Emergency Department Dental Pain Pilot to Launch in La Crosse County Hospitals

June 18, 2019

Gundersen and Mayo Clinic Health System hospitals in La Crosse are preparing to implement a pilot project in their emergency departments (EDs) and urgent care centers for treating patients who present with non-traumatic dental pain. Hospital representatives, the La Crosse County Health Department, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) met on June 12 to continue planning for the pilot’s implementation.

This pilot is made possible by a grant to DHS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The primary aim of the pilot is to reduce the prescribing of opioids for dental pain in EDs and urgent care centers. However, the pilot importantly includes an algorithm for evaluating and treating dental pain, as well as a process for referring patients to definitive dental care.

The pilot was implemented at the University of Wisconsin, UnityPoint Meriter, and SSM Health St. Mary’s hospitals in Dane County in February 2015. The hospitals realized a reduction in ED visits for non-traumatic dental pain from 2,093 visits in 2015 to 1,249 visits in 2017. Urgent care center visits were similarly reduced over that same time period from 2,142 to 1,240. These results led to the interest in expanding the pilot to other counties.

Participants in the La Crosse meeting achieved the goal of modifying the treatment algorithm to meet the unique characteristics of La Crosse County, and also tallied the resources available in the county to accept referrals of ED dental patients for definitive dental care. Hospital ED and urgent care staff will be trained later this summer on how to evaluate and treat these patients, and learn about the referral process for these patients to community dental coordinators in the La Crosse County Health Department. The community dental coordinators will work with the patients to ensure they receive appropriate dental treatment.

WHA is tracking the pilot’s progress and member engagement. For more information, contact Laura Rose, WHA Vice President of Policy Development.

This story originally appeared in the June 18, 2019 edition of WHA Newsletter