Transforming the Oral Health System
I’ve been practicing dentistry for 33 years. For the past 2 and a half years, I’ve been working as an Advantage Dental+ provider in Portland, Oregon. I joined Advantage because I have always been interested in public health.
I also share the Advantage philosophy of Preventistry – an innovative, prevention-led approach to transforming the oral health system.
It’s an approach that increases access, affordability, and awareness to improve the oral and overall health of all.
There is a tremendous need for dental services among the underserved residents in my area, especially preventive care. During the course of my day, I see many vulnerable members of my community, including Medicaid patients, young children in foster care, recovering drug addicts, LGTBQ community members, and minority populations (Black and Hispanic).
Becoming an Early Adopter
When Advantage Dental began introducing teledentistry to its more than 70 locations by implementing the TeleDent teledentistry platform from MouthWatch, our office was one of the early adopters. Prior to adoption of teledentistry, I was somewhat familiar with the concept, as I had taken a few CE courses on the advantages of telehealth portals during the COVID-19 lockdown.
As with any new technology introduced into the practice, there was a bit of a learning curve before the virtual workflow became second nature. The front desk also needed some time to adapt to setting up virtual consultations in addition to in-office appointments – this was understandable.
Once our team became fluent in teledentistry, we saw its great potential for patients to reach out to us for a consultation, but perhaps more importantly, for us to proactively reach out to them in order to provide one-on-one preventive dental care and education. I was pleasantly surprised to see the positive impact teledentistry had on our ability to practice Preventistry with the goal of improving the oral and overall health of our community.
In addition, teledentistry has improved the entire patient experience – especially for patients of record.
For example, if they have an established treatment plan, or an emergency, we can follow up without needing to have the patient come to the office. In this way, teledentistry has helped tremendously with expediting in-office care. When you know in advance exactly what the patient is scheduled for during their office visit, it maximizes the chair time, which opens time for treating other patients. Make no mistake, many of our patients are either not tech savvy or lack internet access, so old school teledentistry using a telephone is still in use.
At the end of the day, we have to provide our patients with a choice of options regarding how to connect with us, in order to optimize their access to care.
Amplifying Access to Care
Speaking of access to care, while I practice in a metro-area, many of our other locations and patients are in rural areas, so teledentistry has enabled us to reach these underserved communities, where they might not otherwise have access to dental care due to provider shortages, limited transportation options, lack of childcare, etc.
Patients are generally satisfied with virtual consultations whenever appropriate. We often utilize teledentistry to provide them with information about nutrition, home care, early childhood intervention, etc.
I am now able to reach out to a high number of Medicaid members who otherwise would not have the opportunity to receive this type of educational information.
What’s more, based on the responses and triage, some patients received the immediate care that was needed, while others were scheduled for their first in-office visit at their earliest convenience.
Experiencing Positive Patient Feedback
What I especially like about TeleDent is that important features such as security, HIPAA compliance, cloud storage of patient records, the ability to communicate live or via a recorded consultation, text messaging, and a mobile-friendly patient portal are already seamlessly integrated into the platform – we don’t need multiple solutions or an IT person on-site!
However, no matter how much providers like the technology we use, the patient experience always matters.
Fortunately, our patient response is amazing!
They are very satisfied with their interactions via teledentistry, especially the convenience of talking to a dentist or hygienist without having to be in the office. I am planning to continue our virtual outreach because I believe teledentistry has tremendous untapped potential when it comes to conducting virtual assessments and delivering important education in oral and systemic disease prevention.
There is so much more that providers can achieve using this platform.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Lilia Herrera graduated from Loma Linda University with a Doctorate in Dental Surgery and has been practicing dentistry for over 33 years. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.
Dr. Herrera has been an Advantage Dental+ provider in Portland, Oregon for 2 and a half years.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: ANTSTUDIO/Shutterstock.com.