A User’s Guide to Teledentistry
The reality of COVID-19 has encouraged both dentists and patients to do their part in preventing the spread of the virus by reducing elective care visits. However, as dental health practitioners, we are obligated to provide professional care for our patients whenever possible, even when our in-person availability is limited. Despite some areas reopening for business, there are still parts of the country where this is not an option and alternative patient diagnostic techniques are required; specifically in the form of teledentistry, which allows you to perform important tasks and levels of care from your home computer, including:
- Oral health consultation
- Elective dentist appointments
- Primary care diagnostic/follow-up for surgery or other procedures
Goals for effective teledentistry
Teledentistry is more than just setting up a webcam with a mic and pretending it’s your dental practice. When you initially plan out your approach, your first task should be recognizing and resolving the following:
Budgeting your time
Ask yourself if you have both the time and ability to provide this level of one-on-one care outside of the office, or if you are only able to schedule certain primary care or post-op surgical patients. Your booking schedule should allow time in between appointments to send reminders to patients and pull up any relevant records.
Perfecting your practice presentation
Aside from general appointments, short, informal meetings can offer you a unique way to keep current patients engaged with your practice. Ensure that whatever resources you have to educate and inform are being utilized to remind your patients of your willingness to continue to provide them with care. Try hosting a scheduled “check-up” with interested patients, who can then share general care questions or concerns, ideally leading to future appointment bookings.
Proper teledentistry protocol
Like any other medical appointment, your initial diagnostic and treatment schedule should rely on relevant patient information:
- Any recent surgeries, medical procedures, or drug usage that could affect care or treatment
- If an in-office visit is required, pre-screening questions related to COVID-19 should be asked and addressed, such as if your patient has any uncontrolled coughing, sneezing, or fever before they visit you
Prioritizing professional care
Be sure to market your teledentistry availability on social media for new patients looking for safer treatment or diagnostic options. General consultations can be a great way to continue providing personalized care, but prioritize those who require more urgent treatment options. If there is a possibility that someone might need to come into your office for further care, this should be made clear during the online diagnostic or follow-up appointment.
“Zooming” to the finish line
For many industry professionals, web conferencing service Zoom offers the most convenient option for patient communication due to its ease of use and accessibility. Zoom also has the added benefit of tiered service options, allowing you to customize your appointment experience. Even if your part of the country is back on track to reopening, exploring the communication tools available to you in teledentistry will help your practice benefit from a more patient and pandemic-friendly approach.