There’s no denying that telehealth is growing in popularity, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. All across the globe, patients are taking advantage of virtual healthcare appointments. The dental industry has adopted this model with teledentistry.
As dental professionals, we know there aren’t many instances in which teledentistry is used to make a diagnosis. In our industry, we must view this technology for what it is – a marketing tool. Even so, teledentistry has the potential to make your patients’ lives easier and more convenient. So, how can we use the telehealth model to our advantage? The first step is understanding the difference between a customer and a patient. The next step is recognizing that the people you serve are both of these things.
The Patient and Quality of Care
If you went to dental school, then you likely have a passion for providing care to your patients and your community at large. In healthcare, quality of care is defined as the degree for which services yield the desired outcomes. According to the World Health Organization, this includes:
- Providing top-tier, evidence-based health services to those who need them
- Tailoring care to the individual needs of the patient
- Avoiding harm for whom the care is intended
- Reducing delays and wait times that could be harmful to the patient
- Providing efficient care and maximizing available resources
- Offering care that doesn’t vary in quality based on ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, or geographical location
Did you know that one in three people report a negative experience concerning their healthcare? Therefore, quality of care should be measured continually to drive improvement.
The Customer and Quality of Service
When it comes to teledentistry, the technology we use must satisfy our needs. According to Check Point Software Technologies LTD, Quality of Service (QoS) refers to a set of technologies designed to optimize the performance of an organization’s network. Technologies are customized to the unique and specific needs of an industry so that clients can witness improved network utilization as well as enhanced application performance.
A problem that we see in teledentistry – and in telehealth at large – is that the technology we utilize is too often failing our patients. We tend to only view technology through billing and clinical lenses. In doing so, we fail to utilize technology that will truly benefit our patients. Like any other industry, dental professionals must implement technology that is designed specifically for the populations they are serving.
What’s the problem?
A basic need among our elderly patients or other patients with comorbidities is more access to telehealth. After all, these populations have the highest risk for COVID-19 and its variants. Yet, so many of these individuals must still be seen in-person. The result? Telehealth ends up serving everyone – except those who it’s supposed to help.
What can be done?
You’re probably asking how we, as dental providers, can solve this problem. The reality is, while we can perform remote monitoring of symptoms, in-person treatment is critical. However, we can still offer telehealth services when applicable – and when in-office visits are imperative, we will continue to follow regulations to reduce the risk for infection.
In short, we must place ourselves in the patient’s shoes and determine what is important to them. Treat them with respect and compassion, ensure that they are an integral aspect of treatment planning, and simply do right by them. The rest will fall into place.