How Dentists Can Master Telemedicine During Covid-19

 

Technology is constantly evolving, often beyond what we ever imagined was possible. It is thanks to this rapidly changing technology that patients can now meet with their doctors and dentists without ever leaving their homes.

Telemedicine is making headlines for its role in the Covid-19 response, especially for medical professionals who can’t see patients in person until social distancing guidelines relax. 

By understanding telemedicine, you can take advantage of its benefits to advance your own practice, even during a crisis or pandemic. 

 

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine, also known as telehealth, has been gaining attention in recent years. However, before the coronavirus pandemic emerged, it was still viewed as a secondary or alternative method of treatment, rather than an indispensable tool for patient communication. 

Using telemedicine technology, a medical provider can talk to patients using live video. This allows for both audio and visual communication without the need or in-office visits. Of course, not all medical needs can be met through the phone, but telemedicine makes it possible for doctors and dentists to handle routine health matters. Wellness visits, consultations, dermatology, nutrition counseling, mental health support, and other non-invasive matters can all be tackled via telemedicine. 

As explained by Dedi Gilad, the CEO and co-founder of Tyto Care, a telemedicine technology company, “Telehealth is bridging the gap between people, physicians and health systems, enabling everyone, especially symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with physicians through virtual channels.” 

But telehealth isn’t limited only to physicians! Dentists can utilize this platform- often referred to as teledentistry- as well. 

 

How Covid-19 Made Telemedicine Mainstream

In the span of mere days, the Covid-19 pandemic upended our normal routines and sent businesses in every industry into a tailspin. The health and economic implications of multiple months of shutdowns and social distancing can hardly be overstated, especially for small organizations like dental offices that are dedicated to in-person services and experiences. 

Yet there’s a silver lining to the unprecedented pandemic of 2020: the emergence of telemedicine into the mainstream. With medical offices forced to close, doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals have turned to telemedicine as a lifeline.

 

Tips to Adopt Telemedicine Into Your Dental Practice

For dentists in particular, telemedicine is better known as teledentistry, but the concept is the same. Using imaging and communication technology, dentists gather information to provide and support dental care diagnosis, consultation, monitoring, and even treatment. 

Teledentistry is quickly expanding as an efficient way to connect with patients, especially while social distancing requirements remain in place. A study conducted by DentaVox suggested the following perks of teledentistry:

  • Patients are motivated by the easy access to dentists using teledentistry
  • Patients find value in teledentistry from prevention, risk assessment, diagnosis, and education
  • Children, working adults, and those with disabilities may benefit the most from teledentistry

As your own dental practice continues to navigate the unknown terrain of Covid-19, consider these factors to implement an effective telemedicine or teledentistry platform of your own.

 

Manage Billing and Payments

The dental industry is still feeling its way around the billing and payment elements of teledentistry. Dentists must be compensated for their time, but each state and insurance carrier has different regulations and restrictive clauses. You may need to do some research before confirming your telemedicine billing practices.

Coding, on the other hand, has been established since 2017. You can use these to code teledentistry:

  • D9996 (if a synchronous video platform is used)
  • D9995 (if a photo or models are reviewed with a telephone call—i.e., asynchronous)
  • The above two codes are used in conjunction with a limited-exam code, such as D0140.

Ensure Patient Privacy

Patient privacy is always paramount, so it’s important to use protocols that protect privacy on virtual platforms. Until HIPAA catches up to teledentistry, the regulations have been slightly relaxed to allow dentists to use virtual medicine models in good faith. You can expect guidelines to change in the coming weeks and months, so use this resource from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services to stay informed. 

 

Collaborate With Your Marketing Team

A strong telemedicine platform won’t do much good if your patients don’t know it exists. Fortunately, the solution is easy. Work with your marketing team to ensure that your teledentistry technology is easily accessible to patients on your website and social networking pages. Include announcements in emails, newsletters, postcards, text messages, and all other forms of patient communication to encourage your patients to take advantage of your teledentistry services. 

We all know that teledentistry will never replace standard dental care (after all, you can’t perform a root canal or filling from a screen), but it will become an increasingly valuable supplement to your practice’s in-office dental services. Not only does teledentistry offer patients safety and convenience, but it also reduces the cost of care for your practice and helps you connect with patients more frequently. It’s a win-win solution for everybody! 

If you’re not sure how to get started with teledentistry, but you know you want to leverage this advanced tool for your practice, give MethodPro a call today. Our dental marketing experts are here to provide every type of patient communication and technology service you need. 

With our guidance, advice, and partnership, your practice can sail through this pandemic and continue to thrive. Call us in Encinitas, CA now to learn more- (760)-260-8475.