There’s certainly a lot more companies talking about teledentistry all of a sudden. We’ve been talking about teledentistry as a tool for better dentistry since our company began. And we’re going to be here for the long-term growth and adapting along with you. If you are looking widely at teledentistry solutions, here are some questions we think it would be helpful to have clarity on in making a decision.
Note: teledentistry definitions
One note first on the word “teledentistry”. Different trends within the dental profession have given that word different meanings. For some, it has meant streamlining the process of aligner therapy, the ortho application of teledentistry. For others, it has meant connecting patients online to a dentist they don’t know through a referral network. For others, teledentistry meant promoting access to care in rural areas. Every single application of teledentistry probably has its place. We see teledentistry as keeping the dentist central, and as a way to connect providers to providers as well providers to patients—in particular, connecting a dentist to their existing patients when the patients are not in the office.
1. Was your platform designed from the beginning as a solution for dentists and their teams?
A number of solutions for teledentistry during the covid crisis seem to have sprouted up overnight. Some are really no more than video chat applications with the word “teledentistry” applied or are from a telemedicine application rebranded for dental use. Find out if the platform has specifically been developed for the needs of dental professionals and their patients.
2. How long has the platform been available for teledentistry?
Another quick way to get a sense of the solution is to find out how long has it been developed. That’s not to say that something new can’t have promise. But with the complexities of providing a robust dental telehealth platform for many use cases (not only for now, but for the long-term use of your practice) it’s good to get a sense of track record. It’s not just how long a company has been around, but how long they will be around.
3. Is your platform built around delivering key benefits to practices such as increased case acceptance rate?
This gets to the heart of the matter. Does the company behind the platform understand dentists and dentistry? Is the teledentistry platform built with a dental practice and its business needs in mind?
4. Does the platform help practices deliver all 4 key features that their patients are seeking?
This is an important question because as noted above the word “teledentistry” has wide-ranging meanings. There are times when patient-facing teledentistry capabilities are key considerations.
Here are the 4 things patients will hope that the teledentistry company you select will deliver:
- Message my dental practice with concerns and questions
- Join simple live video consults without hassle
- Always know where I can go to access my own data and recommendations from the practice
- Get visual treatment plans I can really understand and easily look at together with my partner, child, etc.
5. Can dentists and teams on the platform pivot seamlessly between patient messaging, store and forward data sharing, and live video consultations as needed by their own workflow?
Dentistry doesn’t always happen in real-time. In fact “asynchronous” teledentistry can be more efficient. Your patients can schedule a live video consult with you, but in the meantime upload a picture of what concerns them or describe it in the intake form. You may have the evaluation done by the time the video consult happens. Or, you can batch process messages from patients. Your teledentistry platform should allow you and your team to seamlessly transition between messaging and live communication modes with patients and each other.
6. Does the platform create a consolidated record of patient communications (including archiving of video consult recordings) that can be used for documentation and provider-to-provider collaboration?
If your teledentistry solution does not record and document a consolidated record of patient communications, imagine the fragmentation that’s going to take place and the difficulty of tracking where patient communication is at through a case, or providing documentation as needed for insurance or HIPAA compliance.
7. Does it have comprehensive dental record capabilities for documentation and teledentistry patient management? (Patient records, visual treatment plans…)
Teledentistry isn’t just a video call. You have a patient and the patient needs record keeping. And that patient and exam data can come in the form of files, x-rays, intraoral images, and more. It’s not only the back-office tracking need. Teledentistry is really (as we understand it) a huge opportunity to level up patient communication via visual treatment planning that can reach them on any device.
8. Will it enable you to collaborate with other providers, including secure sharing of patient and exam data?
Dentistry is teamwork. Your staff might not be active now, but you’ll be in the office soon. And a teledentistry platform as we envision it should be enabling easier collaboration between GPs, specialists, and even dental labs.
9. Can practice and group workflows and business organizations be mapped in the platform?
For larger dental practices or groups or dental health organizations, you should find out if your organizational structure and team structures can be mapped in the teledentistry software so that teledentistry is enabling workflows instead of hindering them. E.g., does the teledentistry platform offer permission access and data siloing at patient, provider, and practice levels?
10. Will it deliver patient-facing and clinical backend capabilities without requiring a major transition from your current Practice Management workflow?
We call TeleDent by MouthWatch “turnkey” in the sense that you can turn the key to implementing teledentistry very quickly. What you will want to assess though is whether a teledentistry platform is going to require you to basically replace your existing practice management. For some use cases, such as in the field, you want some Electronic Dental Record capabilities such as TeleDent provides. However, you’re going to be doing dentistry mostly in your practice and mostly using the systems you have. A teledentistry platform should be leveraging what you have and providing systems to manage the unexpected, like now. That’s different than replacing what you have.
11. Is it limited to a primary EHR integration (such as Epic)?
This is an indicator that the teledentistry solution you are looking at probably comes from a telemedicine background and has not been specifically developed for dental care and dental patients. If you use Epic though this could be a worthwhile compromise.
12. Can it do all of the above with end-to-end HIPAA security?
Most platforms will say yes to this unless they are primarily a video chat solution that has been quickly re-branded as a teledentistry solution. Even though there are waivers currently for HIPAA compliance and regulation is being relaxed for now, which is probably the right thing in the situation, we encourage you to take the long view with security and patient privacy, and data protection. Work with a teledentistry provider you can trust to protect you and your practice.
Have questions about teledentistry regulations in your state? Checkout our quick facts interactive map for teledentistry across the 50 US states.