Since the RCDSO announced the staged approach to reopen dental offices, the new guidelines are also more stringent to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The implementation of sanitization procedures means dental offices can only see a limited number of patients each day. This makes it difficult to see patients who just want to quickly address their oral health concerns. As a result, many offices have changed procedures and adopted teledentistry to better serve their patients while maintaining productivity.
The RCDSO has recommended dentists to use teledentistry to remotely assess, triage, and provide dental care where possible and appropriate during this pandemic. Not only does this mitigate the risk of transmission, but it also allows dentists to tend to more patients. This is also beneficial for patients who are at risk to determine if they need to come into the office.
Here’s how you can enhance your practice with teledentistry and continue building your patient relationships while maintaining productivity:
Your dental management software can help you identify patients with a treatment plan in place or are in need of one. Plans that have been disrupted due to the pandemic closures will require updating. Before contacting the patients, you can determine the priority of the treatment plans based on factors such as:
- Severity/urgency of the treatment required
- Availability of procedures at the current stage of reopening
- Profitability of treatment plan
Once you’ve determined who to contact, schedule a virtual consultation with these patients. Setting up a videoconference helps dentists better explain procedures that are needed – whether using X-rays, diagrams or models. Dentists will also be able to gauge a patient’s receptiveness based on their body language and expressions.
The office may have a backlog of patients who got cancelled during the lockdown. Teledentistry is an effective way to manage patients and office flow and minimize the number of patients in the chair without sacrificing productivity.
Rather than trying to schedule them all back in, pull a list of these patients from your dental management software to assess them. There may be some patients who don’t actually need to come into the office, such as those who need a prescription or have some questions regarding their oral health.
For these patients, you can set up a videoconference rather than scheduling them for the chair. This way, you can provide remote care and avoid close contact with patients. The video call can also help you determine if the patient needs to come in for a further assessment of their condition.
Dentists practicing teledentistry should treat it as regular dental appointments and adhere to existing Standards of Practice and dental record keeping guidelines. As such, any digital record regarding the patient needs to be stored securely on a system in compliance with PHIPPA – such as Paradigm Clinical.
For dentists doing a virtual consultation away from the office, create a secure remote access connection to the office. The dentist can then enter the information directly into their dental management software. This ensures that the patient data is immediately stored and encrypted to safeguard against data breaches.
It may take some time for dental offices to adjust to the new normal and find what works for them. However, dental offices can improve their availability with teledentistry without overloading the office with in-person visits. This extension of dental care also helps build patient relationships and there some are still apprehensive of visiting the office.
In conjunction with teledentistry, explore ways you can use your dental management software to help identify gaps in the schedule. This will let you fill them with appointments for necessary procedures.