During the pandemic, vast numbers of patients were uncomfortable visiting dental offices, and many dentists turned to Zoom calls or a more professional and secure platform like TeleDent by MouthWatch to provide urgent care and consultation for dental emergencies.
It now appears that with the goal of every adult in the U.S. being vaccinated by this summer, most dental offices will resume a prepandemic level of operation as their patients return to catch up on their postponed oral care.
Due to this positive development, many dentists and dental hygienists may no longer view teledentistry as a must-have technology. How does teledentistry continue to be relevant?
Gain control of your schedule
Today, when I explain teledentistry's nonemergency potential, many are caught off guard by the variety of its day-to-day benefits. It's always interesting to see the lightbulb go on in their minds. Let's explore some of the everyday advantages that teledentistry can deliver to the average dental practice.
Suppose you are busy and run from one operatory to the next to complete your patient's exam after their hygiene recall. Instead of dashing about and changing personal protective equipment (PPE), you could use teledentistry to connect with your patients from the comfort of your office and while they are comfortably seated in their living room.
In this scenario, teledentistry makes perfect sense, because your staff will already have explained most of the basic information your patient needs to know. Now a virtual treatment plan would most likely take you less time to discuss. What's more, your "close rate" will increase as the patient is not as stressed while receiving news of how much they will need to invest to "fix their smiles."
Once you complete your virtual treatment plan and presentation, your patient could be transferred immediately back to your admin to book the subsequent appointments.
Emergency care preparedness will always matter
There will always be dental emergencies, and teledentistry will therefore continue to be invaluable for emergency triage consultations. Once the patient is provided temporary relief from pain and infection via an e-prescription, they can be scheduled to come to the office during a more convenient time in an operatory that is already pre-equipped for the type of care needed.
It's also worth noting that you look better (and friendlier) without all the PPE, so why not show your patients your friendly smile while providing them with a compassionate ear during their emergency virtual consult?
Today, patients demand flexibility and convenience
Some of my lifelong dental friends continued to place implants during the COVID-19 pandemic and needed to conduct the post-op follow-ups and care instruction until the next phase of the restoration. When I asked them what they thought about being able to conduct post-op follow-ups via teledentistry, they were intrigued and admitted to not having thought of the possibilities.
I've also discussed how families with precarious employment situations or time limitations could benefit from the dental offices offering teledentistry. Think of a single parent who needs to leave work early to bring their adolescent to the dentist when all that was needed was a prescription as the operculectomy could have been easily and quickly identified in a teledentistry appointment.
Why would that child require a physical appointment when the actual treatment could be provided after the antibiotic therapy reduced the swelling and pain? It makes much more sense to allow the patient and his parent to come in a week later at a time that is more convenient to them and possibly to you and your team.
For routine consultations, follow-ups, and oral hygiene coaching you could also book several calls a day for teledentistry services and optimize your schedule while continuing to provide personalized care for your patients.
The new reality is that people are busy. Patients value convenience, and they know about telehealth and often wonder why their dentist cannot make assessment appointments via a platform like what their physicians are using. Don't take it personally! They want to see you, but they would prefer to see you only when they absolutely need to.
In other words, teledentistry enables you to cultivate the perception of excellence in your patients' experience.
Why teledentistry is here to stay
After all my conversations, I see a return on investment (ROI) financially and from a time allocation perspective. There is also a return on engagement (ROE) in showing your community that you are a progressive dentist and care about them and their free time.
Your adoption of teledentistry will demonstrate that while you want to engage with your patients, you also want to make the availability of care you offer correspond to the new normal -- a busy, productive, and optimally balanced life, where technology has evolved to provide efficient and better care.
Sylvia Rochon is the senior director of sales and marketing for MouthWatch, an industry leader in teledentistry and digital imaging solutions. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and has 25 years of senior sales and marketing management experience with innovative dental companies. Sylvia can be contacted at Sylvia@MouthWatch.com or 514-214-8383.
The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.
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