TeleDentistry News in 2019
The technology is evolving, the rules are changing, and dental professionals need to stay on their toes. 2020 is almost here and the best way to prepare is to keep on top of teledentistry news. Virtual dentistry is expanding but needs to deal with both governmental and professional regulations. Still, the demand for online dental care is increasing and technology is making it possible. To understand the battle, you need to know what’s been going on in the wide world of teledentistry. To help you think ahead, here are some highlights from 2019.
In April, Dentistrytoday.com published an ominous headline: Teledentistry Bill Vetoed in New Mexico. Bill 241 was intended to deliver much-needed online dental health care to patients spread out in New Mexico’s vast rural areas. The problem, claimed the governor’s office, was insuring a quality “standard of care” as well as failing to address the issue of out-of-state practitioners who may be operating under differing quality standards. While the American Teledentistry Association was gracious in defeat of the bill, the association stressed the state’s high rate of gum disease and the underserving of a vast swath of the population.
Healthcare IT News announced teledentistry trials in the remote Northland. Mobile dental clinics will be targeting children and adolescents in areas without permanent quality dental services. Trained oral technicians will perform examinations which will be transmitted in real time to dentists. This trial will set the standard for future health care advancements to people in far-flung areas throughout the world.
The Australian Dental Association released a statement confirming the support and expansion of teledentistry. The document was well received by both government agencies and veteran affairs representatives. The statement was amended in August and is helping to support the effort to bring dental care, diagnosis and oral health treatment to all Australia’s citizens. This statement also paves the way for insurance coverage of such services.
Digital Medicine published an abstract that promoted the use of teledentistry to provide dentists on demand for underserved and undertreated people. Interestingly, the story emphasized the need for e-consultation between professionals to better advance online dental help. An everyday communication tool like e-mail can be critical to providing early treatment and diagnosis of potentially fatal oral health problems.
Canada’s New Democratic Party became the first national political party to emphasize the need to expand health coverage to include dental services. By adding dentistry to government-funded health care services, the NDP aimed to make good oral health care available to all citizens. As provincial medical services are expanding telehealth options, the policy would add teledentistry to current services. While the NDP did not win the election in October, the issue of universal dental care has become part of the national discussion.
The Business Insider published a report on the first ever online dental care service that gives control directly to the patients: Us! While TheTeledentists.com is a new market development, the idea of online dental care, diagnosis and consultation has been a natural evolution in health care delivery.
Arkansas’s National Public Radio released a report about the lack of teledentistry in the state. The report bemoaned the fact that people were enthusiastically embracing mail-order orthodontics but were failing to take advantage of general oral health care options offered by online dental care providers. The director of Arkansas’s Office of Oral Health discussed the problem as one of perception, that the benefits of teledentistry required “changing the minds of providers and the public at the same time.” Yes, people need to be told what teledentistry can do for them, but, just as important, dentists need to bone up on the possibilities.
In October, the California Dental Association passed more stringent laws overseeing the practice of teledentistry. While other states are also in the process of dealing with the march of technology, California’s law is a good example of the issues legislators are attempting to address, namely, insuring that teledentistry conforms to the strict professional standards that apply to brick-and-mortar practices. California’s laws come into effect January 1, 2020.
Perhaps the news that best represents the status of teledentistry in the U.S. comes from Washington State Dental Association. Their November blog starts out with a simple statement: “Advances in teledentistry may be key to improving access to care.” The article discusses how improving access to professional oral health care providers can help with homelessness, drug abuse and childhood development. As with many social programs, funding is a constant issue. The WSDA story makes one fact clear: Teledentistry is the future of oral health care.
Currently, people who need to talk to a dentist online are struggling to find options. Smartphone apps are allowing patients to find dentists on demand. Online services are the new frontiers of healthcare and no professional can afford to ignore the trend. In 2020, when people need to talk to a dentist, are searching for an online dental diagnosis or just want an exam, successful dentists will be there. Where will you be?