Let’s discuss the elephant in the room: teledentistry. As a dental practice owner, by now you’ve probably wondered if teledentistry services can benefit you during this unprecedented downtime due to COVID-19. In fact, many of you may have already attempted or even implemented some type of virtual communication with your patients. The bottom line is telehealth services are a simple and effective way to create additional touchpoints and opportunities to connect with your patients both now and in the future.
As business owners during this unique time, it may be easy to fall back in frustration and simply ride the wave until it reaches shore. However, forward-thinking business owners will see this as a rare opportunity to explore alternative methods of bringing value to both their patients and their business. Whether it’s restructuring an operating model, reviewing vision and mission statements, or adapting social media-based marketing strategies, now is a great time to find ways to advance your mission.
No matter where you are on the teledentistry journey, it is important to keep these five things in mind as you move forward during the current pandemic:
- Connect with those already implementing teledentistry. As with anything new, connecting with those who are already experienced goes a long way in helping you succeed quickly and efficiently. There are numerous Facebook groups, professional associations, and other online networks filled with those who have pioneered the way in telehealth. Join email lists, view webinars, and—most importantly—take time to personally connect with experts and industry leaders.
- Discover what’s possible for you. Teledentistry and related rules and regulations vary from state to state. To see what’s actually possible for your situation, be sure to reach out to your partnering third-party payers to learn what telehealth services they currently reimburse. Also, check in with your dental governing board to find out about any recent or upcoming changes. Don’t forget to read and reread your dental practice act, looking for key regulations related to scope, supervision requirements, procedure definitions, and anything else about virtual or off-site provision of services.
- Educate your staff. Once you understand the best way for your practice to implement teledentistry, it is then time to educate your team. Chances are your team will be thrilled not only to be on the cutting edge of technology but also to have a way to provide continuity of care for your patients. Decide on which technology communications platform you will use, and then have your team practice it with one another.
- Start with one patient. Start simple and start with just one easy and familiar patient. Follow-up consultations are a perfect place to begin. By beginning with one patient, you can work out the kinks in the system and discover a workflow that is optimal for you. Slowly add patients over the next couple of days to find your groove. From consultations, to problem-focused evaluations, to aligner checkups, emergencies, and more, you will soon be comfortable enough to kick it into high gear, which means you are ready to . . .
- Incentivize your patients. Yes, that’s right—send out email blasts, set up drip campaigns, and push out teledentistry services to your patient network. Offer coupons, discounts, or simply “Schedule your first virtual consult for free!” campaigns. Remember that teledentistry is new for patients just like it is for you, so offer an easy, one-step call to action for them to instantly connect with a provider on your team. Keep in mind that clinical procedures will be treatment-planned during these teledentistry encounters, so make sure you have reliable follow-up procedures in place once the COVID-19 crisis subsides and you are again able to schedule clinical care in your practice.
Teledentistry has existed for years, but right now the technology is experiencing a renaissance as health-care providers around the world are beginning to rapidly comprehend its value in the here and now. But what does it hold for your future? When you consider teledentistry as a long-term investment, the benefits are countless. For example, incorporating teledentistry regularly in your practice will open up valuable chair time, which will be critical in addressing the backlog of clinical care you can schedule when you reopen your practice doors.
Even though this current clinical downturn was unprecedented and unanticipated, perhaps the unexpected opportunity is exactly what can take your business to the next level. Maybe teledentistry is precisely what you’ve been looking for all along! Do you want to know a secret about teledentistry? Your patients will thank you again and again for making your dental services all the more convenient for them. We all could use a win-win after what we’ve been through these several long weeks.