Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, teledentistry was in its infancy. While some states had extensive legislation surrounding this state-of-the-art innovation, others had little to no laws explicitly dealing with teledentistry services.
The global health emergency arrived and changed everything, with almost all in‐person dental care coming to a standstill, except for emergency cases of course. Dental care providers and their patients were immediately disconnected from physical contact. This could have been one of the primary reasons that pushed teledentistry into the spotlight.
In August 2020, DentaQuest Partnership surveyed close to 2,767 dental providers in more than 20 states about their teledentistry usage. The survey found that close to 75% of dental providers who were using teledentistry expected their virtual visit volume to stay the same or even increase during the next twelve months.
Although a relatively new mode of care delivery, teledentistry has proven its potential before the world as an effective solution in a very short period of time.
However, there’s still some hesitance on the patients’ end when it comes to leveraging this relatively new mode of care delivery.
So, what can dentists and DSOs do to furnish an experience that is much like that of an in-person visit when delivering care virtually? How can they, as caregivers, ensure the same, or even higher amounts of patient engagement in a remote setting?
1) Get Mobile Compatible
In 2019, close to 90% of American people’s total mobile time was spent using apps. With mobile apps increasingly becoming a central component in people’s lives, dentists shouldn’t miss out on leveraging their potential as effective patient engagement tools.
Developing a telemedicine mobile app for your practice can boost patient engagement. This is especially true because a mobile app provides easy accessibility which lets patients quickly seek help during dental emergencies.
For instance, if a patient experiences a toothache, he/she may not be certain about how to best manage it at home before they can book an appointment with you. Not administering the proper self-care in a timely fashion may lead to bigger and more serious problems once they do visit the office.
Fortunately, through means of a dedicated patient education section on your telemedicine mobile app, you can furnish patients valuable tips and other information on managing symptoms both before and after treatment. You can also leverage the push notification feature that usually comes embedded within these apps to send important medication reminders or upcoming appointment alerts.
During the virtual consultation itself, by being shown something as simple as an interactive diagram of the mouth, patients can touch the screen to reveal where their issue lies. They can then provide the dentist with details on pain intensity and also share a photo of the affected area on the app directly through their mobile phones. With this information, dentists can quickly study the case and give patients tailored instructions to prevent any further damage.
Mobile telemedicine apps provide convenience, accessibility, and ease. Therefore, when you’re delivering care virtually, creating a mobile app for your dental practice is highly instrumental in boosting overall patient experience.
2) Integrate your Platform with Appointment Scheduling Software
Appointment scheduling is more often than not one of the most neglected, yet most important, aspects when it comes to augmenting patient experience. This is especially true because it is one of the very first touchpoints for patients in getting to know you and your staff better.
When a patient calls your front desk to book an appointment, a lot is already running in their mind. The ease with which you onboard them is one of the most crucial factors that go into deciding whether they will become a long-term client or not.
One effective way of streamlining the process of appointment scheduling is by automating it. Automation ensures patients can check out physician’s availability and book a consultation at a time that’s most favorable to them.
By integrating the appointment scheduling module in the telemedicine software, dental care providers can make sure that their front desk staff can assign time toward more important tasks such as furnishing a personalized experience before clients, rather than being involved in updating patients about physicians’ availability on-call – something that requires almost negligible human intervention. This can considerably augment the facility’s patient experience.
Integrating appointment scheduling also decreases the probability of a patient no-show. Modules prompt patients about their upcoming appointments so that they can adjust their schedules accordingly and remain available during their chosen time-slot.
From a security point of view, these systems are topnotch since every telemedicine appointment has its own meeting link so that only invited attendees can join the call.
One best practice here would be to look for a developer/development company that can get you a software for your practice in compliance with HIPAA ( the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). This is extremely important for avoiding any penalties since dental practices collect vital patient information while booking an appointment, a lot of which may fall under the category of Protected Health Information (PHI) under HIPAA rules.
3) Store Patient Data on a Centralized Cloud Repository
Dental practices have come a long way in optimizing their data management practices, from storing all their paperwork manually on traditional systems, to now having embraced digitization. This has been especially evident in the speed at which the dental community has embraced cloud technology.
In fact, one research white paper titled ‘The Case for Cloud Dentistry’ goes on to state:
“Some practices leverage their new cloud-based EDR and PM system as a marketing tool. Because they always have the latest and best software, they tell patients about their system and show them the benefits. Patients today like technology and appreciate dental practices that show they strive to stay on the leading edge.”
The ubiquitous adoption of cloud technology in dentistry goes further than simply storing data over these systems. Integrating cloud computing with your telemedicine platform can have a two-fold benefit. It can be advantageous for both dental care providers and their patients.
- On the business side, telemedicine and cloud integration has proven their potential in helping dental practices mitigate operational costs while allowing them to provide high-quality, personalized care solutions. It also makes data more interoperable across various locations and makes it easily accessible to deliver care faster. This can significantly cut down wait times.
- On the patient side, telemedicine and cloud integration can boost patient engagement by giving them access to their own healthcare information, resulting in better outcomes.
The increased accessibility that comes alongside cloud and telemedicine integration frees up both patients as well as their providers and breaks down location barriers that otherwise restrict access to high-quality care.
Teledentistry is a rapidly emerging and multi-faceted technology that is destined to become standard equipment in delivering the best possible dental care.
Furnishing an exceptional experience for your patient-base truly depends on how well you understand your patients and their needs, and how you can make your care delivery experience a more seamless one; irrespective of whether you’re delivering care virtually or in-person.
Forward-looking dental care providers need to be on a constant lookout for ways they can identify patients’ pain points and make changes within their internal systems to address those. Simultaneously, you also need to be aware of what your industry counterparts are doing to attract and retain patients.
Engaging in a little market research and embracing tech innovation can take you a long way in building robust client relationships and contributing toward ameliorating your practice in the long run.
Written by Dr. Chuck Le
Dr. Le is the founder of 7 Day Dental and is a recognized leader in the field of dentistry. 7 Day Dental currently has four offices in Orange County, CA. For several years, Dr. Le has dedicated his personal time and resources to working with organizations and causes that help the less fortunate, as well as youth development and well being, both internationally and here. His philanthropy has included his contribution to the disaster relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, and the restoration efforts after major conflagrations in Vietnam.
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