2020: The Advent of the Virtual Dental ER
Teledentistry may be dentistry’s oldest new technology. Here’s why: It’s been proven in the public health sector for decades and has been slowly gaining traction in private practice dentistry for at least 10 years.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, and teledentistry quickly became one of the top recommended technologies for a pandemic recovery program – and rightly so!
First, teledentistry stepped up in a big way to serve as dentistry’s virtual emergency room; providing group practices and DSOs with the ability to maintain safe and efficient patient contact while conducting dental emergency triage and helping local ERs concentrate on providing care to COVID-19 patients.
Truth be told, even when there is no pandemic, the virtual dental ER is usually superior to the traditional hospital ER when it comes to dental emergencies. This new urgent dental care paradigm was kick-started by a pandemic; but should now be accepted as the gold standard for dental emergencies.
2021: Growth After Lock-Down
Now that dental offices can provide a full scope of services, DSOs and group practices can now expand far beyond conducting dental triage and utilize the full scope of teledentistry’s features and benefits, depending on their individual state’s regulations.
In the month before the pandemic, there was a good deal of mainstream media coverage about teledentistry. However, most of the focus has been on a consumer-facing, clear aligner specific version of the technology, that does not fully represent this rapidly evolving technology’s full potential.
Fortunately, there are many other existing and potential teledentistry applications that place the DSO and group practice in the driver’s seat when it comes to a broader scope of diagnosis, case planning, and treatment.
In short, 2021 is the year to get reacquainted with the post-pandemic potential of MouthWatch TeleDent™: Here are seven good reasons:
- Like Your Phone: Quick, convenient, and secure two-way patient messaging can be utilized to help respond to new patient inbound requests and also consult with current patients.
- Reduce Risk, Increase Trust: When you transition some of your traditional in-office patient encounters into virtual consultations, you’ll mitigate the risk of infection for your team and your patients. This not only applies to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also during the annual cold and flu season.
When your patients learn that you are using teledentistry to keep them safe and to make their post-COVID dental experience less of a hassle, including emergency consultations, they will trust you more than ever. No matter the size of your DSO or dental group, trust and loyalty during these times is more important than ever!
- Save Time & Conserve PPE: The recently mandated CDC recommendations for infection control will be with us for a long time. One thing is certain, when you reduce the number of times you and your team need to don and doff PPE, the more time and money and time you will save. What’s more, in-person treatment plan presentations are more difficult when wearing full-scale PPE. Teledentistry makes these presentations much easier and comfortable.
- Win-Win Convenience: It should come as no surprise that consumers are gravitating towards the convenience and cost-savings of teledentistry – especially when they can maintain a personal relationship with a qualified dental care team for a full spectrum of oral care services.
However, 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 teledentistry features, the dentist is in complete control of the workflow and his or her valuable time. What’s more, some of these time-shifted evaluations are still billable, and in many cases reimbursed.
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: Closely related to “Win-Win Convenience,” your patients will appreciate more flexible hygiene appointment hours and prospective patients give this strong consideration when selecting a DSO or group practice 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 and groups 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. The limited hygienist examinations and treatment can be evaluated later by the dentist and both the RDH and DDS services are billable.
- Specialist Consultations: Whether your group practice refers patients to specialists such as periodontists or endodontists, or employs its own specialists who rotate among several locations, teledentistry not only makes it possible to consult with them when they are not on the premises, but also loop in the patient if necessary.
No matter what your specialist referral model, the care team is assembled by the dentist and comprised of trusted, vetted clinicians. This is a vast improvement over the business card hand-off referral process which is much less effective or convenient.
- Virtual Treatment Plans: The bread and butter of any dental practice is greatly enhanced when the teledentistry-enabled visual treatment plans can also be used to engage patients in their understanding and acceptance of treatment planning and care coordination.
With teledentistry, the treatment plan can start from a patient’s inbound request. Next, clinical details can be added and finally can be presented virtually by the dentist via video.
Groups and DSOs can also benefit from scheduling dentists to cover designated “teledentistry shifts,” which is a very efficient way of conducting virtual consultations and treatment plan presentations.
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.
As dental group practices and DSOs try to move beyond surviving and focus on thriving in the upcoming year, it makes more sense than ever to implement an all-in-one, professional-grade teledentistry platform such as TeleDent. In an unpredictable world, teledentistry can help make patient acquisition, satisfaction, and retention more predictable.
Download MouthWatch’s new whitepaper – Teledentistry: A Post Covid Strategy
for Safe, Effective and Evidence-Based Care
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. Brant is a well-known teledentistry expert and advocate who has written and lectured extensively on the subject and is a frequent guest on health industry podcasts. His company, MouthWatch 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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