Evaluation of an integrated oral health program using Tele-dentistry in rural and regional aged care facilities: A mixed method study

Anna Tynan1,2, Lisa Deeth3, Debra McKenzie4, Eilleen Shepherd5, Helen Linnerman6

1Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, Baillie Henderson Hospital, PO Box 405 Toowoomba, Queensland, 4350.  Anna.tynan@health.qld.gov.au
2School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Herston Road, Herston, Queensland, 4006.
3Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, Baillie Henderson Hospital, PO Box 405 Toowoomba, Queensland, 4350. Lisa.Deeth@health.qld.gov.au
4Toowoomba Oral Health Clinic, Toowoomba Hospital, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, 280 Pechey Street, Toowoomba Queensland 4350. Debra.mckenzie@health.qld.gov.au
5Toowoomba Oral Health Clinic, Toowoomba Hospital, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, 280 Pechey Street, Toowoomba Queensland 4350. Eileen.shepherd@health.qld.gov.au
6Toowoomba Oral Health Clinic, Toowoomba Hospital, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, 280 Pechey Street, Toowoomba Queensland 4350.

Background

People living in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) have been identified as a significant risk group for oral disease.  These problems are associated with barriers they encounter accessing adequate dental care including their physical, cognitive and medical impairments.  The purpose of this research was to evaluate the impact of an integrated oral health program using oral health therapists and Tele-dentistry in 8 rural and regional RACFs.

Methods

A mixed method study was conducted.  Chart audits based on RACF oral health guidelines were completed pre and post implementation of the program.  In-depth interviews were completed with RACF staff members with and without access to the integrated program.  A geriatric oral health quality of life was also completed with residents with and without access to the integrated program.

Results

Preliminary results show that RACFs without access to the integrated program, accessing a dentist was difficult due to physical and cognitive limitations of some residents and distance to closest service.  The clinical audit showed an improvement in performance of meeting RACFs’ oral health guidelines at settings with the program.  There were minimal differences between oral health quality of life between residents with access to integrated program compared to those without.  Overall staff observed improvements in managing oral health care needs of residents with the program.

Discussion

The integrated oral health program incorporating Tele-dentistry and visiting oral health therapists improves access to oral health prevention and treatment services, particularly for residents with significant cognitive and physical limitation residing in rural and regional RACFs.

Biography

Lisa is a project manager with the Darling Downs Hospital and Health service.  She has a keen interest in telehealth and the role it has with improving lives of people in the bush.  She is currently undertaking a research project that aims to a model of care that can be adopted in rural residential aged care facilities that is effective for bothresidents and staff, a cost effective program that is based on a cost recovery basis.