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DELTA DENTAL PLAN OF MINNESOTA TO CONDUCT ONE OF NATION'S FIRST DENTAL OUTCOMES STUDIES

 Results to Support Health Care Reform
 by Documenting Quality, Satisfaction
 MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota has enlisted the assistance of one of its long-time customers, Honeywell, to conduct the first comprehensive health study of dental outcomes in Minnesota. The study is also among the first of its kind in the nation.
 Results of the Dental Outcomes Research Study will help dentists affiliated with Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota provide more efficient, higher quality dental care for employees and their dependents, according to Lisa Tourville, director of actuarial and research for Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota and manager of the outcomes study project. Delta's provider networks include nearly all dentists in Minnesota.
 The three-year study will involve more than 500 randomly selected Honeywell employees and their dependents in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Researchers will compare the change in oral health of two groups of Honeywell employees -- those whose dental care is individualized to meet their specific needs, and those whose care is rendered under the provisions of a traditional dental plan that, for example, limits coverage of X-rays to only once a year.
 As a result of efforts such as this study, "one size fits all" dental coverage may become a thing of the past, according to Mike Walsh, Ph.D., president and CEO of Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota. "Under current benefit plans, all patients receive coverage for the same dental care regardless of their individual needs," Walsh explained. "We think this study will tell us what kinds of patients need more preventive attention and what kinds of patients can do well with less. That knowledge will help us work with our affiliated dentists to tailor practice protocols and benefit plan designs that encourage more appropriate levels of care. Delivering an appropriate level of care is critical to the success of health care reform."
 According to Tom Ireland, D.D.S., dental director for Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota, the study also supports two other important elements of health care reform -- quality of care and patient satisfaction. "The study may determine whether treatment protocols developed by dental providers and applied to groups of patients with similar needs will result in care that provides a higher value to the patient and to the employer who is helping to purchase that care," said Ireland.
 Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota is the first member of the national Delta Dental Plans Association to be undertaking an outcomes study of this scope. "In dental care, as in medical care, Minnesota is on the forefront of the health care reform movement and will serve as an example for other states," Walsh said.
 All Honeywell employees participating in the study will receive an initial oral health assessment. They will be assigned a numerical rating using an oral health index developed by Dr. Marvin Marcus, D.D.S., M.P.H., of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Marcus was brought into the project as a consultant because of his reputation as a pioneer in the development of assessment tools for measuring oral health.
 The participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. The participants in the control group will continue receiving customary preventive and restorative care from their regular dentist, within the provisions of their current fee-for-service dental plan. They will receive no additional education about preventive care.
 The participants in the study group, however, will receive dental care from one of 10 dentists who have agreed to abide by treatment protocols they have developed in conjunction with Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota. Based on these protocols, the dentists will provide what, in their professional judgment, constitutes the most appropriate care for each patient in the study group, regardless of the provisions of their dental plan. Their goal is to bring each patient up to his or her optimal level of oral health, rather than to simply provide the covered services outlined in the patient's dental plan. Patients in the study group will also receive education on preventive dental care.
 At the beginning, midpoint and end of the study period, all patients in both groups will complete two different satisfaction surveys. One, an assessment of their satisfaction with their own level of oral health, was developed at UCLA. The other is a Rand Corporation survey that enables them to rate their satisfaction with their dental provider.
 "Federal and state health care reform plans call for more attention to consumer satisfaction as well as clinical outcomes," Walsh said. "We want to know which approach to dental care both pleases patients and is best for them."
 At the mid-point and end of the three-year study period, all participants will also receive additional oral health screenings.
 Analysis of the study will involve comparing the relative change in oral health index and satisfaction levels for the two groups over the study period.
 Honeywell was a logical partner to provide employees for this study, according to Walsh. "Honeywell is one of our prime customers," Walsh said. "They have always been on the forefront in offering innovative employee benefits."
 John Burns, M.D., Honeywell's medical director, is an active participant in the Business Health Care Action Group (BHCAG), an organization of 20 large employers in the Twin Cities that has pioneered major changes in the structure of health benefits and how employers purchase benefit plans.
 Burns believes the results of the dental outcomes study will quantify the value Honeywell receives from its investment in a traditional dental plan versus a model that encourages optimal, individualized treatment regimes. "The value we are looking for can be expressed as improved oral health for our employees," he said.
 Employers and purchasing coalitions are not just looking for cost savings in their benefit plans -- they're also looking for quality and value, according to Walsh. "In this era of health reform, medical care is being asked to demonstrate affordability and accountability. Because dental care is an important part of health care, we in the dental community must demonstrate this as well through data on clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction," he said.
 An oversight committee composed of Delta Dental and Honeywell management and Marcus has been working on the study design for nearly a year. Participating patients will undergo baseline oral health screenings in November and December and begin receiving dental care as outlined in the study after Jan. 1, 1994. The study period ends Dec. 31, 1996.
 Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota is the state's largest provider of dental coverage. Nearly one million Minnesotans are covered by Delta's managed-care and fee-for-service plans.
 Honeywell employees have been covered by Delta Dental Plans since 1974.
 Honeywell is a global controls company providing products, systems and services that increase comfort, environmental protection, energy conservation, productivity and safety in homes and buildings, industry, and aviation space. The company employs 55,000 people in 95 countries on six continents, and had 1992 sales of $6.2 billion.
 -0- 10/14/93
 /CONTACT: Lisa Tourville of Delta Dental, 612-944-5252, ext. 214, or Kristi Fuller of Colle & McVoy, 612-851-2635/


CO: Delta Dental Plan of Minnesota; Honeywell ST: Minnesota IN: HEA SU:

KL -- CL011 -- 2059 10/14/93 09:21 EDT
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Date:Oct 14, 1993
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