Educating and Equipping People in the Midst of Dental Emergencies

We helped a client imagine how a digital service could facilitate holistic oral care, and then built a pilot to make it a reality.

Chapman Bettis


Over 1.3 million Americans visit the emergency room every year for toothaches, swelling, and other dental conditions.

Most emergency departments can only provide pain relief for dental issues, so these visits fail to provide patients with care they need, while costing the healthcare system $1 billion every year.

MojoTech was approached by a newly formed innovation team at a national insurance provider, who hoped to prove that new technology and user-centered design could create cost savings for their organization while improving care for their customers.

Over a 9 month engagement, I led market and user research, qualitative interviews, and design while collaborating closely with a project manager and an engineer on product strategy and technical implementation.

Diagnosing the problem

Initial research with clinicians and healthcare experts revealed that these ED visits often stemmed from a lack of regular, preventative care. Many people aren’t able to visit a regular dentist due to the high cost of copays, lack of in-network providers, or limited dental office hours and access to transportation.

Interviews with over 25 individuals who had recently visited the emergency department for a dental crisis shed light on the lived experience of ​​patients and revealed anxiety and lack of trustworthy information as other barriers to care.

We consolidated this research through collaborative workshops, using personas, journey mapping, and other tools to identify areas of opportunity and potential solutions.

Imagining holistic treatment

Because the innovation team was already testing clinical and community-based programs, we outlined a digital solution that would address a number of barriers to care. It would integrate the organization’s existing services like a provider search with new features such as a symptom checker triage and virtual appointment booking.

We then built an interactive prototype and detailed business case for the solution, which the innovation team used to secure funding for an initial pilot program.

Edna’s features addressed multiple points in the user’s journey: logistical support for preventative care prior to an emergency, a symptom checker and educational content for during a crisis, and a provider search and appointment booking for follow up care.

Creating clarity within crisis

We chose the symptom checker for a limited pilot program since it could provide education and guidance at the critical moment of crisis and decision making. From a business and technology perspective, it was a low-cost, standalone feature that could be developed rapidly, and did not need to be integrated with the client’s existing systems to be tested.

It allowed us to understand the viability and desirability of the product, and prove to the larger organization that a digital solution could positively influence the patient experience.

Many people described the overwhelming experience of searching through complex medical information online, so we created a guided experience to give users information that was manageable and relevant.

Websites like WebMD often create anxiety by showing the worst possible conditions. We created content that was clear, empathetic, and helped users understand the likelihood of conditions based on their symptoms.

We included questions to track if we were able to influenced users toward more appropriate care for their condition.

When appropriate, we directed users towards a 3rd party provider search tool. After initial pilot testing, this would eventually connect to the organization’s own in-network provider search.

To accommodate returning users and those searching for a specific condition, we included the condition library as a secondary way to access symptom and condition content.

Lightweight technology for continual improvement

We built Edna using Next.js with it’s SEO-friendly static HTML pages, and used Firebase for a cost effective database solution that seamlessly integrated with Google Analytics.

We looked to Prisimic for a headless CMS and used its data linking capabilities to provide the innovation team with complete control over the content and — most importantly—the logic of the symptom question tree.

This control was critical to achieving a low-budget pilot, since it allowed the client’s user experience and clinical teams to continually improve the symptom checker pilot without the need of additional engineering support from MojoTech.

Currently, the innovation team is on track to launch their pilot program. They aim to refine the condition results by gathering feedback from real users and through testing at the organization’s nationwide clinics.

While the client is still exploring how the symptom checker will integrate into the organization’s current member experience, the innovation team succeeded at producing a flexible, low-cost product that will help members avoid the emergency room and push their organization into the future of healthcare.

More information about this project is available on request.