Tips & Resources

The Role of Telehealth in Dentistry: Scheduling Virtual Consultations and Check-Ups

Sam Bowman
By Sam Bowman
05 February, 2024

Telehealth in dentistry is undoubtedly the way of the future when it comes to better patient care, improved accessibility, and removing the stigma surrounding dental fear. Keep reading to learn more

a dentist and a patient about to start a video conferencing

Telehealth has seen a rise in popularity over the last few years, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we might be living in a post-pandemic society, the benefits of telehealth have caused it to keep growing and help both providers and patients alike — even in dentistry. 

The expanding realm of telehealth within dentistry provides more convenient and accessible appointment opportunities for patients, while allowing dentists to spend more one-on-one time with those who need it most. According to Cleveland Clinic, “About 36% of people in the United States have a fear of dental treatment.” Telehealth can also help to assuage those fears by allowing them to consult from the comfort of their homes. 

However, dental offices participating in telehealth services must understand the importance of prioritizing patient data protection while offering the highest standard of virtual care possible. As we further underscore the need for expansion in telehealth services, let’s also cover the importance of confidentiality and safety when it comes to remote consultations and check-ups. 

Dealing With Disparities

One of the biggest benefits of virtual consultations and check-ups in the dental industry is increased accessibility. From a marketing standpoint, offering teledentistry services can bring in more patients. Research has shown that using booking platforms can increase the chances of someone actually making an appointment. Allowing someone to set up a virtual appointment can also: 

  • Reduce the likelihood of a cancellation
  • Make it easier for your staff to find a work-life balance
  • Reduce the risk of human error
  • Allow you to offer a pre-pay service

Someone who might have a hard time coming in to book an appointment or even make one over the phone might find it easier to schedule online. When they know they can connect with your office virtually, you’re also doing your part to fight back against dental disparities. For example, African-American and Mexican-American populations experience higher rates of dental damage. Children from low-income households are more likely to be affected by untreated cavities. Those in rural populations are more likely to have untreated dental issues. 

There are many factors that can play into these disparities, from financial issues to fear — though, it’s often a matter of accessibility. Virtual appointments eliminate the accessibility issue, and while some treatments may require in-person visits, being able to establish a relationship with a patient virtually and provide your opinion and suggestions is a great way to start them on the right track toward better oral health. 

Securing and Protecting Patient Data

One of the potential challenges in offering teledentistry services is making sure you’re respecting patient privacy and securing their data. When scheduling patients in the dental field, your administrative team could be covering important information about finances, health history, and more. If that information slipped into the wrong hands, it could be catastrophic for your patients and your practice. It could put patients at risk of identity theft and compromise their financial security. 

With that in mind, it’s essential to make sure your practice is up-to-date on all cybersecurity trends, including: 

  • AI and machine learning
  • Cloud and IoT security
  • Encryption
  • Ransomware mitigation

Investing in the latest equipment and cybersecurity software should be a top priority, as well as making sure your staff is properly trained on the latest practices and potential threats.

Additionally, make sure your patients are aware you’re consistently doing everything in your power to protect their information. You can ensure your practice is GDPR-compliant by informing your patients how their data will be used, deleting inaccurate data, and allowing them access to their data whenever they request it. 

Ensuring Secure Appointments

Scheduling appointments securely is only one piece of the puzzle for virtual consultations. Some patients might be hesitant to speak with a dental provider via video chat because they’re worried about confidentiality and privacy. It’s not uncommon for people to have personal concerns or even feel embarrassed when it comes to their oral health. The last thing they want is to worry about their oral issues or treatment plans being heard by others. 

Make sure wherever you hold your virtual consultations is private and quiet. Don’t allow other members of your staff to walk around in the background, and don’t appear distracted or engaged in other things while your patient is discussing treatment.

A virtual office visit tends to free up a lot of time for dental providers. That doesn’t mean you should rush through those visits, but it’s often easier and less time-consuming to connect with a patient digitally. So, you can actually give them more of your time and attention directly. As you do, ensure them that your practice takes confidentiality seriously. 

Other Benefits of Teledentistry

Besides those listed above, there are many other benefits of telehealth in dentistry. These include:

  • Automated appointment reminders and online rescheduling: a missed appointment inconveniences patients as well as practitioners. Automated reminders and scheduling make appointments more accessible, and get patients who are on the books into your office.
  • Direct booking links for preferred practitioners: Trust and relationships go a long way in medicine. If you have multiple dentists in your team, you can allow direct links for clients to book with their preferred practitioners.
  • Direct booking links for services: If you offer special services, you can place booking buttons in strategic positions online to target specific audiences. Higher visibility can lead to higher booking rates.
  • Buffer times for more efficient appointments: Automated scheduling can help determine when you’ll need buffer times during and between appointments for hygiene processes and admin. This can help keep appointments from overrunning into one another.
  • Easier referrals to external specialists: Specialists are few and far between — hence the name — and getting an appointment with one isn’t always easy. Fortunately, telehealth makes referrals to external specialists that much easier.

Of course, there are even more benefits than those listed above. Telehealth in dentistry is undoubtedly the way of the future when it comes to better patient care, improved accessibility, and removing the stigma surrounding dental fear. 

If you’re not already on board with teledentistry services, consider how they can positively impact your practice, and the steps needed to ensure patient privacy, data security, and streamlined services. 

Sam Bowman

About the author

Sam Bowman

Sam Bowman writes about people, tech, wellness, and how they merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for the community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore

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