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How To Go Touchless With Teledentistry

By Planet DDS
April 13, 2021

5 Quick Steps To Expanding Your Practice Today

By Dr. Greg Grillo

We’ve been riding a tsunami of change lately. It may take some time to process the seismic shift that’s altered society, but we must keep evolving in our practices. Together, we’re leading our teams through uncertainty and serving patients that feel the same forces. Some winds are against us, but others are behind us. Innovative practices that recognize and manage the changes keep growing, even as the storm brews.

Embrace The Trend

As dentists, we often get caught in analysis paralysis. We contemplate adding new business tools the same way we agonize over occlusion on an articulator. In a rapid-fire business environment that includes a projected 20% decline in dental expenditures in 2021, we don’t have that luxury.

A full set of contactless patient communication tools was needed yesterday in our practices. Implementing them may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. While remodeling an operatory takes months to deliver, digital tools carry a massive impact that’s felt within days.

Telehealth Billing Was Up Over 3,552% In 2020

Telehealth visits are here to stay. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified this steady trend, but the momentum started before the crisis hit. In early 2020, telehealth visits had climbed 33% over the previous year. But during the early days of COVID, half of patients reported using a virtual platform to consult with a provider.

The ripple effect has just begun in dentistry, and data is limited. But innovative practices started riding the wave this year and unearthing the benefits. One recent survey showed that only 20% of respondents had tried teledentistry , but over 60% indicated they planned to use it in the next five years.

The writing is on the wall, and patients are knocking on the virtual door. So, how do you make virtual care work in our high-touch, procedure-based profession?

1. Define The Intent

Teledentistry takes a paradigm shift, and that’s not easy for us. Initial reactions include, “That will never work,” to “Patients won’t use it.” Both misconceptions have already fallen to the wayside, though. We’ll never place a MOD composite through a mobile device, but we can accomplish specific tasks that incrementally improve the service we provide. A recent survey showed that respondents felt the following issues could be handled by teledentistry:

  • Health promotion and prevention education, 44.9%
  • Treatment plans, 32.7%
  • Preventive procedures, 31.1%
  • Follow-up monitoring, 30.1%
  • Diagnosis and dental disease risk assessment, 29.0%

These topics are starting points, and you’ll find more possibilities once you start. For example, our practice found success in completing implant and Invisalign® screenings to ensure more chair-time makes sense. Some patients are more likely to take the first step when we gently introduce them to possibilities.

2. Choose The Platform

A virtual visit includes a confidential conversation between you and your patient, and HIPAA laws apply, meaning Facebook Messenger isn’t the place to transmit that information. It’s essential to choose a secure, stable platform that’s easy for you and your patients to use. Talk to your staff about the types of visits you’ll complete in a virtual space and decide how you’ll schedule them.

Tools that integrate with your current software and vendors simplify the foray into the virtual consultation space. Complex electronic security and legal issues require attention to detail , and top vendors make sure you’re covered.

3. Notify Your Patients

Teledentistry opens up new territory, and many practices haven’t explored the possibilities yet. Let your patients know you’re on the cutting edge and adding communication channels. Teledental may be new to many, but telemedicine is quickly becoming mainstream. Virtual visits shot from 11% in 2019 to 49% in 2020, so the concept doesn’t take much explaining. Consider a few ways to get the word out by:

  • Having staff suggest a virtual call to qualifying patients when they call
  • Placing a link on your home page inviting patients to a virtual visit about their smiles
  • Sending an email campaign on the uses and benefits of teledental visits
  • Identifying upcoming appointments that could be converted to a virtual visit

4. Measure Your Results

The best brands relentlessly measure results, especially when investing in new technology. With virtual visits, you’ll probably like what you see. Teledentistry opens up a new “wing” to your office without ever raising a hammer; the investment to get started is a no-brainer. An online workspace that’s designed for dentistry leads to immediate benefits for your staff and patients. You’ll find new ways to use this tool, but here are some measurements worth taking:

  • Adding up how much operatory time virtual visits save you during the first month–multiply it by your hourly production
  • Conducting a customized survey with Legwork NPS and ask patients about teledentistry and their perceptions–use it as an education channel while gathering valuable insights
  • Calculating how much production is scheduled from virtual consults–try promoting a virtual smile consult through Legwork Campaigns and include a link to a teledental visit

The first week that our office introduced virtual visits (in a low-key fashion), we saved 6 hours of clinical chair time. That translates into more time for productive appointments and better-informed patients when they schedule.

5. Have Some Fun

Introducing new technology often carries a little stress. But virtual visits create an opportunity to engage with patients who haven’t spent 30 minutes in traffic getting to your office. They’re more relaxed and less intimidated. You might feel the same way. I’ve had some meaningful conversations with patients from the comfort of my private office. And I’ve passed many of them over to the admin team for scheduling productive visits.

Virtual visits don’t replace in-office visits; they enhance them. With new patients, you can establish rapport and fast-track the treatment process at the next visit. With existing patients, you can consult their x-rays and do more treatment planning than you might think. Of course, we verify everything when patients arrive. But the efficiency, service, and relationship possibilities with teledentistry open doors our team never anticipated.

Open Your Virtual Door Now

Make virtual visits part of your expansion plan in 2021. Give patients what they want and lower barriers to treatment. Sometimes the most challenging step for patients is the first one. Teledentistry makes the initial move a little easier.

Legwork Teledental fits into a single-platform solution that can’t be beaten in today’s climate. As a stand-alone offering, it would be enough. But the ability to promote virtual care with Legwork Campaigns , measure with Legwork NPS , and create more efficiency with Legwork Online Booking is just one strategy for an exciting new frontier.

Want to learn how teledental can seamlessly integrate virtual visits into a reliable, secure, and user-friendly interface? Join me for a webinar on this topic, Telemedicine: A Rising Trend in Dentistry.