Misc, Practice Marketing, Tips

Patients View Teledentistry Much Differently Than Dentists

Before you dismiss teledentistry post-pandemic or decide not to adopt it, understand that patients view teledentistry much differently than dentists.

Despite widespread adoption of teledentistry during the pandemic, Oral Health found the same thing in 2021 as Prosites. Though dental patients embraced teledentistry as useful and acceptable, roughly half of dental practices do not plan to continue with teledentistry post-pandemic or adopt it in the future.

Reasons included cost, feelings that teledentistry systems were too much trouble to learn, and/or just wanting to get back to the way things used to be, and some practices will certainly stick to their plans. Where many medical and financial experts say the pandemic wrought permanent changes to the old normal, and assertions like those of Dental Economics that “Teledentistry has become the way forward for the foreseeable future because patients and dentists alike embrace it,” some dental practices will not be dissuaded from their decision.

What to Consider Before Doing the Same

There’s certainly no telling how many dental practices will decide against teledentistry before perhaps rethinking it later in a dental marketplace only projected by Fortune Business Insights to get more competitive. However, before you consider heading down the same road, consider the following sentence from a 2021 Guardian Dental Study:

“Despite 26 percent of dentists admitting that teledentistry is not a satisfying way for them to practice, it certainly resulted in an industry shift in patient behavior.”

This sentence captures the real factor to understand before making any final decisions whether to continue with or adopt teledentistry.

Dental practices may have avoided teledentistry or used it nominally during the pandemic because it felt like an inferior stopgap measure to patients sitting in dental chairs. Yet this view (however understandable) comes from a practice perspective. It lacks alignment with the patient-centered care principle, meaning the patient perspective (a cornerstone principle of marketing in general) and the patient perspective in teledentistry is markedly different than that of many dental practices.

Patients Largely View Teledentistry in a Positive Light

Similar to 2020 findings by the British Dental Journal, an October 2021 survey by the Journal of Dentistry found:

  • Just over 70% of dental patients strongly agreed that teledentistry video consultations ran smoothly.
  • 75.7% strongly agreed they were comfortable accessing consultations from home rather than traveling to a practice for a consultation.
  • Just under 80% of dental patients said they would recommend video consultations.

Three Reasons Why Patients (and Dental Practices) Embrace Teledentistry

Equitable Access

In a national teledentistry study published in 2022 by the National Library of Medicine, researchers found that patients see post-pandemic value in teledentistry for special circumstances that do not enable someone an in-practice visit, “such as when they are physically unable, caring for young children or an elderly parent, or due to their work schedule.”

This view was shared by CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. Where Carequest found 32% of surveyed dental practices thought teledentistry would decrease the quality of patient care, 76% of practices later found teledentistry increased patient access to care, increased patient satisfaction, and helped shorten patient wait times to get an appointment.

Addresses Dental Anxiety

All dentists know that dental anxiety is a common barrier to dental attendance and a contributor to poor oral health. “Given that mobile phones, tablets, and laptops are now equipped with high precision cameras resulting in ultra-high-definition images,” writes Oral Health, “patients can seek dental consultations from the comfort of their own homes without the associated stress and anxiety.” Dentistry Today expresses the same thoughts in a 2020 article, saying, “The entire process is much more convenient and less stressful with a teledentistry-enabled, virtual face-to-face introduction and consultation.”

Serves Lingering COVID Fears

Your own person experience with people and their varying fears/beliefs about COVID confirm what many surveys and studies have found. Two solid years of often-conflicting COVID news coverage, terrifying reports, first-hand stories and more have firmly rooted COVID fears in the common psyche. As a result, as noted by The Guardian, those fears “will not subside easily, even as COVID is controlled.” So, until they do, some patients will continue to embrace teledentistry as a welcome option to an in-practice appointment that can be handled remotely.

In summary: Whether you decide to continue with teledentistry or adopt it, the evidence shows that patients largely embrace and want teledentistry as a value-added dental option. That’s why ProSites enables dental practices to provide dental care from anywhere with Virtual Consult, a customized virtual consultation hub for your dental website.

>> Find out more about Virtual Consult

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