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Programs reflect ADA's member focus

A conversation with the president-elect

October 06, 2014
Photo of Dr. Feinberg and family
Familial ties: Dr. Maxine Feinberg stands with daughter Haley, left, husband John Wynne and daughter Rebecca during the FDI World Dental Federation meeting in Istanbul in 2013. Photo by Sharon Norman
Editor's note: This is the second part of a conversation about issues facing dentistry with Dr. Maxine Feinberg, ADA president-elect, who will be installed as the 151st president of the American Dental Association Oct. 14 in San Antonio. Part 1 was printed in the Sept. 15 ADA News. ADA News Editor Judy Jakush interviewed Dr. Feinberg.

ADA News: The Center for Professional Success is now a year old. How do you view its status?

Dr. Feinberg: The Center is just one of the tremendous assets we offer our members, but, because it is relatively new, our challenge is to find the most effective avenues for communicating the value of the Center. This is an ongoing challenge for all the products and services we offer to members. While the Center has incredible resources for practitioners, it takes time to build awareness. We've exceeded our 2014 goal, achieving more than 31 percent penetration rate to the site among our active members. But I want us to reach 100 percent, so our outreach efforts must continue and expand, just as we continue our efforts to increase the value the Center offers to members.

For example, the Center is offering the new ADA Executive Program in Dental Practice Management. This Web-based program delivers 60 hours of valuable business education using ADA-selected content from the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business and an outstanding roster of highly regarded dental practice management experts.

Another new service is set for launching at the annual meeting this month: The ADA Benefit Plan Analyzer, which is a Web-based application that dentists can use to make an informed decision about future financial practice outcomes that may result from signing managed care agreements. The program will allow dentists to run a series of "what if" financial scenarios in regard to prospective managed care participation.

Also, the Center works with ADA divisions to quickly provide information on timely issues in dentistry, such as the new hydrocodone-containing products regulations and a guide to opting in and out of Medicare.

ADA News: What is a key take-away for members about the ADA Washington Office?

Dr. Feinberg: We do a great job of advocacy. Our duty is to let our members know more about what we do for them every day. What do I mean by that? Every day on Capitol Hill there are ADA staff working in the trenches fighting on our members' behalf. It's not just about the bills that we support that get passed. It's also about the regulations that don't get enacted, and the bills that don't get passed. I credit Mike Graham, Washington Office director, his staff and the people in each state who are doing this work daily, whether in D.C.; Trenton, New Jersey; or Springfield, Illinois. Organized dentistry is out there educating legislators and decision-makers.

ADA News: Relative to the Washington office and advocacy efforts, Medicaid expansion is creating a growing number of patients who are now eligible to receive dental care under the program. Challenges include expectations and regulations concerning compliance and documentation, particularly the RAC (Recovery Audit Contractors) audits. What is the ADA doing to help members deal with this process?

Dr. Feinberg: These RAC audits are very disturbing. There is currently almost no transparency about these audits. Dentists can be blind-sided because they don't know what the rules are or that an audit is underway. Another problem is that the rules vary by state, making it difficult for us to provide a uniform guide.

We testified before Congress this summer describing the challenges these audits present, and we will continue our advocacy on behalf of members. Our aim is to work with states toward administrative changes that will lead to an environment of cooperation and education instead of raising the punitive burden to a level that discourages participation in Medicaid. With the Affordable Care Act and the increased number of children and adults in many states who are covered, it's critical that members know what the rules are.

We know members are trying to do the right thing, and we are going to try to provide the resources they need, state by state.

ADA News: During your time as trustee and this year as president-elect, you have seen changes in the budget process, with an emphasis on the Strategic Plan and on dues stabilization and how it relates to financial stability. Where is the Association now?

