Expanding DSO Business Models Via Teledentistry

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In our previous GDN article, “An Out-Of-The-Box Teledentistry Solution To Growing Pains Caused By Rapid Dental Group Practice Growth,” we explained how the TeleDent™ teledentistry platform from MouthWatch LLC can help DSOs address the challenges of expanding within the typical DSO business model.

This time around, we’ll focus on how TeleDent can help DSOs develop opportunities that lie beyond the original business plan and even beyond the physical walls of the DSO-operated practice. We’ll also highlight some innovative DSO practice development ideas made possible by teledentistry.

The 6 Cs of Teledentistry-Powered Business Development

“There are many benefits and applications of teledentistry”, says Brant Herman, Founder and CEO of teledentistry solution provider MouthWatch. “They’re based on what I like to call the 6 Cs of teledentistry; Communication, Coordination, Collaboration, Compliance, Convenience and Cost Management.”

Communication: Communicating effectively with the patient (or guardian) is at the heart of any successful dental practice.

For example, the TeleDent platform provides two must-have options that will encourage wide-spread adoption of teledentistry within the DSO organization and acceptance by specialists and patients. They are synchronous (real time video) and asynchronous (store and forward) methods of clinical data collection, which includes diagnostic images, videos, clinical notes and treatment plans.

When patients see what’s going on in their mouth, when they have the opportunity for a face-to-face consultation with a dentist – regardless of location, and especially when they receive a customized treatment plan document with images of the work that needs to be done, they are far more likely to accept those treatment recommendations. Currently, only TeleDent makes this possible.

Coordination: Teledentistry is also an effective and efficient way to enable DSO headquarters, administrators, individual practice managers, practitioners and clinicians to closely coordinate on administrative and clinical matters. “The result is that the patient treatment plan can easily move forward from acceptance to completion to payment,” commented Herman.

For example, when a new practice or practitioner joins the DSO, teledentistry makes it easy to share information, monitor clinical work, and manage administrative tasks. The latest TeleDent release now combines enhanced clinical teledentistry workflow processes with robust administrative task management tools, thus helping everyone stay up to date and on schedule with reduced email inbox clutter.

The TeleDent platform also improves claims management by sharing information such as patient consent and treatment plan acceptance, completion of procedures, and before and after images – which insurance companies increasingly want to see.

Collaboration: Integrated process flow and sharing of images, x-rays, videos and clinical notes can occur either in real time or for “when available” making case collaboration simple and cost-effective, even when busy specialists or labs need to be involved. Here are two examples of clinical collaboration:

  • Internal Dental Teams: TeleDent’s asynchronous mode enables mentored treatment planning via remote supervision. What’s more anyone on the dental care team can review patient records etc. prior to performing their assigned treatment workflow task. This is especially helpful when treatment occurs over multiple appointments and includes multiple care team members.
  • External Clinical Collaborators: Depending on the circumstances, specialists working outside a DSO practice location can provide consultations in real-time or in store-and forward mode. They can also be introduced to referred patients to break the ice and encourage treatment plan acceptance.

It should be noted that teledentistry is also highly effective in closing the loop between GP referrals and specialist treatment. Currently, the common method of giving the patient a specialist’s business card only results in about 50% of patients following through and making an appointment with the specialist. This is lost revenue for both the GP and specialist.

Clinical collaboration can also be extended to the medical profession as awareness about oral-systemic health risks increases along with the escalated likelihood of dentists treating medically-compromised patients. Plus, connecting dental expertise to medical patient touch points can generate new patients.

Compliance: Seamless and secure communication is easy with teledentistry. HIPAA- compliant end-to-end systems and storage are configured for your specific organizational structure and needs. Non-compliant attachments to emails are replaced with secure messaging and shared documents.

“Another form of compliance is that of getting the dental team’s buy-in for teledentistry and ensuring its consistent use,” adds Herman. “Because TeleDent is easy to use, it’s more likely to be embraced by the entire dental team for the greater good of the practice and its patients.”

Convenience: It wasn’t long ago that the criteria for business’ success was three things: Location, location, location. “That’s still true for the most part,” explains Herman, “But if you’re not factoring in the consumer demand for added convenience, you’re not getting optimal ROI from your prime location real estate investment.”

Everyone today wants more convenience in their lives; dual income families, single parents, active seniors, night school students, self-employed, shift workers and don’t forget millennials who grew up in a world of immediate gratification and expectations of the latest technology.

TeleDent features make the practice more accommodating to the patient, internal care team, external specialists alike and of course, DSO HQ management.

