There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has brought dentistry to a grinding halt, with emergency treatment being the only option at the present time for providing patient care in many states.
Many DSOs and group practices are struggling with determining the most efficient way to conduct dental triage and developing a game plan for returning to business in the new normal once the restrictions have been lifted in their areas of operation.
In my opinion, there will be four phases for DSOs to survive the coronavirus lockdown and return to profitability in what I hope is the not too distant future. The four phases are: respond, recover, rebuild, and repeat. Whichever phase your group is currently in, teledentistry is the common thread linking them together, providing continuity of care and ensuring success
Respond: During this pandemic, the best thing a group practice can do is stay connected with its patients. Teledentistry can provide safe connectivity and sophisticated two-way communication that will help guide your patients through a virtual dental triage process and help you to decide whether an emergency appointment should be scheduled. With teledentistry, there is no reason for your patients to seek relief in an emergency room whether there is a pandemic or not.
Even though your offices may still be closed for hygiene visits and elective procedures, teledentistry enables virtual smartphone check-ins. This is especially useful for patients who need to keep their periodontal disease home care on track. This is also especially important for medically compromised patients who are being treated for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, etc.
In fact, monitoring your patients may reduce the number of refractory perio cases you will have to contend with once your offices get the green light to re-open. Your patients certainly won’t want to return to square one of their perio therapy if they can possibly avoid it.
In the case of a patient who had an implant placed just prior to the lock-down, you can use teledentistry to monitor the healing of the implant site and ensure that proper osseointegration is occurring. For cases that require immediate attention, an emergency visit can be scheduled before the implant fails. This capability will be useful after your offices reopen.
Recover: As group practices begin to reopen, it will become evident that this is not the same as reopening after a holiday week. For a smoother return to full-service dentistry, some efficient scheduling needs to take place, especially for patients who called when you were closed, or presented with concerns that may not have required urgent care at the time but should not be postponed indefinitely.
With the TeleDent all-in-one teledentistry platform, your previous virtual consultation could have been recorded and patient records can be updated and organized to prepare the care team for the patient’s on-site visit.
If treatment requires a referral to a specialist or other care provider, a virtual three-way introductory conference call can be scheduled to reduce patient anxiety overseeing a new doctor and to increase the likelihood of treatment plan acceptance. This should be your new post-pandemic referral process as well.
Rebuild: The rebuilding phase is where DSOs will be able to use teledentistry to its fullest potential. In addition to the applications utilized in the recovery phase, the rebuilding phase will include ways to use teledentistry to enhance case acceptance and explore new business opportunities.
Using the communication tools in teledentistry software, practices can more easily provide consultations and speed up case acceptance without requiring patients come in until treatment is ready to be done.
By reaching out to patients in a way that is convenient to them, case presentations and cosmetic consultations are more efficient when conducted outside of office hours. What’s more, teledentistry enables you to start these conversations without patients requiring an office visit.
Jumpstarting case acceptance with teledentistry can help get patients in chairs for treatment that has been postponed, and you can easily communicate how their office visit will be safe and secure when they do return.
Pursuing new revenue streams will be particularly important to replace some of the traditional revenue streams that may have been taken for granted. Providing new and innovative ways of providing emergency and elective dental care, will also be a brand booster in each DSO office’s local community. Here are some teledentistry-enabled opportunities for the new normal:
- Pop-Up Dental Clinics
- Expanded Hygiene Department Hours
- Dentist / Hygienist House Calls
- Mobile Dentistry Fleets
- Onsite Eldercare
- Expanded Healthcare Provider Networks
- School Programs
- Physician Office Services
- Business / Vacation Hotline
- Dentistry in Independent Drug Stores
Repeat: The coronavirus is expected to be a way of life for several years to come. In fact, communities may see a rise and fall of COVID-19 cases, which will result in a series of repeated openings and closings mandated by state and local health authorities, and a return to another cycle of responding, recovering, and rebuilding.
Despite this new reality, dental groups equipped with teledentistry will be better prepared to adjust to each open/closure cycle by providing some semblance of continuity of care for their patients.
Therefore, until we are completely out of the woods regarding the risk of coronavirus exposure, you may want to consider making as many procedures as possible virtual encounters to minimize patient office time. This is easily achieved when using a comprehensive teledentistry platform such as MouthWatch TeleDent. Here are some standard operating procedures (SOPs) that have been long overdue for becoming virtual operating procedures (VOPs):
- New and Updated Patient History
- New Patient Introduction and Consultation
- Home Oral Care Compliance Monitoring
- Wellness Coaching
- High-Risk Implant Monitoring
- Referrals and Specialist Introductions
- GP/Specialist Collaboration
- Treatment Plan Review
Teledentistry is a technology that can help grow the business of dentistry and also grow with the business of dentistry. It will also help provide the highest standard of patient care whether you are in the responding, recovery, or rebuilding phase of the COVID-19 reality. And in the case of TeleDent, patients are always connected to their personal dentists, who in turn are directing their individual treatment plans.
To find out more about how DSOs can keep
the dentist in teledentistry, click here.
About the Author: Brant Herman is the CEO and Founder of MouthWatch, LLC, (www.mouthwatch.com) 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.
Read other Mouthwatch articles:
Watch our interview with Brant Herman in the second half of this podcast starting at 36:15
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