13 May The Future of Orthodontics is Here
Technology is amazing isn’t it? Everyday a new technology is invented that has the potential to change the human course of existence. In the early 90s, I remember as a kid daydreaming of a phone that would allow me to see my cousins living in Australia while we talked to them on the phone. And, then BOOM one day it happened. It was a marvelous achievement in the world of communication technology, but by the time I got my hands on the technology my cousins had moved down the street from me. Nonetheless, I was excited for its possibilities and I knew it would be beneficial in the future. Fast forward to 2016 – I had just moved to a new state and needed to see a doctor. After calling my insurance to see what doctors were in their network, they recommend I have a virtual visit with a doctor back in the state I moved away from. It was a giant waste of time. The virtual doctor couldn’t help with anything. Luckily they refunded my co-pay but the experience got me thinking, “what are virtual visits even good for?” I came to the conclusion that if a doctor can help you virtually, then you probably don’t need to see a doctor in the first place or if you really do need to see a doctor, they probably can’t help you anyway. Maybe this is an ignorant conclusion, but after my one attempt I wasn’t impressed.
Recently, CVS, the drugstore chain, announced they are going to start offering “orthodontic” teeth-straightening services, virtually. Yep, you read that correctly. Virtually. You don’t get to meet your orthodontist in person. CVS teeth straightening services will require the customer “patient” to come in to their local CVS drugstore. Once at the store an employee will take 3D images of the customer’s mouth. Once the imaging is completed, the 3D images will be sent to an offsite orthodontist. A few days later removable aligners are shipped to the customer. After a few weeks of wearing the aligners, the customer will have a visit with an orthodontist or dentist virtually to assure everything is going as planned.
Is there a cause for concern when companies leave the traditional orthodontist experience behind and push forward with faster, cheaper, digitized experience? To me, it feels like digitizing doctors, dentist, and orthodontist visits undermine the medical field. There is a viable reason why doctors and dentist go to school for such a long time. The human body is a complicated living and breathing organism and digitizing patient visits takes the personal care out of healthcare. On some levels CVS’s plan for teeth-straightening service is a positive leap in the case of lowering cost and providing service to more people. The thing is though, you can’t cut costs without cutting out other important aspects of medicine. Even though it’s an innovative idea in the world of orthodontics, I believe some services need to be done in the care of an in person, licensed and trained medical professional. But what do I know? I’m just a writer. So let me ask you, can adequate orthodontic service be provided virtually?