Mobile dental programs are an effective strategy to improve dental health equity in underserved communities. If you are interested in activating a mobile dental program that establishes enduring dental homes for members of your community, here are some questions and answers that you might find helpful:
Q: What is a mobile dental program?
A mobile dental program is a program that expands access to dental care by operating clinics from a mobile medical unit for residents in communities that experience barriers to top-quality clinical services. Often, these patients reside in rural or hard-to-reach geographic areas. Sometimes, another patient community that benefits from this approach may comprise individuals with unique challenges and a shortage of local oral healthcare providers who can meet their specialized requirements—for example, adults with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities or the elderly.
Q: What are the benefits of a mobile dental program?
Mobile dental programs can help improve dental health equity in underserved communities by providing necessary dental services to residents who would otherwise have limited access to care. These programs can also help reduce the cost of care by providing preventive services and early intervention of health issues in the mouth and throughout the body.
A mobile dental program helps establish a ‘dental home,’ which is a concept that emphasizes the importance of creating a relationship between the dentist and the patient. It is designed to provide comprehensive patient-centered oral health care in a way that is safe, culturally sensitive, individualized, continuous, accessible, coordinated, and compassionate.
By establishing a dental home with regular mobile clinics, patients attend regular dental visits and cleanings, preventing dental pain before it starts. And clinicians are more likely to detect serious health issues early, like mouth cancers, for effective treatment. Finally, regular clinic participation can lower the risk of systemic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and dementia.
Q: How do I start a mobile dental program?
Starting a mobile dental program requires careful planning and coordination. You will begin by identifying the needs of your community and then develop a business plan that details operational and logistics requirements, secure funding, and obtain the necessary licenses and permits. You must also secure a mobile dental vehicle or portable dental clinic and hire qualified staff.
Mobile dental clinics held continuously over the long term have an enduring impact on the community. Working with a company like Solvere Health is essential to lasting success because we are experts in delivering repetitive, successful mobile dental clinics directly where the need is. We work with Federal, State, municipal, non-profit, and corporate partners to strategize, plan and execute every minute logistical detail and bring together the exact mix of people, materials, and equipment to stand up comprehensive group health events.
Q: How can I get funding for my mobile dental program?
Several funding sources for mobile dental programs are available, including grants from government agencies and private foundations, donations from individuals and corporations, and revenue from patient fees. Consider partnering with local organizations and businesses to help secure funding for your program. Solvere Health brings decades of expertise in funding and budgeting strategy.
Q: What are some best practices for operating a mobile dental program?
Best practices for operating a Mobile Dental Program:
- Develop partnerships with local organizations and businesses
- Establish authentic and trusted relationships with grassroots and community leaders
- Provide culturally sensitive care
- Offer preventive services and early intervention
- Utilize electronic health records to track patient care
- Provide ongoing training for staff to expand services to underserved individuals
Q: What kind of staff do I need for my mobile dental program?
Mobile dental clinics require cross-functional teams to execute seamlessly. Of course, this means hiring qualified dental professionals, such as dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants, who are culturally sensitive to the community’s needs. But the professionals you choose must also be experienced and comfortable working in a field medicine setting. Mobile dentistry and special-need patients call for think-on-your-feet, adaptable and compassionate clinicians.
Mobile dental clinics also require logistics and operations experts onsite to set up and troubleshoot the event – there are electrical, water, security, sanitary, comfort, and safety details to manage. Finally, clinics require administrative staff to securely handle patient records, schedule appointments, and process billing and insurance claims. Solvere Health has a network of experienced in-field medical and operations professionals to customize a team for each program.
Q: How can I ensure my mobile dental program is accessible to everyone?
To ensure your mobile dental program is accessible to everyone, you can consider partnering with local organizations and businesses to help promote your services. We recommend flexible scheduling options and preparing transportation service recommendations for patients with difficulty traveling to your clinic. We also assess whether multilingual staff will be required to overcome language barriers. Finally, mobile dental clinics should be accessible to patients with limited mobility. Solvere Health regularly works with clients to anticipate and cover any challenges that may restrict access or diminish the patient experience.
Q: What are some common challenges of operating a mobile dental program?
Some common challenges associated with operating a mobile dental program include:
- Limited funding
- Difficulty recruiting qualified staff
- Difficulty reaching underserved populations due to infrastructure and remoteness of the area
- Inexperience in creating a program that can be replicated for enduring impact.
Solvere Health has been mitigating these challenges for clients for almost two decades.
Q: How can I measure the success of my mobile dental program?
To measure the success of your mobile dental program, you can track patient outcomes, such as the number of patients served, the number of procedures performed, and the number of patients who return for follow-up care. You can also track patient satisfaction rates and monitor your program’s financial performance. Our clients often have key performance indicators (KPIs) that they must meet per their funding contracts. Solvere Health works closely with clients early and throughout the partnership to ensure the program is set up for success against metrics.
Q: How can I ensure that my mobile dental program is sustainable?
To ensure that your mobile dental program is sustainable, you must develop a long-term plan that includes strategies for securing funding, recruiting qualified staff, expanding your services (whether the type of care offered or the number of communities reached), and metrics on which to build. Solvere Health has established the playbook for replicating successful mobile dental programs for the long term. For example, the Department of Defense has relied on Solvere Health to support its Reserve Health Readiness Program, operating a comprehensive mobile dental network across 27 states for the past 15+ years.
We hope this content has addressed some of your questions about mobile dental programs. With a strategic approach and experienced guidance, mobile dental programs can improve dental health equity in underserved communities by providing access to preventive healthcare, chronic disease screening and management, and oral health education.
If you want to activate a mobile dental program for your community, we would love to help you make a difference. Contact us today, and let’s get started!