The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way that dental care is provided to patients. Compared to previous methods of accessing dental care, oral health has changed substantially. This article will look into how COVID-19 has introduced electronic communication and payments. We will also consider how dentistry may look post-2020.
Teledentistry for COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a whole new way of accessing dental care. Many dental offices across the world are fully embracing dental technologies. As such, virtual dental care has evolved in 2020. Dental offices are now providing their patients with remote teledentistry services.
But what is teledentistry?
Essentially, it is a way for dentists to provide care and advice at-home. As dentistry is a hands-on industry, this has been a very challenging time. Teledentistry allows patients to communicate with their dentist via telephone or video communications. Alternatively, patients may also be able to leave a message for their dentist to assess later. Dentists are now able to remotely monitor their patients by requesting data to be electronically sent. By connecting with patients digitally, this allows dentists to make diagnoses, determine which treatment is necessary and to make the appropriate recommendations.
Advantages of Teledentistry
- Patients can describe their dental issue
- Patients can show the affected area via video chat
- Accessible care for vulnerable or at-risk patients
- Cost-effective advice for issues that do not require a visit
In contrast, despite there being many advantages of teledentistry, there are also pitfalls for this type of service. While it is beneficial for many that dental care and advice is more accessible than ever. For many patients, they will still require a visit for treatment. Simply put, dental treatment is impossible to be done remotely as it requires a trip to the dental practice. For this reason, teledentistry is limited. It may also be difficult for a patient to get a high-quality photo of their issue. Hence, a dentist may not be able to make a successful diagnosis without seeing them in-person for some dental issues.
Electronic Payment Capabilities
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cash flow has been a big worry for dental offices. With social distancing rules and safety guidelines in place, practices have been under pressure. From practices being forced shut, working with reduced staff and a reduction in patients. Dental offices have been forced to embrace dental technologies such as online electronic payments.
Ensuring that the providers are paid and reassuring patients that appointments are safe, has been challenging. Especially when dental administrators may not be able to process claims and payments in the same way they are used to. Regardless of the difficulties, electronic payment has been adopted by many dental offices. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in the use of electronic payment systems. While the use of electronic systems had been rising pre-COVID-19; recently, the usage has gone into the 90th percentile.
But how do electronic payments help dental offices during this time? Here are a few reasons why claims are usually delayed or denied:
- Incorrect or Missing Information
- Inaccurate Current Dental Terminology Codes
- Incomplete Submissions
- Duplicate Claims
- Unable to Confirm Eligibility
As a result, electronic payment systems ensure the reduction of these inequities. While at the same time reducing the cost to admins. Overall, these modern electronic systems can calculate payment rules and respond in seconds. This means that they can determine what needs to be collected by the patients before the patient leaves the dental office. As a result, patients are not having to be chased for payment.
The Future of Dentistry Post COVID-19
Before COVID-19, dental offices had a well-established plan on how to operate. While there have been many technological advancements in dental care; generally, things have stayed the same for quite some time. Treatment options may have improved over time, but how dentists provided that care was always in-person. Today, COVID-19 has created an unpredictable environment to work in. Some dental practices do not know whether they will be able to remain open. Staff issues have also been present with difficulties such as childcare, illness, and elderly relatives that need care. During the pandemic, dentists have had to find ways to reassure their patients that care is still accessible, and that treatment is safe. Overall, this has put a lot of stress on the dental industry as a whole.
While we cannot predict when the COVID-19 pandemic will be over, it is beneficial for dental practices to consider how to offer their services post-2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new ways of providing dental care. So, dentists face some challenges on how to adapt to the continually changing landscape. Will teledentistry continue beyond 2020 and COVID-19? Most likely!
Teledentistry is an effective tool and many are embracing the new dental technologies. There is a very good possibility that teledentistry will follow us through into 2021. Expanding accessible dental care to those who do not have regular access. While the scope is limited, it continues to offer a valuable option.