As part of the IOHA long-term initiative of leading efforts to integrate oral health into primary care settings across the state, we uncovered the need for a managed process that would help medical and dental providers connect their patients to appropriate care. With this concept in mind, we have embarked on the creation of a statewide bi-directional medical-dental closed-loop referral network that addresses both access and prevention issues.

We believe that the IOHA Referral Network will improve access to high-quality healthcare because our system will give medical and dental providers a managed and professional referral resource to help their patients. We expect our efforts to encourage inter-professional communication and expand the “team” that is charged with the whole health of our citizens. The IOHA Referral Network provides referrals for any patient not covered by dental Medicaid. Idaho has a robust dental Medicaid referral process, but our state lacks a managed referral system that bridges the divide between medical and dental providers.

The Test Phase of the IOHA Referral Network began on April 1, 2019, with a handful of medical providers and volunteer dentists who are helping test the concept, processes, and expectations of the network. Over the next year, we will move from Test Phase to Pilot Phase by expanding our geographic area, formalizing processes, and recruiting more medical and dental providers.

The IOHA Referral Network is owned and operated by the Idaho Oral Health Alliance and is accessible only to medical and dental providers who have signed participant agreements with the IOHA and agree to comply with Network operating guidelines and expectations. There is no IOHA fee for patients, and while there is also no fee for providers who participate, we hope each will join as an IOHA organizational member.

We expect that, by creating this system, we will remove a significant barrier to oral health integration, enhance access to preventive care, and help our healthcare providers work together for the overall health of their patients and that of our communities.

Interested in applying to become a referring provider as the Pilot Phase expands? Contact Jennifer Wheeler, Executive Director, IOHA, jwheeler@idahooralhealth.org