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College of Dentistry sees an increase in patients

BY ERICA MAHONEY | AUGUST 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Along with on-going renovations at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, officials are seeing an increase in the number of patient visits but are not concerned with the ability to continue to deliver adequate services.

Michael Kanellis, the UI College of Dentistry’s associate dean for patient care, spoke about the jump in the number of patients at the recent All College Conference on Aug. 8. Kanellis said there has been an increase of 1,500 patient visits compared with last year.

“While that seems like a lot, you have to realize we see approximately 500 patients in our front door every day,” he said. “Fifteen hundred is not alarming, it’s hopeful.”

Kanellis said the climb in the number of patient visits has been a result of the Dental Wellness Plan of Iowa, a program that helps provide dental insurance to residents of the state.

The Dental Wellness Plan was implemented in May under the Affordable Care Act, which was passed by Congress in 2010.

Kanellis said some patients are now available to access dental care through the new insurance program.

“We’re pretty excited that quite a few of these patients that have dental needs are calling the College [of Dentistry] and making appointments,” Kanellis said. “We have the capacity and we’re excited for the additional patients in our clinics.”

However, he said, the college will have to make adjustments as the influx of patients continues.

“That’s just a part of ongoing clinical operations — if we need more things, we order them,” he said. “We’re obviously going to do everything we need to do to make sure we have the appropriate instruments and supplies in order to take care of our patients.”

UI dental student Zach Lindquist said the increase in patients is considered to be very helpful to the dental students as a whole.

“All of our instructors seem to talk of the increased patient load as a good thing, as we will get more experience and more of our required procedures done,” he said.

The UI dental school isn’t the only one to see an increase in patient visits.  The University of California-San Francisco’s School of Dentistry has seen an increase in patient visits of 4 percent and a 42 percent increase in the number of patients who are covered under insurance.

Denti-Cal is one of the benefits provided under Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program that provides needed healthcare services for low-income individuals.

Marc Fredson, director of marketing and communications for the San Francisco dental school, said the number of people taking advantage of insurance is a change from the past.

“It used to be that the vast majority of patients were ‘cash-only,’ but we’ve seen a significant number of patients who are now covered through Denti-Cal,” he said.

Kanellis said he is optimistic the trend will continue.

“We’re still very hopeful that these patients will continue seeking care at the College of Dentistry because our students need the experience and we love having them here,” he said. “We’ll do everything we need to do to keep up with the instruments and supplies.”


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