American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine Accreditation Committee chair explains four key benefits dentists can achieve by accrediting their dental sleep medicine practice.
Over the last 25 years, there has been methodical and strategic growth of the dental sleep medicine field. Dentists have commissioned research studies, built a library of case studies, and formed a professional organization in the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM). Dental sleep medicine’s efforts to “walk the walk” with the medical community are the reason so many now recognize oral appliance therapy as a valid and proven treatment for those who cannot comply with CPAP.
While the field continues to make broad strides, a challenge facing dental sleep medicine is determining the best way to showcase the competency of an individual dentist or dental practice. The answer is a recognized accreditation program. Across medical industries, accreditation programs are universally the accepted path for doctors to showcase their commitment to high standards and best practices. A variety of accreditors exist to help a physician prove to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as well as local and national regulatory bodies, that his or her practice has the specific competency and credentials in a specific field to provide proper patient care. What many practitioners don’t realize is the field of dental sleep medicine has an accreditation program: American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine Facility Accreditation distinguishes a dental practice, including the director and staff, as providing exceptional care and functioning at a high level of proficiency and professionalism.
Building upon the foundation of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) Diplomate Certification—which validates that a dentist has the technical skill, knowledge, and professional judgement to provide optimal oral appliance therapy care—the newer Facility Accreditation goes a step further to verify that the entire dental practice upholds high standards of patient care. To acquire Facility Accreditation, the facility’s dental director must be an ABDSM Diplomate or be a dentist who has attained 30 continuing education credit hours, of which 20 are in dental sleep medicine, in the past 3 years (only the dental director must meet one of these two criteria). Accredited facilities are positioned to build relationships with medical colleagues, increase patient referrals, maximize office efficiency, and more easily navigate medical insurance. The first dental practice earned AADSM Facility Accreditation in 2011.
The AADSM Facility Accreditation program secures for a dental practice four key benefits:
1. Stronger Dentist/Physician Partnerships
Any and all credentials are a tool for strengthening the referral relationship between the sleep physician and the sleep dentist. Credentials assure both sleep physicians and patients that they can be confident in the care that will be provided. If the ABDSM Diplomate credential is a “diploma” of sorts for the dentist, the AADSM Facility Accreditation is then the “seal of approval” for the entire office. The term “accreditation” is part of the medical lexicon and it is highly regarded. When dentists take the time to get their facility accredited by the AADSM, physicians should and do take notice, and, in my experience, they often then refer more patients. My AADSM Facility Accreditation is a reflection of not only my competence but the competency of my staff, and has strengthened my working relationship with multiple physicians.
2. Improved Office Operations
The process of obtaining accreditation requires the dentist to evaluate paperwork, billing codes, management systems, patient experiences, and every aspect of a facility’s procedures. Benchmarking a dental practice’s current process against Facility Accreditation standards allows the dentist to more easily institute the best staff guidelines and patient protocols. Once I started the process, I recognized changes I could implement to make my practice run more efficiently. The efficient systems not only affect the bottom line but, more importantly, improve the patient experience.
3. Better Insurance Management
The current structure of medical insurance creates challenges for many dentists treating sleep apnea patients with oral appliance therapy. AADSM Facility Accreditation provides third-party validation that an office meets standardized guidelines, follows rigorous protocol, and has procedures in place to address any problems a patient may incur with oral appliance therapy. This recognition better qualifies dental practices for acceptance by medical insurance companies and helps support fair reimbursement for dental sleep medicine services.
4. Competitive Advantages
The AADSM provides accredited facilities a wealth of resources, ongoing professional development, and promotional tools to help attract new patients. Upon accreditation, facilities receive an Accreditation Certificate, web and print permission rights for the AADSM-accredited facility logo, and listing on the AADSM Accreditation webpage. In addition, dental directors of accredited facilities are given priority ranking on the “Find a Dentist” locator on the AADSM website, a tool patients and physicians use to find dentists who provide oral appliance therapy in their geographic area.
In 2016, the AADSM is offering a substantial discount to practices submitting an application for Facility Accreditation: a $500 discount on application fees and a $200 credit for those who purchase the AADSM’s template policy and procedure manual.
AADSM Facility Accreditation has proven invaluable to my practice—assuring patients, medical professionals, and reimbursement decision makers that my staff and I uphold the highest professional standards and provide optimal care.
Patricia Braga, DDS, is the chair of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) Accreditation Committee and an American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) Diplomate. She has been providing oral appliance therapy for 12 years as a partner of Cahill Dental Care of Inver Grove Heights, Minn, and recently begin limiting her practice to offering dental sleep medicine services.