Telemedicine [tel-uh-med-uh-sin] is the practice of medicine when the doctor and patient are widely separated using two-way voice and visual communication (as by satellite, computer, or closed-circuit television). Who would have guessed home-based healthcare has a history dating back to 1879? The Lancet’s coverage in an 1879 article where the authors talk of the telephone constituted a history of the role that instrument played in the field of health care by transmitting medical knowledge and conducting doctor appointments instead of unnecessary medical visits.
In 1925 there were speculations about the use of radio and video technologies to diagnose patients published in the magazine Science and Invention. Hugo Gernsback was a pioneer in both radio and publishing and was well-known for predicting what might be expected in the technological future. In the February 1925 edition of Science and Invention magazine, Gernsback made reference to the doctor of the future. He wrote of said doctor being able to use an instrument called the teledactyl to examine a patient from a distance by use of a television screen. The device was imagined as a sensory feedback device. Gernsback’s predictions of telemedicine came about during the rapidly changing communications world of the 1920s.
First Known Use of Teledentistry
In 1994, the U.S. Department of Defense began a teledentistry program they called Total Dental Access (TDA). It was used by referring dentists in the U.S. Armed Forces to discuss the status of patients with specialists. It proved teledentistry could extend dental care to distant and remote areas when needed. The TDA focused on three types of dentistry: patient care, continuing education, and dentist-laboratory communications. It was established to increase patient access to quality dental care.
Used By A Quarter of Private Practice Dentists
The American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute conducted a poll which indicated 24% of new dentists responding reported using remote problem-focused evaluations with virtual technology/telecommunications, mainly due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. During the numerous challenges of the pandemic, the oral health community perhaps realized a new path forward in dentistry. It is believed new dentists are the most likely to adopt and use teledentistry, since they tend to be more willing to adopt new technology and tools.
Although the use of teledentistry has decreased since the onset of the pandemic, it is believed it will become more mainstream in the 21st century. The specialists who will tend to use teledentistry the most are pediatric dentists and orthodontists, according to the results of an American Dental Association survey.
Patients Are In Favor of It
With contributing factors of convenience and communication, a recent study found the patients’ level of approval of teledentistry services during the COVID-19 Pandemic were 100% in the satisfied and very satisfied categories. Most patients were willing to recommend the use of remote counseling instead of in-person appointments to their friends and family. Based upon these favorable results, dental practices should consider offering telehealth as a method of consultation. The practice of home-based health care in the field of teledentistry can save patients time and money.
Growth of Teledentistry In The Future
It is purported that the teledentistry market was valued at $667 million in 2019 and will perhaps reach $2,614.5 million by 2027. Providers who are currently not using teledentistry plan to integrate it into their dental practice in the near future. Teledentistry software through telephone calls and video conferencing have been used to provide the following:
- oral exams
- patient triage
- pain management
- oral hygiene instruction
There may also be significant opportunities to use it for more preventive services. Providers who serve mainly Medicaid patients said they were more likely to incorporate teledentistry. The practice of teledentistry may also decrease emergency department visits for non-emergency dental visits. This is by offering access to primary and preventive care, which will decrease costs.
Policy Changes Can Improve Teledentistry Use
As the adoption of teledentistry grows, there needs to be permanent policy changes for the widespread implementation of:
- preventive services
- minimally invasive care
- care coordination
Action needs to be taken now to provide policies that allow practices to offer teledentistry services and update reimbursement policies. So that both public and private insurance providers may cover remote provider-patient interactions through live video or store-and-forward equipment.
A wide range of benefits to oral healthcare can be realized through telehealth. It is a way to provide value-based healthcare in all communities and improve both oral and overall health. Teledentistry is more efficient by saving patients over two hours versus in-office visits. In fact, 80 percent of patients said they would use telemedicine if given the opportunity. It’s longevity must be ensured by decreasing barriers that would allow for widespread adoption of telehealth going forward.
The team at Strategic Practice Solutions, LLC provides assistance through dental office consulting, guided dental practice coaching and training, and workshops. Review their services online to get more information on how they help, who they help, and who they are by requesting their free dental practice assessment today.