Teledentistry Could Help Your Dental Practice Thrive in the Post-Pandemic World
As our world slowly recovers from upsets caused by the ongoing pandemic, dentists must consider their role as contributors to the wellbeing of our society. Dentistry is part of our health care system and the smooth running of dental practices can help keep our communities healthy. As such, it is important that dentists adapt quickly to the times.
Although restrictions are being eased in our cities and dental practices are reopening, practices are still a long way to returning to their regular mode of operations. You must make pivotal decisions on how to provide and meet the demand for your services. At the onset of the pandemic, several dentists opted to use teledentistry as a means of offering their services from home. In March 2020, the number of adults in the United States who reported intent to use teledentistry grew from 18% to 30%.
Teledentistry might just become an essential part of dental services even when the pandemic is long gone.
What is Teledentistry?
Teledentistry is the application of telecommunications and information technology to dental care. With its first recorded application occurring in the 1990s, this system of providing dental care service involves the use of audio-visual tools to perform dental consultations, provide treatments and educate patients or the public. Over the past two decades, dentists have used teledentistry as a means of providing cheaper and more accessible dental services to their patients.
With the recent technological advancement in the digital camera industry and our increased dependence on digital services, teledentistry has been gaining more steam over the past few years. Startup companies - like Virtudent, Dentulu and MouthWatch - are contributing to the use of teledentistry in dental practices. Beyond improvements in technology and the rise of teledentistry startups, the ongoing pandemic has given many dentists a surefire reason to explore teledentistry.
Social distancing measures that are in place have reduced traffic in dental practices. Many patients may not be able to leave their homes yet due to quarantine orders. With teledentistry, you can attend to the needs of your patients from a distance. As a dentist, you have a professional, legal, and ethical responsibility to provide dental care services to patients in a safe and effective manner. Teledentistry could be your opportunity to do so while sustaining and growing your practice.
What are the methods of Teledentistry?
There are four ways teledentistry can be provided to patients. Each of them allows patients and dentists to interact without being in direct contact. Depending on your services as a dentist, one or more of these methods may be applicable to your dental practice.
- Live video (synchronous): This involves the use of a live two-way video communication tool, such as Zoom or CloudMD, as a means of interaction between you and your patient. This method is often used for triage and specialty consultations. Synchronous teledentistry requires real-time, active, participation from you and your patients. As such, it gives patients the means to ask questions about oral care and for you to perform your initial assessments before deciding on the next steps for the patients.
- Store-and-forward (asynchronous): This refers to the transfer of recorded clinical information (such as demographic data, radiographs, pictures or videos etc.) Using secure electronic transfer tools, websites or a private network, patients can send this information to you for assessment
- Mobile health (mHealth): This involves using mobile devices or apps to deliver dental care services and monitor the state of patients. This method capitalizes on the technological advancements in text messages (SMS), mobile applications and mobile sensors. According to a World Health Organization report, more countries - included 83% of its member states - are adopting mHealth tools in their healthcare industry. With the rise of mHealth tools like Telus’ Babylon, the use of mobile devices for patient monitoring and interaction will soon become a new normal.
- Patient Education: Many dentists are leveraging audio-visual technology to save chair time and keep their current or prospective patients informed on their essential dental care needs and practices. Software solutions like Consult-Pro are being used to create videos, animations, brochures and slide presentations that educate and encourage patients. The audio-visual content created can be used over a long period of time and could be a great way to stay connected with patients.
Although it is over two decades old, teledentistry is a fairly new system of offering dental care services. A lot of research is still being done on teledentistry methods and tools. More information is required to fully understand how best to apply these methods and tools to situational cases in dental practice.
Over the course of the pandemic, dentists have been taking advantage of teledentistry methods and tools. It is showing a lot of promise as an industry disruptor that will remain long after the pandemic is over. You could save yourself time and money by considering one or more methods of teledentistry that may be applicable to your practice. However, it is your responsibility to continue to use your professional judgment and meet the proper standards of practice as you leverage teledentistry and other digital tools in your dental practice.
The goal of teledentistry is to create a system of communication and information transfer between you and your patients. As you consider introducing teledentistry into your work, you should ensure you have the fundamental tools in place for direct interaction with your current and prospective patients. Connect the Doc can support your efforts and make your practice more profitable by creating a high-converting mobile responsive website. Our websites make it easy for you to gather reviews and for your patients to interact with your dental practice through a 24/7 live chat. Contact us to start leveraging these tools and services.