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 provided by their health care providers. The dental industry has adopted this model with teledentistry.
Teledentistry: A Marketing Tool for Dental Care Professionals
As dental care 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.
Healthcare professionals define “quality of care” 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 as health care providers. 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 dental care patients in both rural and urban communities. Like any other industry, dental professionals must implement technology that is designed specifically for the populations they are serving.
Dental Telehealth Challenges
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.
How is Telehealth Used In Dentistry? And It’s Benefits
Teledentistry isn’t a particularly new concept. The idea emerged in 1994 to assist rural and underserved populations receive adequate dental care.
Even before the emergence of COVID-19, teledentistry helped address the gap in access to oral healthcare across the United States, as nearly 48 million Americans live in areas that have a shortage of dental professionals.
However, in light of this year’s global pandemic, teledentistry is on the rise. Dental care professionals and patients alike are recognizing the benefits that this technology has to offer.
There will, of course, be instances in which patients still need in-person care. But teledentistry helps limit in-person care visits to those in need of urgent or emergency dental care.
Benefits of Teledentistry Services
Teledentistry offers numerous advantages, particularly during the COVID-19 global pandemic. We’ll explore these benefits in more detail below.
Improves Patient Engagement
As a dental care professional, you know that patient compliance is essential for optimal oral health care outcomes in your dental office. Teledentistry helps patients stay engaged with self-care, meaning they’ll be more encouraged to practice excellent oral hygiene between visits.
Encourages Patient-Centric Care
Teledentistry can give patients the benefits of extended office hours and more convenient appointments. This gives practice owners the opportunity to provide oral health care outside of their brick-and-mortar facilities.
Increases Practice Efficiency
According to the Medical Group Management Association, some of the best-performing practices in the United States routinely utilize telehealth. Telehealth services can help triage each case and prioritize care, increasing workflow efficiency in the meantime.
Reduces Practice Overhead
As you might imagine, a telehealth dental care appointment is much more cost-efficient compared to in-person care. And this isn’t just occurring in dental practices, either. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, they save nearly $87 every time an online appointment replaces an onsite visit.
Reduces the Number of No-Shows
When a patient doesn’t show up for an in-person dental care consultation, it can quickly cut into revenue. According to trends, individuals are much more likely to show up for a teledentistry visit compared to an onsite appointment.
Increases Overall Revenue
In addition to reducing overhead, teledentistry services actually help you make more money on consultations because it is less time-consuming and less expensive. Virtual visits can also help you attract and retain more patients during these uncertain times.
Keeps Patients Safer
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, teledentistry has become a lifeline for seniors, medically compromised, and other at-risk populations. Rather than venturing out, vulnerable patients can stay safely at home and receive the high-quality care they need without compromising their overall health.
Teledentistry is Here to Stay
COVID-19 may have been the primary catalyst for the rise of teledentistry. But one fact remains – it is here to stay. As more patients become familiarized with teledentistry, they are more likely to demand it in the future. Private insurers have already jumped on board with teledentistry coverage.
The Bottom Line: In-Person Dental Care Is Essential, But Teledentistry Services Are Beneficial
Admittedly, there are certain things that teledentistry simply cannot deliver. And change, in any form, can be a bit scary. But utilizing the technology that is available to us can only help our industry.
Contact Us for More Information
If you are an Orthosnap provider, you may wish to consider teledentistry for your dental care patients. Perhaps you’ve already incorporated it into your daily routines. If so, how has it turned out for you? What would you recommend to other dentists and practice owners?
To learn more about Orthosnap and the services we offer, check out our Help Center. Our team is available to talk with you anytime.