As a dental professional during the coronavirus crisis, your ability to provide high-quality dental care while maintaining social distance is more important than ever. This may mean making some changes and adopting new technologies and practices to best serve your patients during this time.
Just as restaurant owners are transitioning their businesses from dine-in to take-out, dental practices can adopt new strategies and technologies to continue to serve their patients, acquire new ones, and keep their practice afloat during this turbulent time. Teledentistry is a relatively new form of professional dental care that offers care to patients inside their own homes.
The COVID-19 crisis is the perfect time to consider this new trend and implement it into your practice so that your office can play a vital role in flattening the curve while continuing to provide the exceptional care that you’re well-known for within your community.
In this article, we’re telling you everything you need to know about teledentistry and virtual consultations as well as which platforms we recommend and what you can expect from each.
What is Teledentistry?
Teledentistry is the delivery of professional dental services via a virtual remote link. What this means is that the dental practitioner can be in one place and the patient can be in another location and be connected securely over the internet. Communication is possible using a computer or mobile device along with accompanying teledentistry software.
The idea is that these technologies can be leveraged to increase access to quality care, exchange and gather information with a licensed dentist, support dental care delivery, and transfer dental education and information to patients in need.
How Do Virtual Consultations Work?
You may be asking how you can properly provide dental advice and perform thorough examinations while never actually physically seeing or touching the patient’s mouth. Actual dental procedures and exams cannot be completed virtually, however, many services can.
During a Telehealth conference in 2019, Maria Kunstadter DDS, President, and CEO of the TeleDentists stated the following, “Currently there is a huge gap in our system for dental help. Last year, 39% of the population did not see a dentist. For most people, it takes an average of 3 years for them to go into a dental appointment. That’s about 125 million people today who need dental help.”
This was before the outbreak of COVID-19 that’s now limiting everyone’s access to dental services. Now more than ever, the population needs somewhere to turn when they need dental care.
There are a couple of different ways that teledentistry can work:
1. Through the use of real-time secure video chat software.
2. Through store-and-forward, which is the practice of gathering data such as photos, x-rays, and other diagnostic tests and then sending them via a secure platform to a dentist for review.
The most common forms of teledentistry visits include initial dental consultations, procedure consultations, post-surgical follow up appointments, and specialist consultations.
Benefits of Teledentistry
According to the American Teledentistry Association, teledentistry has been proven to:
- Improve overall dental hygiene
- Be more affordable than traditional, in-office dentist visits
- Act as a more innovative solution for the healthcare industry as a whole
- Align with the demands of today’s busy patients
- Improve access to care for patients who otherwise do not have easy access to dental services
- Reduce the amount of time patients spend away from their workweek
- Allow in-office appointment times to be more accessible to the patients who need them the most i.e. emergency visits
- Provide the same level of care that patients would receive at an in-office visit
- Keep growing! Telehealth has been on a steady incline over the last decade and with the current health crisis, it’s predicted to climb to unprecedented rates even faster.
Teledentistry Companies to Choose From
When it comes to choosing a teledentistry company to partner with to provide your patients with access to virtual consultations, there are several options. Here are some of the top platforms:
This virtual consultation software for dental practices allows you to start offering virtual consultations to your patients, new and existing – with a simple technology added to your dental website. SmileSnap offers unlimited assessments, unlimited users, and live video consults, all through secure software.
Here’s how it works:
1. The patient visits your website.
2. Patient information and 5 photos are submitted.
3. The dental practitioner provides the patient with full smile assessment and recommendations for the next steps, including scheduling live video consultations.
Smile Virtual offers a high-tech dental solution that saves hours for patients and allows them to maintain continuity of care during this crisis, all from the comfort of their own home. Through the use of a dedicated landing page, patients can upload their data and photos for you to review securely and provide recorded video feedback and recommendations.
How it works:
1. Your practice is given a dedicated, personalized landing page.
2. The patient uploads a selfie and information to the platform.
3. Dental professional reviews the picture and patient information and records a personalized video consult.
4. The patient views the video on their own time and follows the professional advice and next steps given.
The Tele Dentists is a software as a service (SaaS) that’s integrated into your existing computer system. You’ll pay a monthly licensing fee as well as a per consult fee. This software allows for face-to-face real-time consultations with patients.
Here’s how it works:
1. Patients come to The Tele Dentists website, fill in their information, and are sent to the virtual waiting room.
2. If the patient is in your area, you will be notified that a patient is awaiting a consult.
3. You will log in and provide the patient with a real-time consultation via secure video chat.
Rhinogram is a software that allows dental practices to securely communicate with their patients through email, text, and other chat platforms. Patients can securely send pictures and attachments, avoiding the need to physically come into the office for problems or consultations. This system integrates seamlessly with most PMS or EHR systems.
What’s the Cost of Offering Teledentistry?
The cost to establish your dental practice as a teledentistry provider will depend on the platform you choose and potentially the current state of the technology in your practice. Some teledentistry systems will integrate seamlessly with all the major practice management systems (PMS) and others operate as a separate entity. Depending on these variables, you may only need to invest in the software or to gain access to it, which is typically offered on either a monthly or yearly payment plan or can be billed on a per-consult basis.
For example, SmileSnap offers two different payment options; $149 per month or $1,499 billed annually (15% savings) or $249 or $2499 billed annually. Typically, you would incur the initial startup and onboarding costs, however, those are waived for certain promotions or affiliations. To schedule a demo with SmileSnap, click here.
That said, any upfront costs that may be associated with setting up your practice with the ability to provide virtual consultations and visits are typically outweighed by the long-term benefits you’ll reap from the service.
Are Teledentistry and Virtual Consultations Right for Your Dental Practice?
Telehealth, in general, is becoming more and more common, especially as COVID-19 unfolds. If your practice wants to stay competitive and profitable during this time, teledentistry and virtual appointments may be the next best step for your practice at this time.
In times of change and uncertainty, the businesses that strive and thrive are the ones that make the necessary adaptations to keep them afloat and set themselves up for success when the economy inevitably shifts back upwards. Your investment in teledentistry services will allow you to continue to serve your patients and will keep your practice relevant and competitive for years to come.