Teledentistry is taking off around the U.S., and it could revolutionize the way you meet and treat patients. Accustomed to the traditional office setting, dentists are quickly adapting to provision of remote patient care by utilizing a variety of technologies to diagnose and plan courses of treatment.
What is teledentistry?
It can be as simple as live two-way video consultation with a patient, or as intricate as using live video to supervise procedures performed by a specially trained dental hygienist. Teledentistry can take many forms, including:
- Live video: Two-way interaction between a patient and dentist
- Store and forward: Recorded health information like X-rays, photos or videos is electronically transmitted to the dentist, who reviews the patient’s condition at a later time for purposes of diagnosis and treatment recommendation.
- Remote patient monitoring: Personal health and medical information is collected from an individual in one location then transmitted electronically to a provider in a different location, such as a nursing home or school, for use in care.
How can this expand your dental practice?
To start, you can attract and reach patients who might not otherwise physically visit your office. Teledentistry expands access to care for those living in rural areas without a dentist, or those facing obstacles like cost, time, fear of the dentist or unawareness of best practices for dental health.
Some states have adopted regulations to expand the types of treatments dental hygienists can perform without onsite supervision by a dentist, like temporary fillings. Therefore, hygienists can treat patients in remote locations and refer patients requiring follow-up work to the supervising dentist’s office. Education can also prompt some patients to “wake up,” take action and visit the dentist routinely.
As time goes on, more private insurers and government programs are offering reimbursement for remote virtual services.
If you are interested in expanding your practice with a teledentistry program, learn more about the fundamentals—from what equipment and training you’ll need to HIPAA-compliance—through colleagues or other professional resources. Talk to your patients to gauge their levels of interest and comfort with remote dentistry.
This new practice will undoubtedly change the way some dentists will interact with their patients. As more states adopt these programs, you’ll have increased opportunity to expand your practice—and patients will have more options for care than ever.