There’s been a lot of mainstream media coverage about teledentistry recently. Most of the focus is on a consumer-facing variation of the technology that has caused its share of controversy while attracting a large amount of attention on just one small application of teledentistry’s full potential. This is very unfortunate because there are countless other existing and potential teledentistry applications that place the dentist in the driver’s seat when it comes to diagnosis, case planning, and treatment.
Teledentistry has been described as a disruptive technology. While it is disruptive in the best way possible, I prefer to think of teledentistry as an opportunity creating technology. Teledentistry can help all dentists, especially those working in a DSO setting, to provide their patients with the convenience and flexibility they demand and the quality of care they need.
The convenience of teledentistry is not just for patients. Dentists have the option of participating in a live case review and consultation via synchronous (live) video and audio for urgent situations or opting for asynchronous (store and forward) mode for later review of patient records, clinical images and recorded video. Thanks to these TeleDent features, the dentist is in control of the workflow and his or her valuable time.
Truth be told, some consumers are gravitating towards the convenience and cost-savings of some patient-facing teledentistry business models, such as home aligner services, but what if patients could get all of the convenience they crave from a personal relationship with a qualified dental care team for a full spectrum of oral care services? Wouldn’t that be a winning combination?
Based on this premise, I believe that DSOs and group practices are perfectly positioned to win patients over by keeping the dentist at the heart of teledentistry. This technology can be thought of as an efficiency magnifier for a business model that from the very beginning has leveraged its improved efficiency to disrupt “business as usual” dentistry.
Here are a few examples of how dentist-controlled, patient-focused teledentistry, which is the cornerstone of the MouthWatch TeleDent™ platform, will enhance the patient experience, elevate the standard of care and boost the bottom line for DSOs and group practices:
• Visual Treatment Plans: The technology that powers teledentistry programs can also be used to engage patients in their understanding and acceptance of treatment planning and care coordination.
By using the intraoral and extraoral images, which are more impactful and comprehensible by patients, practices can now share visual information with patients in a manner that is secure, convenient and easily connects the patient with the providers at the dental office.
Rather than presenting treatment as procedure codes and fees, TeleDent allows for a more impactful presentation while allowing for convenient communication with the dental team, in a way that works best for busy patients and providers.
• Expanded Hygiene Department Hours: Your patients will appreciate more flexible hygiene appointment hours and prospective patients give this strong consideration when selecting a dental office – especially busy moms who make most of the family healthcare decisions.
Using teledentistry in states that allow remote supervision by a dentist enables DSOs to operate their hygiene departments before and after standard work hours as well as weekends without a dentist having to be physically in the office.
In this case, an associate can be scheduled to be on call to review a case or consult with the hygienist and/or patient should the patient present with an urgent condition outside of the hygienist’s scope of practice.
Then, that patient can be scheduled immediately for an appointment with the dentist. In this case, the dentist is calling the plays as the virtual quarterback.
• Community Service Programs: Teledentistry makes it easier for DSOs to launch and manage good will-building community service programs such as oral cancer screenings. Once again, the screenings are conducted by hygienists in the field who can consult with a dentist, if they detect an oral abnormality.
That patient can then be scheduled for a more thorough evaluation by the dentist or a biopsy by an oral surgeon. The dentist’s immediate involvement ensures that patients who present with an area of concern do not fall through the cracks, thus ensuring earlier detection and treatment.
• Specialist Consultations: Whether your group practice refers patients to specialists such as periodontists and orthodontists or employs its own specialists who rotate among several locations, teledentistry makes it possible to consult with them when they are not on the premises and also loop in the patient if necessary. No matter what the specialist referral model, the care team is assembled by the dentist and comprised of trusted, vetted clinicians.
• On-site Corporate Screenings: In this scenario, a pop-up hygiene clinic could be set up on the site of a company that provides dental benefits to its employees. Scheduling would be coordinated with the company’s HR department who would help promote the on-site hygiene or dental clinic to its employees.
During the day of the clinic, patient records would be uploaded to the cloud. The patients, especially those without dental homes would within the next few days to set up an appointment for necessary treatment by a local dentist.
The common denominator of these and many more TeleDent-enabled applications is that a local dentist is in control of the diagnosis and treatment planning, which would in turn, utilize trusted specialists and best practices to ensure predictable and positive patient outcomes. This is how TeleDent helps DSOs keep the dentist in teledentistry.
To find out more about how DSOs can keep
the dentist in teledentistry, click here.
About the Author: Brant Herman is the CEO and Founder of MouthWatch, LLC, (www. MouthWatch.com) a leader in innovative teledentistry solutions, digital case presentation tools and intraoral imaging devices. The company is dedicated to finding new ways to constantly improve the dental health experience for both patient and provider. Contact Brant at [email protected].
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