Dr. Feinberg: The 2015-2019 Strategic Plan, Members First 2020, puts the focus on members. It's an ongoing process, working to align the financial planning of the Association with the Strategic Plan. We made some fiscal choices that have enhanced our financial stability, which is why we were able to propose a 2015 budget that does not call for a dues increase. We did the same thing last year. This reflects the hard work of the Board and staff to identify the programs and services with the highest member value. In particular, our treasurer, Dr. Ron Lemmo, has done an outstanding job over the last few years, but the process must be further refined. Going forward, decisions should be made using quality data in line with our Strategic Plan. We must ensure that we are able to deliver value to all members, present and future.

What's brilliant about our current Strategic Plan is that it is so simple — a one-page document. I was initially skeptical about strategic planning because the plans usually seemed to be thick volumes of paper that went on a shelf and collected dust. This is a living, breathing document. I support the idea of having an ongoing workgroup of both Board and House members, so that we have broad input throughout the year to keep us on track. For those attending the annual meeting in San Antonio, there is an open forum planned Oct. 10 to present the details of the plan, which is also posted on ADA.org.

ADA News: What's the best-kept secret about the ADA? What do you think members don't understand?

Dr. Feinberg: I think the best-kept secret about the ADA is the staff. You can call the ADA with a question, any question you can imagine, and you will get an answer. People are incredibly knowledgeable, helpful and caring. Members don't realize the level of knowledge and talent housed here at 211 E. Chicago Ave. and in our Washington office. I don't think there is a question that can't be answered about oral health and dentistry. Long before I was involved in governance at the national level, I remember calling for information. I was amazed at how fast someone got back to me and how quickly they got me the information I needed — and how nice they were about it.

When I speak to dentists who have called the ADA, they relate the same experience. I wish every member just once would call the ADA and interact with someone, starting with the person at the Member Service Center who answers the phone.

The best-kept secret is that if you have a problem or complaint, you will likely walk away with a positive experience. And, on the rare occasion that the staff can't help you, there is a good chance that you will speak to Dr. Kathy O'Loughlin, the executive director. That's amazing customer service.

ADA News: The Health Policy Resources Center was relaunched in May as the Health Policy Institute in an effort to position the ADA as a thought leader and trusted source for research, policy and statistics in dentistry. Why is the work of HPI critical? Why does it matter to members that the ADA is doing this research? Are there any topics you'd like to see the HPI tackle?

Dr. Feinberg: The Health Policy Institute is a tremendously effective use of members' dues, providing us with up-to-date data and analysis that helps us plan for the future. We have more objective real world, real time data. This allows us to be more agile in dealing with the current challenges facing the profession, and, frankly, being agile is something the ADA isn't known for. Working with the Institute's information, we are able to refine our strategic plan as we move forward, and base our decisions on solid data and research.
The drop in dental care utilization that the Institute has tracked is one example of data that is informing our decision-making. This drop has been seen particularly in the 25-46 age group, and it's been flat since before the recession. There is so much more that the Institute is looking at, and members can find more analysis and a series of infographics online at ADA.org/hpi.

ADA News: What are your thoughts on ADA efforts like Give Kids A Smile and the Mission of Mercy programs?

Dr. Feinberg: GKAS has been hugely successful at providing millions of dollars of free care over the last 12 years. It has evolved and expanded from its beginnings as a one-day observance that reaches kids and sheds light on the dental health crisis faced by children in certain underserved population groups. Now it includes the Community Leadership Development Institute and other ongoing efforts. It has been incredibly successful on a local level, where dental societies have done a wonderful job tailoring these projects for their states. We will continue to look for new opportunities to provide care to underserved communities in need.

I think the MOM projects are wonderful for the needed dental care they provide, but also for another reason: every dentist I have spoken to who has participated has walked away feeling so fulfilled. In Alaska in April they had a very successful first-time event, drawing some 240 dentists, some of whom had traveled across country to help provide care to more than 1,500 underserved Alaskans. This scenario has been repeated across the country the past few years, including at the annual meeting last year in New Orleans. And we're doing it again this year at the annual meeting in San Antonio on Oct. 12. For our efforts last year, the ADA was honored with an E.X.C.I.T.E. award for Best Charity Event at the June ExpoNext Conference.