Teledentistry is a rapidly emerging and multi-faceted technology that is destined to become standard equipment in delivering the best possible dental care. In my opinion, this paradigm shift will largely be driven by DSOs and group practices because teledentistry supports the over-arching goals of these organizations, including improved efficiency, scalability and standard of patient care.
However, the early adoption of teledentistry will not occur in a vacuum. Well informed DSO decision makers have been actively performing due diligence by carefully monitoring the many areas of teledentistry progress.
In the past year alone, there were several milestones and advances that elevated teledentistry from “future potential” to “present day reality” status. Here are what I believe are some of the teledentistry highlights of 2019:
- Breaking Away from Public Health: This past year saw a significant expansion in understanding how teledentistry thrives in more settings than its origins in public health programs. More groups are recognizing how teledentistry acts as a private practice growth platform. This expansion is being propelled by two main factors:
1.) In 2019, dental and hygiene trade publications included more news and editorial coverage regarding teledentistry technology, new business models and case studies. In addition, dental meeting planners were more open to receiving and accepting abstracts regarding the “many faces” of teledentistry.
2.) Consumer interest in teledentistry-enabled oral health services. Although a lot of this is due to the mass-media coverage of tele-orthodontics, this category represents just one slice of teledentistry. I believe there is a greater untapped market of potential patients looking for a more convenient and flexible dental experience when it comes to a far broader range of oral care and dental specialist services.
- More Teledentistry-Powered Screening and Mobile Programs: An increasing number of DSOs are using teledentistry as the backbone of their community out-reach programs to improve access to care, build good will and to attract new patients. Teledentistry is also a catalyst for care with the rapidly growing category of for-profit mobile dentistry providers, including the emergence of mobile DSOs – which did not exist just a few years ago!
- Expanding the Definition of Access to Care: Historically, access to care discussions were focused on vulnerable and underserved populations defined primarily by lack of money and lack of mobility – which often go hand-in hand. This past year saw more successful implementations of teledentistry that improve access to care among those who avoid preventive and early intervention care due primarily to lack of convenience – They are either too busy or urban travel is too much of a hassle to make an appointment during standard dental office hours, which often requires losing time from work or school. Teledentistry is a perfect solution as to help DSOs improve access to care for those who have insurance and/or financial wherewithal to pay for treatment by expanding hygiene hours or by operating satellite clinics; both of which may not require that a dentist be on-site. This of course is dependent on individual state practice acts, which are also evolving.
- Favorable State Legislation: Speaking of state practice acts, 2019 saw the passage of progressive legislation by several states including Washington state and Kentucky which now join other teledentistry-friendly states such as Arizona, New Mexico and Wisconsin to name a few. If your DSO or group practice operates offices in any of the states listed above, you owe it to your organization and your patients to become familiar with your state’s revised regulations as well as the many applications of and benefits of teledentistry.
To find out more about how DSOs can
keep the dentist in teledentistry, click here.
In my next article I will provide my 2020 teledentistry predictions that will have a positive impact on DSOs and group practices.
About the Author: Brant Herman is the CEO and Founder of MouthWatch, LLC, a leader in innovative teledentistry solutions, digital case presentation tools and intraoral imaging devices. The company is dedicated to finding new ways to constantly improve the dental health experience for both patient and provider. Contact Brant at Brant@MouthWatch.com.
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