Health Care Vitals: Boston

Nov 1, 2019 | Newsroom

The Axios roundtable this past Wednesday in Cambridge. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

On Wednesday, Axios' Sam Baker hosted an Expert Voices Live roundtable in Cambridge, MA on health care access and affordability in the state.

Local leaders in academia, community health and health tech discussed the challenges of an increasingly fragmented health care industry, the importance of integrating dental and medical education, and the shared goal of reaching low-access communities.

Fragmentation in care

Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, Chief Impact Officer at DentaQuest, in conversation at the Axios roundtable. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

A significant portion of the conversation was dedicated to discussing the challenges of fragmented health care services and how to incorporate oral health into the broader conversation around health care.

  • Myechia Minter-Jordan, Chief Impact Officer at DentaQuest, on looking at the models of integrating mental health: "We're finally moving the needle on that. [We can] apply these lessons to oral health...We see that it works, and the time is now. We have enough advocacy at all levels."
  • Michael Apkon, President and CEO at Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children, on comparing the Canadian health care system to the American: "[In Canada] the system is designed around social justice. The government works actively to address rural health and integration between primary and specialty care...The architecture of [the US health care] system is designed to perpetuate a fee for service...We don’t do macro innovation well."

Integrating medical and dental education

Dr. R. Bruce Donoff, Dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, on Wednesday morning. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

The role that education plays in expanding the knowledge base of medical and dental care providers alike was a focal point in the discussion.

  • Paula Milone-Nuzzo, President and John Hilton Knowles Professor at MGH Institute of Health Professions, on inter-professional education: "We don’t teach the integration of oral health with regular health. We’ve brought that closer together, but it’s not where it needs to be...Teaching people together will make a significant change."
  • Dr. R. Bruce Donoff, Dean of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine at Harvard Medical School, on the importance of teamwork and the limited bandwidth of medical students: "You need [medical professionals] who are newly trained, who always think of oral health. Right now, medical students don’t have time to learn about oral health."

Reaching patients across barriers

Anh Vu Sawyer, Executive Director at Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, discussing the importance of engaging directly with the community. Photo: Beatrice Moritz for Axios

Developing solutions around access was a frequently analyzed topic — from bridging language and cultural barriers to Americans' demanding working hours that prevent them from accessing care.

  • John Voith, COO and Co-founder at Virtudent, on the current inconvenience of getting people to the dentist: "Of working-age adults, about half don’t use preventative benefits. Why aren’t they using it? 33% cite inconvenience. How do you actually help people who have a very busy lifestyle?"
  • Chien-Chi Huang, Founder and Executive Director at Asian Women for Health, on meeting people where they are: "Access issues are not just about data or coverage. [For example] Asian people have the lowest rates of usage with the highest rate of insurance coverage. There is a cultural-language barrier."
  • Lisa Wolff, Vice President at Health Resources in Action, on the importance of diversifying the medical profession: "Our medical professionals don’t always reflect the patients that they’re serving. Before medical and dental school, we need to try to broaden who is moving into the pipeline."
  • Anh Vu Sawyer, Executive Director at Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, on engaging directly with the community: "Work directly with community-based organizations...It's the most cost-effective and the return of that investment is enormous. It strengthens communities."


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