Remote Monitoring in the Private Practice
By now, you have probably heard about the growing popularity of self- and remote monitoring technologies which are sweeping healthcare. Consumer-focused devices such as Fitbit®, and clinical systems that capture health data, track medication adherence and treatment compliance are forever changing the way health data is understood and shared between patient and practitioner.
Remote patient monitoring is already widely used in many fields including cardiology, pulmonology and dermatology, changing not only the relationship of patients to their healthcare provider, but also empowering patients’ abilities to understand their own well-being. Now, affordable technology is also available which enables self- and remote monitoring of dental conditions.
For self- and remote monitoring to be effective in the dental setting, there’s really just one key way to share information – visually. Whether patients send a photo of a chipped tooth using their smartphone or by using an intraoral camera specifically designed for consumer use, visual communication enables patients to provide their dentists with a more complete and accurate “picture” of an issue when a verbal description over the phone would be ambiguous or incomplete.
Furthermore, giving patients the ability to see their entire mouth with their home computer not only encourages improved home care, but also allows them to see the areas of their teeth where cosmetic or restorative treatment might be desirable. With greater visibility of dental conditions, patients self-generate interest in cosmetic treatments, boost recall adherence and foster a stronger connection to their dentist, all without the dentist being in the role of salesperson or recall hound. And hygienists or dentists can schedule visual remote consultations and reminders to make sure the care recommendations discussed during the office visit don’t go in one ear and out the other.
Even insurance companies are beginning to acknowledge the benefits of remote dental evaluations. For example, beginning January 1, 2015 in California, remote dental visual consultation will be funded by Medicaid. California is among the first states to launch such teledentistry services, which are intended to increase the options for patients in remote and underserved areas. Other states, including Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii and West Virginia, are interested in creating their own teledentistry programs.
Of course, you and your staff won’t be interested in having patients share the number of calories they’ve burned or their blood pressure history with remote monitoring devices. But now, your practice can easily increase case acceptance, boost recall visits and enhance patient engagement through the use of visual monitoring via consumer-priced intraoral cameras, mobile apps and secure image sharing software.