During COVID-19 , at Aligner Alchemy we have been pioneering and creating systems and protocols to allow us to help our Invisalign and Dental patients during the lockdown. Remote or Virtual consultations have allowed us to help and serve our patients.

If you’re going to deliver virtual dentistry, it’s best to know exactly what you’re getting into.

Virtual dentistry 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. This can also be a team member like a treatment co-ordinator.

By that definition, as long as a patient has hardware like a smartphone or laptop they can be on the receiving end of a visit. Dentists, however, need to ensure they are in compliance with GDPR regulations — regardless of whether they are providing service from the terrestrial office or a remote location (e.g. the home). The need for an app like smile mate or such appliances allow the dentist to assess remotely the status of a patient’s oral health but in NO way does it replace an actual assessment in the dental practice. The purpose is to pre empt, engage and provide information and access to those who need it.

Why Virtual dentistry is Important

1.Safety – In the midst of the current CRISIS it’s irrefutable that virtual dentistry is safer. You can treat and prescribe from afar, mitigating a lot of the risk associated  to the coronavirus.

Once we’re past this global pandemic, safety will still be at the forefront of our collective mind. Words like immunocompromised and social distancing will not sail off into the sunset. As such, you can provide an added layer of protection to any patients who may have immunodeficiencies. Regardless of how sterile your practice is, you’ll also offer them peace of mind and an option to consider coming to your practice as this service is being offered.

2.Save on Costs – Again, with COVID-19 dominating our current life, there’s a broad discussion about the severe lack of PPE.

But let’s look beyond COVID-19 and dive into the hard financials of your practice with the money you can save on PPE thanks to virtual visits. Every virtual consult will save how many masks and gloves? And many patients who are not suitable can be assessed remotely without them having to physically leave their homes.

3.Greater Accessibility – Virtual dentistry removes a large barrier of entry: time. Outside of money, time is probably the largest barrier to entry for any patient — how to fit a visit into their increasingly packed schedule.

By offering a digital option, patients who are too slammed to commute to the practice can still receive your great treatment. You’ve now extended your clinic into their living room or office at a time that is convenient to them.

4.New Revenue Stream – This pretty much ties together the previous two sections on accessibility and cost savings.During the COVID-19 outbreak, virtual dentistry will be a necessity. Afterward, it will enable practices to get creative — to really stretch how they deliver care.

Some practices will have complete arms of remote services. They will move all triage and consultations to be performed remotely. Others will make all routine post-op visits virtual. This can be used in all spheres of dentistry from smile consultations, skin consultations, dental implants or even a person considering moving dental practices.

 

Uses of Virtual Dentistry- There are many ways a practice can utilize virtual dentistry. Here are several options:

Live Video Visits – Think: FaceTime dentistry. You and a patient hop on a call for a live video consultation, which means there’s a real-time, two-way flow of information at a time and place convenient to both parties.

Sending Recorded Health Info – Virtual dentistry can also  include the remote sharing of information.  In other words, a patient who comes in for digital impressions is referred out to a specialist. Rather than having to visit the specialist in person, the patient can fire up a virtual visit and have their consultation there.

Remote Patient Monitoring – In this scenario, a patient may take pictures of their ailment and share with the dentist. Smile apps like smile mate allow a patient to take pictures and using AI creates a report for the dentist to share and discuss with the patient.

They may not be available for real-time consultation, but they can securely share their question or need, and then receive an answer or options from a dentist or a team member.

 

Setting Up Your Practice for Virtual dentistry

Marketing your virtual dentistry services is one thing- delivering the service, just as you would a face to face visit is a whole other.

Like with all new treatments and procedures, it’s best to have an airtight process in place before going full bore into remote work.

1.Determine Protocol

What services do you provide remotely?

Is there anything that must be done in-house?

What team members have a hand in virtual visits?

What does a virtual visit even look like?

Map out every scenario, like you would for a brick-and-mortar process, and then coach your team on it. Run test visits before going live.

 

2.Configure Your Schedule

When do you allow virtual visits?

All day? Only mornings? From 3-5 each day? After hours on Wednesdays

 

  1. Ensure Documentation on CRM or your practice management software.

Set up your documentation process, accounting for any billing or prescription services.

This step folds into your greater process planning. Namely, how does a patient check in and out for their virtual visit?

  1. Tracking your progress 

Set up trackers for different services with relevant information detailing the progress and next steps for all video consultations done and monitor the progress and success of the system. Get team members involved with the follow up process.

 

In short, virtual consultations are the way forward, we have the technology that allows us to add another dimension to providing dental and oral care to our patients. A system that is convenient, easy and accessible. The time to embrace it is NOW!