We still have patients to serve…
Each passing day, more state dental boards and governors are recommending that dentists postpone non-essential procedures. Other dental offices have had to close due to a lack of personal protective equipment. Furthermore, dental providers were listed as the number one providers at risk to contract COVID-19 due to the proximity that we work with patients and the aerosols caused by the procedures we perform.
These realities do not change the fact that we still have patients to care for. We still have dental emergencies and patients relying on us. We cannot simply abandon our patients. Fortunately, we have the technology to be able to continue to care for our patients during this difficult time.
What these events have revealed is that teledentistry has a role to play in access to care for all…not only the underserved.
If you are in a state that has telehealth or teledentistry policy, then you are in a position to continue to provide care to your patients and get reimbursed. If you are not in a state that has teledentistry legislation, but there is no limiting language in your state practice act, then you can also use teledentistry to care for your patients. Even if you live in a state like mine, that does have limiting language for exams, you could still consult with existing patients via telecommunication.
How can you care for your patients during this pandemic, but also protect you and your staff from COVID-19?
Teledentistry creates access to care for all and limits the risk of exposure of COVID-19 to patients and providers by communicating with patients using technology. Dentists can use HIPAA encrypted teledentistry software to perform limited exams (D0140) and the teledentistry codes (D9996 & D9995) to provide care to their patients. They can assess the patient’s needs and determine the next steps for that patient’s care. Dentists can evaluate whether they should prescribe the patient medication, refer the patient, delay elective treatment, or bring the patient in for emergency dental treatment.
What teledentistry during COVID-19 can look like with TeleDent…
With the use of Teledent, patients can communicate with dentists directly and upload images. Dentists can communicate with patients via video and get a more comprehensive overview of the patient’s problems when compared to a phone call. Adding the additional step of screening patients or performing limited exams using teledentistry before bringing a patient in for emergency treatment will limit exposures of COVID-19 to patients and providers. A teledentistry exam could altogether remove having an in-person exam or, at the very least, add a safeguard for providers.
If an image uploaded from a patient is not sufficient, but the dentist is unable to see patients due to being quarantined there is still an opportunity to care for their patient. The dentist could have the patient come into their office and have their allied healthcare provider take radiographs and intra-oral images to help the dentist decide the next steps for the patient. From there, the dentist could refer the patient to a specialist and use Teledent to communicate the patient’s information to other providers.
Now is the time to try a new direction…
During this time of increased uncertainty, dentists should feel empowered that there is technology available for them to be able to continue to care for their patients. For more information on how Teledent can help you care for your patients during this difficult time email [email protected]
Amber Lovatos, RDH, BSDH
Amber is the Government Affairs consultant for MouthWatch, LLC. She is the current Clinical Director of Dental Services for Tomagwa Healthcare Ministries in Tumball, Texas. Amber has spoken on teledentistry legislation nationwide.