The Movement: Google searches for teledentistry has dramatically increased in the last few weeks. The following terms have seen an increase in search volume: teledentistry, teledentistry jobs, teledentistry companies, American Teledentistry Association, and “What is teledentistry? In 2017, the ADA released a guide to understanding and documenting teledentistry events. With so much societal and institutional momentum behind teledentistry, it is only a matter of time before this new wave of care is being practiced in every dental office. View original search data.
With unprecedented times come new economies and new businesses. The Coronavirus spring of 2020 has completely upended many businesses including dental practices. When the ADA released coronavirus recommendations, dental emergencies were the only option to fill your schedule.
Upon the horizon comes a change in our industry.
For years, we have been hearing whispers of telemedicine. Companies like Roman and Hims have paved the way for further integration of “social distancing” medicine. Telemedicine is probably a bit ahead of the trend, but don’t worry, teledentistry is coming.
Proponents of telehealth agree that teledentistry could be used to facilitate access to care. The Center for Connected Health Policy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to maximize the capabilities of telehealth. According to their website, different telehealth modalities could include:
- Mobile health
- Remote patient monitoring
- Store and forward technologies (electronic transmission of medical records)
Of course, there is always government intervention with any sort of change in health care. Each state has differing laws and reimbursement policies.
There seem to be three first movers in the teledentistry marketing industry
The Teledentists (theteledentists.com)
The Denteractives (denteratives.com)
Dental Chat (dentalchat.com)
It's Not Just a Fad
You may think that these companies have just increased in popularity due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that is not the case. Analyzing search trends shows that there was an uptick in popularity well before people were confined to their homes. Search data pulled from SEMRush shows that organic search traffic to The Teledentists has increased dramatically even before the Coronavirus crisis.
You may question what can actually be accomplished using a chat or video function to communicate function when the majority of dentistry needs to be done in a clinical situation. Other clinical health industries like physical therapy are jumping on the telemedicine train as well.
The Coronavirus will change life as we know it for longer than we would like. As soon as people are allowed to resume their normal lives, they will carry with them their habits and lifestyle that they were forced to adapt during this time. This trend combined with the rising popularity of telehealth proves that teledentistry is here to stay.
Now the question is where can dentists capitalize:
1) Like the Uber for Dentists
With increasing popularity, more and more dentists will rush to the teledentistry as a secondary source of income. The logical first step in this trend is to sign up to be a doctor on one of these platforms. This could also serve as a potential practice builder. By showing patients that you are willing to go and above and beyond to show patients that you are providing care. We have already written about the rising popularity of the gig economy. This is where the gig economy and dentistry meet
2) The Learning Curve: It Might Get Awkward
Since much of business has gone to a work from home format, stories of awkward Zoom business calls have followed suit. It may be the same for telemedicine. With any new technology, there will be a time period of trial and error. So that’s the opportunity? Anything that can make these consults less….weird. Just a few ideas
Develop call scripts that can make calls go more smoothly
3) Integrate Online Dentistry into Your Practice
- Develop innovative ways for patients to do at -home-testing for tooth pain
- Develop D2C tooth testing kits
While current companies are targeting dentists as part of the gig economy, there is still a space for software that can be sold to dental offices to allow for teledentistry. A thought...a software that directly notifies you about a current patient with a dental emergency.
This could also be an opportunity for hygienists to get in on the fun. An application that allows patients to review brushing and periodontal health progress could go a long way in patient compliance and case acceptance.
Teledentistry is coming. With both increasing need and popularity of the WFH (work from home) industry, the dental industry needs to follow suit. As searches for “online dentist” continues to increase, the opportunities for dentists in this new industry will continue to increase as well.