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June 16, 2020

It’s Time to Explore Data from your Dental and Vision Benefits - Here’s How

Artemis Health

Did you know that 90% of employers with more than 500 employees provide dental benefits? It’s gone from a nice-to-have little extra to an expectation for most employees. Dental coverage helps attract and retain talent, boost employee satisfaction, and even acts as a key component of a preventive health strategy. 

You’ve probably heard dental and vision coverage described as “voluntary benefits,” a commonly used term in the benefits industry. Essentially, it means that these are programs that employees can elect to pay for through payroll deductions, along with things like additional life insurance, accident coverage, and more. For dental and vision, employers often purchase coverage that acts as a discount plan for employees when they seek care. Preventive visits are covered, but other procedures or things like contact lenses and eyeglasses are charged to the patient at a pre-negotiated rate. 

Benefits and wellness experts know the importance of dental hygiene and how it affects their population’s overall health. Poor dental hygiene can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and infections. The American Academy of Periodontology also suggests that periodontal disease can negatively impact a person with diabetes because it makes it difficult for the body to regulate sugar and can expose a diabetic to chronic complications. Those with these high-cost conditions may benefit from regular preventive dental visits as part of your overall care management strategy.

Vision benefits function in much the same way. Annual eye exams help minimize unwanted healthcare bills because they detect eye disease or injury before the patient suffers vision loss or permanent damage. Vision loss could lead to short-term or long-term disability, which is disruptive not only to the employee’s job and productivity, but also to the organization. A disability claim is far more expensive than a yearly eye exam. 

COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into many patients’ annual checkup schedules. Many employees may be afraid to visit the dentist with infections still rising around the country. It’s important that they’re able to seek emergency care, and the American Dental Association has roll out strict safety guidelines for dental practices to help patients feel safe. 

Benefits advisors and employers will want to track and measure how employees are engaging with dental and vision plans by using healthcare analytics tools and techniques. This will provide a better understanding of whether or not they are functioning as a piece of the preventive care puzzle, identify gaps in care, and alert wellness teams to opportunities for member education. 

Artemis Health’s healthcare analytics platform integrates virtually any data set, including those from dental and vision plans. The Artemis Platform makes it easy for benefits consultants and employers to look deeper into their data, get insights, and take action. 

We’ll focus our analysis on dental claims, but the same steps will work for vision benefits too. Here’s how to get a closer look at dental program engagement using your healthcare and benefits data. 

Step 1: Look at claims by procedure. 

Chart showing dental claims by procedure.

This chart shows sample data around dental visits by the type of procedure. As you can see, the vast majority of claims are for prophylaxis, another term for preventive care. Both adults and children on the plan are visiting the dentist most often for x-rays, cleanings, and checkups. If this were real employer data, it would showcase some good news and some bad. 

The good news is that people on the plan who go to the dentist are doing so proactively and largely have healthy teeth and gums. The bad news is that this is a tiny fraction of the sample member population. In a data set of about 40,000 people, only about 14% of them visited the dentist during the analysis period (1 year). There is definitely room for improved employee engagement with dental visits. 

Step 2: Analyze demographics 

Using a next-generation data solution will help you compare dental and vision claims data to other data sets, like eligibility, medical, Rx, financial, wellness, and more. For our next step, we recommend using eligibility data to look more closely and who in your population is using dental benefits. 

Chart showing demographic data about who goes to the dentist.

You can see in our sample data set that we have a good mix of subscribers (employees), dependents and spouses visiting the dentist. But when we look at the employee type, it’s almost exclusively full-time workers and a majority of salaried employees who engage with dental benefits. This could be indicative of a population health trend. Perhaps more financially secure, full-time salaried workers are comfortable visiting the dentist, while part-time or hourly workers don’t believe it’s in their budgets. If you have 100% coverage on preventive visits and cleanings, this is a great opportunity for benefits teams to educate members on the health benefits and low costs of preventive dental. 

Step 3: Compare with other data types. 

We know from research that cardiovascular disease is correlated with dental health. It’s important when mining dental claims data that you compare it across your other health and wellness data to find more answers. In this example, we’ve run a quick analysis of the number of members with dental claims vs. those with hypertension claims. 

Chart showing dental claims vs. hypertension claims

Artemis allows you to get even more in-depth with data like this, looking at these groups over time using cohorts, or comparing your population to a sample data set with benchmarks. Insights like this will help benefits advisors and their employer clients plan strategies to reach these members, encourage dental health, and measure their progress over time. Most importantly, a data partner can provide a holistic view and fast answers to questions around dental and vision benefits. 

Are you able to look closely at dental and vision claims for your/your client’s member population? Do you have the tools to find answers quickly and create clear visuals that showcase the data? If not, it might be time to look into a data partner that can help you get insights like these. Get in touch with our team if you’d like to learn more. 

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