Teledentistry from a patient perspective during the coronavirus pandemic
The World Health Organization declared a pandemic associated with the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 on March 11, 2020. Due to the pandemic hundreds of thousands of dental practices shutdown and all routine, non-urgent dental care was suspended. To avoid abandoning patients, many dental offices turned to teledentistry to triage patients and address dental concerns. In a recent study published August 14, 2020 in the British Dental Journal the authors aimed to determine the patient’s perception of teledentistry during the pandemic.1
The study was designed with a patient survey to assess five aspects of their experience with teledentistry: 1) patient satisfaction; 2) ease of use; 3) the effectiveness including increasing access to clinical services; 4) reliability of teledentistry system; and 5) usefulness for patients. A total of 52 patients participated in the survey. Patients scheduled appointments to interact with the clinicians via their personal computer, tablet or smart phone. Patients that did not feel comfortable using that technology were offered a telephone consultation. One hundred percent of the participants responded to the survey. Of which 35 patients attended a virtual clinic, while 17 patients opted for a telephone consultation.
Ninety-seven percent of the participants felt satisfied that their clinical needs were met and would be willing to use the virtual clinic again for follow-up appointments, while 94% of the telephone clinic patients felt their clinical needs were met and would be willing to participate in the telephone clinic again.
The teledentistry system was well accepted by most participants. They were able to maintain good communication with their clinician through the teledentistry system. One patient found it difficult to use due to the small screen of their smart phone.
One hundred percent of the telephone consultations and 97% of the virtual clinic patients strongly agreed or agreed that they were able to express themselves clearly and felt they could communicate with their clinician as well through the teledentistry system as they could face to face. Additionally, they expressed the ability to communicate with their clinician from home made them feel at ease and reduced anxiety in those that experienced dental anxiety.
All respondents agreed that teledentistry saved time and 94% would use the virtual clinic again, while 100% would use the telephone clinic again. Overall, 96% of the patients surveyed would use teledentistry again for consultations.
The results of this survey showed that most patients were very satisfied with their experience using teledentistry in all five domains. Additionally, for healthcare workers it has potential to eliminate unnecessary referrals and reduce long wait lists for specialist consultations
and wait time for appointments in clinic.
The authors conclude by stating, “The majority of survey participants expressed positive views towards teledentistry in all five domains: patient satisfaction, ease of use, the effectiveness including increasing access to clinical services, reliability of the teledentistry system and usefulness for patients. Teledentistry can be a suitable option to increase access of healthcare services to patients and save resources during the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of social distancing and lockdown measures, healthcare providers should consider adapting patient pathways and using telehealth as a method of consultation in the recovery planning of services.”
How did your practice triage patients during the shutdown? Would teledentistry be an option for you to add to your practice?
Rahman N, Nathwani S, Kandiah T. Teledentistry from a patient perspective during the coronavirus pandemic. Br Dent J. 2020 Aug 14:1–4. doi: 10.1038/s41415-020-1919-6. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 32801323; PMCID: PMC7427495.