Cost Management: The high cost of clinical staff payroll makes it essential to monitor case workloads, acceptance rates and other practical measures of business performance. TeleDent helps keep track of multiple offices, and external collaborators within the DSO networks to help identify and correct weaknesses.

The virtual infrastructure requires minimal hardware – an intraoral camera and laptop or tablet. These components can be easily upgraded, swapped or replaced as needed.

Hook this easy-to-use hardware to cloud-based teledentistry software and you’re ready to practice teledentistry – with limited, if any, IT intervention needed, all while maintaining the highest levels of security and HIPAA compliance. There’s no hard-wired networks or servers to contend with.

Three New DSO Business Models Enabled by the 6Cs of Teledentistry

1. Expanded Hygiene Hours: As mentioned previously, today’s busy consumer has a very low tolerance for inconvenience. They really don’t care what your profession’s traditional day off is or appreciate it when they must take time off work to get an appointment.

By using teledentistry, a DSO’s office can offer expanded hygiene hours during weekends and before and after the traditional 9-5 work day. In this scenario, hygiene appointments can be scheduled at a more convenient time, which increases the likelihood that appointments are kept. What’s more, if a patient needs to cancel an appointment, there are more scheduling options to ensure that the patient is put back on the calendar quickly and doesn’t fall through the cracks.

Here’s how it works: One or more hygienists along with a front office person are scheduled to work during off-peak hours without the dentist on-site. Of course, this is contingent on individual state dental practice acts.

In the event that a hygienist finds a suspicious oral lesion, evidence of periodontal disease or a tooth that may require restorative intervention, the dentist can be contacted via the TeleDent platform for a virtual consultation to discuss next steps.

This consultation may also include the patient to get their buy-in for follow-up treatment. Once the patient agrees to continue with the recommended treatment plan. The front office person schedules the appointment with the dentist.

In this way, implementing extended hygiene hours not only provides additional patient convenience, it helps build a pipeline of restorative and periodontal treatment appointments.

2. Satellite Hygiene Clinics: Another way that teledentistry can enable DSOs to expand their reach and market penetration is to establish satellite hygiene clinics in states that allow remote supervision by dentists.

For best results, the satellite hygiene clinic should be located within reasonable driving distance of the main DSO location for that office to take full advantage of the restorative and periodontal treatment referred by the hygienists.

A more strategic variation of this option would be to build a satellite hygiene clinic in the white area between two existing DSO locations. In this way, two offices could benefit from referrals from the hygienists.

Depending on patient volume at the hygiene clinic, it could be decided that the clinic or suitable location in the same town be expanded to a full-service dental office.

3. Pop-Up Screening Clinics: There’s been lot of controversy regarding the advent of tooth whitening kiosks in places such as shopping malls or store fronts. Much of the controversy has to do with the fact that most of the operators are not trained and licensed dental clinicians.

According to Herman, “DSOs can take this model and improve upon it using licensed clinicians.” For example, free oral health screening clinics under the DSO’s brand can be set up in community settings such as shopping malls, health fairs, or even senior centers. ”

If necessary, the dentist can be contacted for a consultation, which is something the potential patient most likely never experienced. “Wow, these guys are really high-tech!”

In any event, the examination and patient data are captured via the TeleDent platform and used for follow-up and potential new patient conversion.

Another scenario that may possibly have a higher ROI than a pop-up clinic in a shopping mall, is setting up oral health screening days with preventive care options in local business offices. “Just think of it,” says Herman, “Teledentistry transforms every office building and industrial park within driving distance of a DSO location into a new patient generator!”

These are just a few of the new DSO business models made viable by the top line benefits of the TeleDent Teledentistry platform; connectivity, communication, collaboration and convenience.

Although teledentistry’s benefits of Communication, Coordination, Collaboration, Compliance, Convenience and Cost Management make the three new DSO business models explained above possible, it is one of the latest examples of technology outpacing regulation. Therefore, there may be state practice act restrictions that effect implementation in your DSOs area of operation. However, more and more state boards are reexamining their positions on direct access for hygienists as well as defining the specifics of teledentistry, which is destined to become a standard option for improving patient care and practice growth.

Be sure to visit MouthWatch’s company listing in the DSO Resource Guide HERE

View the TeleDent All-InOne Teledentistry Platform HERE

MouthWatch, LLC
460 Main Street, Ste B
Metuchen, NJ 08840
Email: info@mouthwatch.com
Phone: 877.544.4342


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