The past few weeks have been difficult for all of us. The dental industry has also been affected extensively by this, with most of the practices forced to close its doors and the staff asked to stay at home. We are seeing instances where businesses are resorting to extreme measures such as laying off staff or even permanently shutting down practices due to lack of business. Given the circumstances, the best way dental practices can keep functioning and provide services is through the proper utilization of technology and careful management of business finances. This is where teledentistry comes in.
What is teledentistry?
Telemedicine and in extension, Teledentistry, have been around for quite a while. It is primarily used for situations where patients do not have access to dental services easily, like rural areas (which amounts to almost 20% of Americans). Teledentistry refers to the utilization of technologies like live video conferencing and online portals to run “Tele-appointments”, where dentists are consulted by patients over a live video channel.
During this virtual appointment, the dentist and the accompanying treatment coordinator provides the patient with necessary dental advice and sets up an emergency in-person appointment if necessary.
In some cases, patients and dentists may not be able to meet each other online in real-time. In such situations patients can record their queries, the dentists can view them later and get back with solutions.
What are the benefits of using Teledentistry?
Teledentistry can make patients feel safer as they can get the dentist’s services sitting in the safety of their homes. As they do not meet the dentists or travel to the practice they will have nothing to worry about catching an unwanted infection. Even if a patient needs an emergency in-person appointment, all the follow up can still happen online.
Dentists can also save the money they spend on maintaining a large office if they can use teleconsultations. Not to mention the travel cost savings both to the dentist and the patient.
How can your dental practice offer Tele-Appointments?
Currently, HIPAA regulations have been modified to allow dentists and patients to use non-public facing technologies like Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video or Skype for tele-appointments. According to the current rules, they can continue to use these technologies till the lockdown is over. But dentists should avoid using public-facing technologies like Facebook Live, Twitch and TikTok. Further, the allowed platforms are not completely safe, so the dentists must inform the patients about privacy risks and use encryption wherever possible.
Tele-appointments and Claim Reimbursements
Patients do not have anything to worry about how to pay for teledentistry appointments. This is because most insurance carriers have announced they will cover the costs if patients seek teledentistry services during the lockdown phase. All that dentists and patients need to do is ensure the special codes, D9995 (synchronous) and D9996 (asynchronous), are specified while submitting the claims.
Offering Teledentistry options to your patients
Any dentist can offer tele-appointments but if a dental practice has an automated practice management system then it can offer teledentistry way more safely. Patients may be worried about data safety while using common online portals for tele-appointments and may even avoid using it altogether. But if you have a secure, HIPAA compliant, interactive teledentistry product to offer them, they are more likely to choose you.
Taking your dental practice one step further
Several cutting-edge dental practice management software (PMS) like CareStack offers just that. With CareStack, dentists and patients can meet on extremely safe, cloud-based encrypted platforms and there will be no data leak worries. Also, CareStack has an inbuilt audio and video interface that will allow dentists to securely meet their patients synchronously (real-time) or asynchronously (recorded and forwarded), do an online triage, exchange clinical documents like x-rays or test reports and prescribe medicines online.