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Dentistry in the time of coronavirus is proving to be tricky, what with all those social distancing measures that we all need to observe to stay safe.
Still, people need dental care, because ultimately, our overall health would be in even deeper trouble if we just decide to forgo dental checkups and the like.
Thankfully, we live in a world where custom online marketing is a fact of daily life, and dentistry can be done virtually, through a method known as teledentistry.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), teledentistry “provides the means for a patient to receive services when the patient is in one physical location and the dentist or other oral health or general health care practitioner overseeing the delivery of those services is in another location.”
With teledentistry, dental practices are now capable of delivering remote dental care to their patients, even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
Then again, even when the coronavirus disappears, and life returns to normal, teledentistry will still be a popular option, particularly for patients who have trouble finding the time to drop by their dentist’s office because of their work schedules.
So if you have a dental practice and you want to set it up for teledentistry, here are tips that will help you do just that.
Equipment and Technology Requirements
The single most crucial piece of technology required when setting up teledentistry is high-speed internet access. This applies not only to you, the teledentistry practitioner but also to your patients.
As for hardware and software, you need a computer or a tablet equipped with communication software that complies with the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the ADA has declared that practices can provide teledentistry services without risk by using FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype. However, “public-facing” platforms like Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, and similar video communication are not allowed, according to the ADA.
Teledentistry involves capturing images for transmission, so you will also need intraoral cameras and portable x-ray devices such as a Nomad.
Put An Airtight Process In Place
Teledentistry may not be a new dental treatment or procedure given that, by strict definition, it’s simply a method of delivering dental care. However, it is something new to you, and, therefore, you must establish an airtight process first before you can offer such a service to ensure a smooth delivery.
You can start with determining protocol, from identifying the services you are capable of providing remotely to figuring out who among the members of your team must be involved in virtual visits. Treat your teledentistry practice the way you did when you set up your actual dental practice. Think of every possible scenario, then let your team in on it, too. It would also be a good idea to run test visits before launching.
Fix Your Schedule
You need to determine your teledentistry schedule the same way you set your dental practice hours. You can make it an all-day thing, or only certain hours of the day. The important thing is whatever schedule you set would work for you and your patients.
Speaking of schedules, you will also need to set up a system for scheduling a virtual visit. Your patients need to know if they have to fill out an appointment request on your dental practice website, or if they can simply call your office for an appointment.
Set Up Your Dedicated Teledentistry Space
It goes without saying that when conducting teledentistry, you need a dedicated space with all technology and equipment you need for virtual dental visits in place. You can set one up in your office or in your home, whichever is more convenient.
Set Up Documentation
Treat every virtual visit like an actual appointment at your practice, so document everything, from prescriptions you give out to billing services, just like you would if your patient was right in front of you. If you want documentation to be easier and more efficient, you can always get dental practice management software, which takes care of everything from scheduling to billing, among other things.
Inform Your Patients
Once you’ve got everything set up, it’s time to inform patients, both existing and potential, that you are now offering teledentistry services. You can inform them via email, or you can announce it on your dental practice website as well as your social media channels.
All signs point to a new normal for the way we live once the threat of COVID-19 is over, and teledentistry will likely be a big part of that. By setting up a teledentistry practice now, you get to improve access to oral healthcare and lower your costs while getting a head start on your competitors as well.
About the Author
Shawn Byrne, founder and CEO, started My Digital Dentistry after years of developing and executing successful marketing strategies for Venture Capitalists and business owners in and out of the medical field. He saw a growing need for quality digital marketing specifically in dentistry, and had the foresight to create an agency specializing in understanding and solving the unique problems of dentists and their practices from General Dentists to Endodontists.
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