It may be a case of being careful what you wish for. During the past several months, dental professionals have been asking when they will be able go back to work and practice full-time dentistry.
But as states nationwide have authorized dentists to begin practicing again, the question becomes “Now what?” With the coronavirus diminished but not vanquished, we’re also asking a slew of other new questions, including:
- How do dental professionals protect themselves and their patients?
- How do practice owners alleviate patient and employee anxiety?
- How does dentistry avoid becoming a vertical industry hotbed for new COVID-19 outbreaks?
Although adopting new infection control protocols and equipment will be tantamount to keeping the curve flattened, implementing a comprehensive teledentistry platform such as MouthWatch’s TeleDent will ensure these contagion prevention efforts have optimal results.
Here are six scenarios where teledentistry can help mitigate the risk of additional coronavirus transmission.
New Patient Consultations
“This is my first-time appointment.”
With teledentistry, new patients no longer have to sit in a waiting room and handle a clipboard or tablet, as you meet them over video instead. What’s more, the dental assistant or hygienist doesn’t have to don and doff personal protective equipment (PPE) for each new patient onboarding encounter.
Current Patient Appointments
“Don’t you already have this information?”
Using a patient portal like the one included in TeleDent, patient histories can be updated online, and any necessary pre-appointment discussions can occur via video chat. The result is virtually zero time in the waiting room. This process is so efficient that you may be able to convert your waiting room into a new operatory—or better yet, a teledentistry studio.
“What? Another dentist and another consultation?”
That’s what your patients think when you say you need to refer them to a specialist whom they don’t know. This entire process is much more convenient and less stressful with a teledentistry-enabled, virtual face-to-face introduction and consultation with the specialist—who doesn’t have to wear PPE either!
“Do I have to come into the office for that?”
Maybe not! Teledentistry can provide an additional level of convenience and safety when it comes to periodic patient check-ins to monitor their homecare or the healing of a newly placed implant. No travel, no waiting room, and, once again, no PPE required.
“I have an emergency! I need to come in right away!”
Emergencies don’t always happen during office hours. But when patients are in distress, you want to help and, unless they have obstructed breathing, prevent them from going to the ER. An emergency teledentistry visit can provide you with enough preliminary information and visual details for you to prescribe antibiotics and/or pain medication, which often can be delivered to their door. Then, you can schedule an appointment ASAP.
Sick Team Member
How many times do we hear, “If you’re sick, stay home,” not only in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, but during the annual cold and flu season? This means dental teams too! Why bring your germs into the office?
You don’t have to. A sick day doesn’t have to be a wasted day when you’re equipped with teledentistry. That’s because if you feel up to it, you can review patient records and create visual treatment plans that, in turn, can be shared with your team while you’re at home recovering.
As always, teledentistry regulations vary from state by state. And although restrictions have been loosened to enable our healthcare systems to provide access to care during the COVID-19 crisis, please follow the guidelines provided by the state where you practice.
Once you’ve implemented teledentistry in your practice, your patients will appreciate your investment in preserving their peace of mind and well-being and respecting their busy schedules.
Dr. Heinrichs is an owner and founder of Teledental Solutions, a teledentistry implementation and consulting company. She gained her experience from owning a highly profitable, teledentistry-equipped practice in Lenexa, Kansas, before selling it in 2018. She attended the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry, where she received honors from the prosthodontics department and the President’s Award for public health. Dr. Heinrichs is uniquely qualified in the successful implementation of revenue-generating teledentistry in all models of dental practices as well as in creating strategies for corporations and their employees. She can be reached at HeinrichsDDS@TeledentalSolutions.com.
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