What Do Group Practices and DSOs Expect from Teledentistry?

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This is the first year that MouthWatch is exhibiting at the upcoming ADSO Annual Summit in San Diego. We attend many dental conferences during the year, and you can usually find me at the booth demonstrating products, speaking with clients and perhaps most importantly, listening.

You see, I view dental meetings as R&D projects. Each one is an opportunity to discover what questions we need to answer more succinctly in our marketing efforts, and which features we should include in our next product revision.

Developing products that the dental industry needs and wants can’t happen in a vacuum. This is true for teledentistry solutions and especially so for teledentistry solutions targeted to group practices and DSOs.

When we first started introducing our all-in-one teledentistry platform, TeleDent, to the DSO market, we knew that we could help rapidly growing dental groups by addressing the common denominators of scalability and standardization. We validated this premise by speaking to several group practice owners and DSO industry consultants. Here’s where we are so far:

We learned that some of the pitfalls of rapid growth, retirement transitions and mergers and acquisitions include the following:

  • Effective knowledge and trust transfer to new associates
  • Inconsistent treatment planning
  • Unpredictable ROI for new technology investments
  • Inefficient utilization of rotating specialists
  • Managing market perceptions

While these challenges are common to virtually any individually-owned dental practice, they are exponentially magnified with each new dental group acquisition. In either case, teledentistry provides a viable solution.

Be this as it may, dental group practices and DSOs may also be in a better position to make the investment in teledentistry to help them manage growth, improve financial efficiency and also maintain the highest level of patient care across all locations.

In other words, I believe that rapidly-growing group practices are the segment of dentistry that will most likely drive the early adoption of teledentistry, establish critical mass and elevate it to a level of parity with telemedicine.

So, what does a teledentistry platform need to become the de facto standard among group practices and DSOs? In my opinion, there are three technological must haves:

1. The cornerstone should be a scalable, secure and HIPAA-complaint cloud-based software that enables both real-time streaming and “store and forward” clinical data collection including diagnostic images, videos, clinical notes and treatment plans and more, thus enabling the clinician to remotely conduct an evaluation and recommend next steps.

2. Next, that software should be able to aggregate and integrate several components of digital dentistry, including digital clinical imaging, electronic health records, and telecommunications technology.

3. Last but not least, the teledentistry platform’s connectivity should extend the reach of dental clinicians and their patients or dental clinicians with their internal or external colleagues such as rotating specialists.

The “virtual workflow” created by these three “must have” teledentistry capabilities simplifies clinician-to-clinician collaboration and can provide group practices with a scalable means to expand into new areas and treat more patients. Who doesn’t want that?

Speaking of expanding into new areas, here’s a few examples of how selecting the right teledentistry platform can provide the foundation for new business models, a.k.a., revenue-generators:

Pop-up Hygiene Services: Free oral health screenings or preventive care services under your group practice’s brand can be set up on-site locally at employer’s offices – connecting your practice to profitable preventive care services, while looping in patients for any restorative needs.

Expanded Hygiene Hours: By using teledentistry, a DSO’s office can offer expanded hygiene hours during weekends and before and after the traditional 9-5 work day. In this scenario, hygiene appointments can be scheduled at a more convenient time, which increases the likelihood that appointments are kept.

Screening Services: Another way that teledentistry can enable DSOs to expand their reach and enhance their brand is to set up screening services in public settings, such as health fairs, shopping malls and other community settings. Showing the importance of oral health, while making treatment plans and care recommendations easily available, helps raise the profile of practices and integrate them into the community.

We developed the latest version of our teledentistry platform, TeleDent, by enhancing the features and functionality that may be desired by group practices and DSOs. However, I know that there is no such thing as one size fits all.

What do group practices and DSOs expect from teledentistry? I want to know.

I’ll be attending the ADSO Summit in San Diego and will be manning our booth during exhibit hours. I’ll also be co-presenting with Heartland Dental’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Dr. Rick Workman, during a special session entitled, “Future Trends: Teledentistry” on Friday, March 29th, From 1:45 PM to 2:30 PM.

I hope you’ll attend this session and also introduce yourself at our booth and ask for a demo. In both cases, please bring your questions about teledentistry and feel free to tell me which “accelerated growth challenges” are most critical to your group practice.

About the Author:
Brant Herman is the CEO and Founder of MouthWatch, LLC, a leader in 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. Would you like to discuss teledentistry-enabled business models with Brant? Contact him at Brant@MouthWatch.com.


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