2020 has brought us many things, some challenging and some opportunities disguised as challenges. It has taught us how to adjust and adapt, beginning that fateful March day when dental offices coast to coast were shut down. I found myself, like many others, feeling it was a short-term break from the grind. Boy, was I wrong!
As the weeks drug out and the break extended for many months, it placed a burden on practices and society. At the same time, we might look back and feel that the pandemic awarded the dental industry an opportunity for growth. Dental practices started to adapt to new technology and adopt and adjust practice models to meet the needs of patients and providers. Dentist offices were challenged to think outside of the box—and many came away with new insights.
Adapting to New Technology
Take teledentistry for example. At MouthWatch we saw dentists adopt TeleDent to ensure patient care continuity when their office doors could not be open. A silver lining of the pandemic has been dental providers beginning to discover tgat teledentistry opens doors to innovative practice model with real ROI. The ADA reports that most dental practices are seeing a lower volume of patients than last year, some even at 30% compared to one year ago. Fear of the virus has been keeping patients away unless prompted by pain, however through teledentistry, doctors have found a way to continue screening patients while also capturing some lost revenue.
Innovators and Change
While change can be difficult, it may also help you stand above the crowd as an innovator. (MouthWatch hosts the annual “Tellies”, the Teledentistry Innovation Awards to recognize such innovators.) Dental practices have become creative and many learned that teledentistry is not just for public health settings. Dentists are finding untapped income potential and opportunities to expand practice models. Third party payors are reimbursing for teledentistry encounters and most importantly states are clarifying language and rapid adoption of teledentistry support.
Change is also Patient Driven
Patients have embraced the telehealth concept and teledentistry is just one part of the solution. After finding the benefits and convenience of virtual visits, patients are driving changes in the way healthcare happens. Patients are savvy and embracing how easily that post-operative or evaluation visits can happen from the comfort of home. It is easy to implement teledentistry without a patient needing access to an intraoral camera — you’d be impressed at what a smartphone can capture to upload to a secure patient portal!
2020 is the year of stress and uncertainty. However, it has been the year of opportunity and innovation as well. While the cloud hung over the world, society has adapted and found ways to stay safe and connected. Teledentistry is not intended to replace the hands-on practice of dentistry, but rather it is an enhancement to your practice. Goodbye 2020: We learned how to adapt and appreciate what we have. Hello 2021 – Let’s make this the year of growth and success!
Jamie Collins, RDH-EA, BS is a hygienist in Idaho and Washington states. She has been in the dental field for over twenty years, both as an assistant and hygienist. With a passion for patient care, especially those with higher risk factors, Jamie enjoys sharing the tips and tricks of dental profession through speaking and writing for various publications. In addition to clinical practice Jamie is also a speaker, educator, has contributed to multiple textbooks, curriculum development, and contributes as a key opinion leader for various companies. Jamie can be contacted at [email protected] or visit mydentaleducator.com