of unnecessary services with which the Senators are concerned.
There also continues to be much confusion with respect to what ReachOut does and does not do. ReachOut does not perform any type of dental work, it does not treat patients, and it in no way influences the type of care that is performed. Here is what ReachOut does do: The company handles the voluminous back-office paperwork for independent mobile dental practices that contract with it to allow dentists to do what they do best – take care of patients. ReachOut is an administrative services organization that manages such things as coordinating with schools, obtaining patient consent, scheduling, supply procurement, billing and collections, accounting and so on – all on behalf of the dental practices.
Sorely lacking by The Republic is any mention of the national pediatric oral health crisis that is taking place right now in the U.S. According to the Pew Charitable Trust, every year more than 16 million children do not see a dentist. The Pew Center also found that in Arizona, 60% of the children enrolled in Medicaid don’t receive any dental care due largely to a number of barriers to accessing care (e.g. transportation, language, geography, and so on) and gave the state a “C” on its dental report card.
The Kaiser Commission (Oral Health in the US: Key Facts, June 2012) notes that the lack of access to dental care results in complications such as chronic conditions, pain, growth and social development, nutrition problems, late detection of oral cancers, loss of teeth, missed school days and work, and expensive emergency room use for preventable conditions. School-based mobile dentistry has made huge strides in solving this chronic, preventable problem which was described as a “silent epidemic” of dental and oral diseases by Dr. David Satcher, former Surgeon General under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
ReachOut enables the dentists that use our back-office services to visit schools in underserved communities rather than spend time filling out paperwork. More importantly, millions of children (tens of thousands in Arizona) do not go to a fixed-site clinic to seek care and therefore do not receive any care if mobile dental teams don’t go to the schools. That is the major point that seems to have been lost in a rush to judgment, and the reason this program plays such a valuable role in the future health and lives of these children.