If you weren’t previously convinced that teledentistry was the way to go, the COVID-19 pandemic and our stay-at-home orders have left us, dentists and patients alike, with not much of a choice. In fact, for most dental professionals, teledentistry has become the best option for contact with patients and a primary revenue driver. How can we work together to make this new normal a win-win for all parties involved?
What is teledentistry?
Teledentistry is remote dental care – a method of delivering patient care from your home (or any place you choose) to the comfort of a patient’s home through your desktop, iOS, or Android device.
The ADA defines teledentistry as:
“Teledentistry provides the means for a patient to receive services when the patient is in one physical location and the dentist or other oral health or general health care practitioner overseeing the delivery of those services is in another location.”
Synchronous Teledentistry is the most popular method, where consults happen in real-time via live face-to-face telepresence solutions. Asynchronous Teledentistry, or the Store and Forward method, involves transmitting a patient’s clinical information (ePHI) safely and securely, including intraoral photos and radiographs, between patients and providers in separate locations for consultations and treatment planning that occur in a disparate fashion.
If you’re new to delivering patient care virtually or if you’re looking for some helpful tips, this guide is for you. Here are 5 ways to integrate teledentistry into your dental practice like a champ and provide exceptional care from afar.
Triaging Emergency Cases
Your office is open for dental emergencies, but how are you screening urgent needs from dental conditions that can wait? Teledentistry allows you to do just that by collecting intraoral photos and providing consults with patients online in order to determine whether they warrant scheduling for an in-office emergency appointment.
Assessing the severity of the disorder via video consults keeps both parties healthy and supplies a quick way for you to offer care instructions to the patient during the interim. When you are ready to schedule an in-office appointment, make sure to ask your patients to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire to determine the risk of exposure to you and your dental staff.
Treatment Planning & Pre-Operative Evaluations
Many types of appointments lend themselves to the teledentistry model, including pre-operative assessments and treatment planning consultations. Migrate these appointments to your virtual workflow where you can collect intraoral pictures, conduct virtual visual assessments, issue diagnoses, discuss care alternatives and anticipated outcomes, and prescribe medications, all while increasing your efficiency.
These appointments, in particular, lend themselves to the asynchronous model whereby patients and providers exchange ePHI via secure file transfers to facilitate the delivery of care. For example, if the appointment requires a scan, have the patient come into the office for an assistant to run the scan (i.e. CBCT), and later, you conduct a virtual consultation to follow-up, issue care directives and send treatment plans.
By separating out production from your virtual consults, you can realize significant efficiencies in your day, not just during the Coronavirus pandemic, but long afterwards. The dental care delivery paradigm has irrevocably shifted towards rapid virtual patient communications and a healthy mixture of face-to-face video consults paired with coordinated asynchronous exchanges will produce a vibrant and high-performing practice resistant to the effects of external societal forces.
Save your staff time and your patients another trip into your office by streamlining your standard follow-up appointments. For example, after an emergency avulsed tooth or an extraction, connect with your patients virtually to provide a post-op consultation. Providers can remotely communicate with patients, who can provide information on how they are progressing following the procedure and providers can conduct direct visual examinations virtually, coordinate next steps, send recommendations and treatment plans, and make medication adjustments. By virtualizing your post-operative care, your practice will spend less time on check-ups and more time on new patients.
Patients in Rural Areas and Beyond
Treat your patients who have dental emergencies while on vacation or expand your geographical reach by offering services to those who live in rural areas and cannot easily commute to your practice. Offer critical services where gaps exist, especially for treatment planning and specialty consultations. You can even digitally link up with a distant oral health team and provide assistance with procedures, such as removing sutures, to a rural provider under the supervision of your expertise.
A well-established teledentistry service will easily adapt to life post-quarantine when travel as we knew it resumes. Rather than referring them to outside services, you’ll now be able to provide virtual consultations, evaluations, and diagnoses via your tried and true remote care system.
Teledentistry allows for the simplified and efficient collaboration of specialists and dentists. Incorporate all members of the care team and improve the delivery and continuity of care. Videoconferencing and screen sharing make better use of everyone’s time and eliminate incomplete or delayed clinical data that is transferred during the referral process. Further, you can invite all members of a patient’s decision-making team (e.g. family) to participate in making thorough and informed decisions. Teledentistry better accommodates the coordination of multiple schedules and when used properly will act as a catalyst to increase referrals and streamline clinical collaboration.
Benefits of Teledentistry
Once successfully integrated into your practice, teledentistry consultations not only keep us safe and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, but they provide the following benefits for both patients and dentists:
- Shorter wait times
- Expanded and improved access
- Increased efficiencies in the office
- Cost-effectiveness of the technology
What’s important to remember, as you conduct virtual consults, is that your care must be HIPAA compliant no matter where you’re located. In other words, if you’re delivering care from your home or your lake house, you must follow the same rules and regulations as when you are delivering face-to-face care in your dental office.
PBHS has taken extra measures to best serve our clients and the dental community during this time. Our easy-to-use PBHS SecureVideo Teledentistry Platform is a comprehensive turnkey solution that will provide your practice with unlimited encrypted, HIPAA-compliant virtual dental consultations complete with a powerful built-in virtual workflow for screening emergency patients through post-operative appointments. To learn more, Contact a PBHS expert and get started today!