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.

Virtual or video consultations is the new buzz-word describing this new era of professional healthcare delivery.  With this shift toward virtual care, as well as studies pointing to the importance of including oral health into primary care, the conversation has increasingly included video consultations and virtual dental care.

Virtual dentistry is actually a component of telehealth, which is a broader term encompassing the entirety of remote and/or technology-driven healthcare.

 

What is virtual dentistry ?

Virtual dentistry is a very broad category of solutions that service patients oral health at a distance by doing it remotely.  People who do not have a dentist, lack access to a dentist or live far from a dental practice can be helped with this level of care – via telephone or videoconferencing capability or other means mentioned above.  It’s the idea that these technologies can be leveraged to improve access to care, gather and exchange information with a licensed dentist, to provide and support dental care delivery, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, transfer of dental information and education. It does not take the place of an actual physical assessment at the dental practice but it offers patients access to information and education and can be used by the dental team to actively interact and engage patients.

 

Defining Virtual dentistry  – Video consultations refers to the “virtual visits” that take place between patients and clinicians via communications technology — the video and audio connectivity that allows “virtual” meetings to occur in real time, from virtually any location.

A virtual visit can be a video conference using various technology or apps, between a dentist and a patient regarding an urgent dental or oral health problem, and it can also give patients improved access to information about the importance of oral health.

With evolving technology, urgent oral or dental issues can be remediated – helping people to avoid expensive, time-consuming visits to the GDP is the future trend to reduce barriers to access.

Do Consumers WANT Virtual dentistry?

  1. Access/Barriers to care
  2. Reducing Costs – to make dental care more affordable

It appears that patients are increasingly drawn to the concept of virtual dental healthcare providers /GDP’s that come to them, rather than vice versa. Virtual dentistry  is also increasingly being used as a way to address healthcare disparities. This translates into a system where it is possible to consult doctors, nurses, dentists or other healthcare professionals from home or office.

Here are some statistics, Virtual/remote Dentistry is proven to:

  • Be more affordable than in-practice dentistry.
    Virtual dentistry has been shown to reduce the cost of care and increase efficiency through reduced travel times, shared professional staffing and fewer in-person appointments.
  • Be a more innovative solution for the mainstream healthcare industry.
    In 2013, 52 percent of hospitals utilized virtual consultations, and another 10 percent were beginning the process of implementing these services.
  • Align with today’s patients’ needs for modern forms of communication.
    Recent studies on the use of virtual services have shown that 70 percent of patients are comfortable communicating with their healthcare providers via text, email or video in lieu of seeing them in person, and 76 percent of patients prioritize access to care over the needs for face-to-face interactions with their healthcare providers. In fact, 30 percent of patients already use computers or mobile devices to check for medical or diagnostic information.
  • Improve access to care for patients.
    Many  live in rural areas where they do not have easy access to dentists and other medical services. Virtual dentistry eliminates the need to travel long distances and can help health care providers supplement clinician staffing in areas where they are understaffed. It also allows providers to expand their reach to patients beyond their own practices.
  • Make  appointment times more accessible to patients who really need them.
    Virtual dentistry options reduce the time taken by employees to see dental providers in person. In fact, though appointments can take hours out of an employee’s work day, only 17 percent (20 minutes) of that time is spent actually seeing the doctor.

Provide the same level of care to patients as in-office visits.
Research indicates that the quality of care and success rates of patients were the same whether patients used virtual consultations or not.

At aligner alchemy, we believe that the landscape has changed forever, and we will all need to embrace some form of remote/virtual aspect into our clinical dental practice.