Learning how to use teledentistry to deliver safe and effective patient-centered care

Over the past couple of months, we have all seen drastic changes in our daily life. It has made us think differently about how we live and work. How do we get our groceries? How do we visit with our friends and families? And, for those of us in health care, how do we deliver patient care safely and effectively?

New state and federal guidelines have reduced the number of in-office visits for non-emergency dental services to protect health care workers and patients. Dental practices across the country are hard at work developing workflows, understanding billing and claim formatting, and determining the safest way to provide dental care using teledentistry.

Petaluma Health Center (PHC) in Sonoma County, California, has been at the leading edge of designing, testing, and implementing innovative teledentistry practices for their patients. During the past few months, Petaluma's dental operations dropped from an average of 120 patient visits per day to 8 patients per day for emergency/urgent care. Dr. Ramona English, Chief Dental Officer at PHC, wasted no time in responding by developing and testing a new workflow for her team.

Dr. English’s new approach allows her team to continue engaging with patients effectively while maintaining social distancing guidelines. Dr. English achieved these results by utilizing her QI skills to conduct PDSA cycles, leading to the development of a teledentistry visit process. Her strategy included testing multiple teledentistry platforms to find one that was compatible with their established Electronic Dental Record (EDR), and then identifying the right staff to utilize the technology. The team is currently testing patient engagement strategies with the parents and caregivers of pediatric patients, including practicing at-home care, setting self-management goals, and nutritional counseling. These tests help maintain high patient satisfaction, provider satisfaction, and high-quality care.

"The first 20 [teledentistry] visits, I learned something new with every patient, which led to additional PDSA tests. It was challenging in the beginning, but my assistant and I didn't give up."

-Dr. English, Petaluma Health Center

If you have questions about how you can help your practice pivot during times of change, contact the professional team at AFL Enterprises. Our next blog post will delve into tips for implementing effective QI strategies in your office!


Further Reading:

· NNOHA's Teledentistry Resources

· ADA Policy on Teledentistry

· Harvard Business Review: The Value of Teaching Patients to Administer Their Own Care

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