Why Dentists Are Turning to Teledentistry During COVID-19 (Teledentistry Part 1)

Dentists worldwide are utilizing various technologies which help facilitate teledentistry during this health crisis.

Resources cite that although providers can only do limited exams and treatment planning or virtual consultations, teledentistry maintains patient relations, which is a vital aspect of owning a practice. Teledentistry also provides a way for dentists to work during the worldwide health emergency, but can also be used to enhance the daily operations of your practice under normal circumstances. 

Visuals Made Virtual

A huge part of treatment planning with patients is visually presenting the problem, and also showing the solution to keep patients fully informed. For instance, you might show your patient the x-ray of their decay, or walk through the details of a specific procedure using intraoral pictures of their problem area. 

Brant Herman, CEO of MouthWatch LLC, writes on Dental Economics points out that virtual treatment planning works well with visuals, as he argues patients understand images better than words alone. Additionally, Herman brings up the point that family members often are the final deciding factor before a patient undergoes a specific treatment. To counter familial disagreement (which is often due to misunderstanding the importance of the treatment), virtual images and videos can be kept on file and saved by the patient for family members’ understanding. 

Using Procedure Codes for Your Time

There is a section of procedure codes in the Ontario fee guide that is often overlooked, but can be effectively utilized at a time like this, especially if you are engaging with patients via teledentistry. Patti DiGrangi, RDH, speaks to this in a video addressing the impact of COVID-19 on the dental industry. DiGrangi brings up a few codes that are typically ignored, such as consultation with a medical professional, case management, and oral hygiene instruction.

Maintaining procedure codes and documentation is a priority if you are engaging with patients via virtual means. You can use your dental software at home to make chart notes of virtual meetings between yourself and your patients so when you return to the office, everything is in order, files are easily accessible, and treatment can quickly begin.

Protect Your Practice as Cyberattacks Increase

Multiple threats are challenging dentists worldwide, including cybersecurity at this time. Cyberattacks have risen by 37% in one month, cited by Phil Muncaster at the Infosecurity Group.

Hospitals have been experiencing international ransomware attacks from hackers taking advantage of the current situation. When hospitals are unable to access their data and applications, the treatment process is delayed, thus putting patients directly at risk. Hospitals and other healthcare providers, including dentists, are particularly a high-risk group for ransomware, phishing, and cyberattacks. This week, we are doubling down on data security to make sure that your practice data is protected in this difficult time.

Educate Your Employees

Our last few blog posts mentioned using some extra free time as a chance to educate yourself and your employees on some important aspects of your practice, such as maintaining security. Ensure that anyone who accesses the company emails or social media outlets are very cautious when receiving any messages from unknown senders, particularly with enclosed links. Oftentimes it is best not to open emails and messages from unknown senders if they were not expected or seem irrelevant. If employees do open the email, reinforce that they need to be very sure any links can be trusted prior to clicking them. If you or your employees have suspicions about an email, it is likely in your best interest to delete the email and/or block the sender for your safety.

Have The Right Systems in Place

Take all measures to protect your practice’s data, and ensure your patients’ security. Best practices include having strong passwords and changing them regularly, such as every few months. 

Being aware of the security measures that you should take if your data is threatened. For instance, mitigate the threat that ransomware poses to your practice by doing regular backups on your practice’s local server, or consider a cloud-based server that automatically backs up your practice’s data. This way, if your confidential practice data is infected, you can restore the information from your most recent unaffected backup. 

Having a plan is key for bouncing back from a cyberattack quickly. Just like your practice has emergency evacuation routes for office fires, being prepared for a cyberattack puts you one step ahead of the potential hacker in the event it takes place. Unfortunately, during these unprecedented times, organizations are even more at risk because there are multiple safety concerns. 

The switch to remote work has created an opportunity for cybercrime, but that can be combated with proper security measures and education to make sure any staff who is regularly checking emails or managing communications stay aware and alert.

We hope you are staying safe and healthy at home, and are using the resources available for yourself and your community at this time.

ABELDent’s Exciting New Features: Video Tutorials

Last week’s blog post addressed the downtime caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the ways that dentists can keep themselves preoccupied, even though all routine services are postponed. In the blog post, we encourage dental professionals to utilize online classes now that they have some more time to benefit from additional learning.  

In line with this theme, we are publishing a miniseries for ABELDent users to learn about the new features that our software has, as well as prepare for future upgrades. In these videos, we will show you the features in action, as well as provide some examples for your benefit. 

Many of the new features will make your day-to-day life easier in your practice. Having a strong understanding of these new features will help you in making the most of your dental software, and in turn, providing the best quality of care for your patients.  

The first video of our miniseries covers the clinical sidebar. The clinical sidebar’s purpose is to minimize clicking and scrolling while your patient is in your operatory. You can easily access the important information that you need before starting any treatment by simply glancing at your patient’s chart. 

The Clinical Sidebar 

The clinical sidebar is not restricted to the patient’s chart. You can also see it for each individual patient when checking daily appointments. This allows you and your staff to adequately prepare for any cases that require more attention than others, or just to have a headstart on the day to increase confidence.  

Another option the sidebar provides is quick and simple health updates. You can pre-program your common health conditions and medications into ABELDent and then quickly select what you need when updating your patient’s health history. You can even have your patient do an updated health form, completely paperless, signature included. 

The clinical sidebar offers various possibilities for your practice and streamlines the process of updating and checking patient health information.  

Prepare for a Prosperous Practice, Even When You Can’t Work From Home

In light of recent events, with Ontario ordering the shutdown of nonessential workplaces, ABELDent employees are now working from home. Telecommuting is highly encouraged and measures to prevent the spread of the virus are being enforced for at least 14 days. 

A substantial number of Canadians are unable to work due to the COVID-19 crisis, including dental professionals. Dentists are still instructed to treat dental emergencies, as outlined under number 58 on the list of essential workplaces. Routine services, however, make up a significant portion of the income for a dental office. We recognize the stress that social distancing has on both yourself and your practice, but there are ways to stay motivated. 

While being unable to work can be unmotivating, we are encouraging our clients (and others) to use this time to stay on top of their game by accessing educational resources. For this reason, ABELDent is offering free educational videos and walkthroughs for anyone who needs training on administrative, financial, and clinical aspects of their dental software program.  

Additional educational resources that can be accessed during this time include online courses that earn you CE points, or even generic online classes that can offer you insights on your hiring process, employee relations, and overall business structure. As mentioned in previous posts, you can use this time to analyze your practice using SWOT Analysis or PMBO to measure if you have been meeting your practice objectives. All of these suggestions point you towards a future that is prepared to prosper.  

Even if you can’t do your job at home, you can still work from home by learning and assigning training to your staff. Ongoing education has tremendous value in any field, especially at a time like this, when there is more time to allocate towards the betterment of your practice. 

Practice Precautions and Additional Resources for Dentists: COVID-19

RCDSO posted a message to all Ontario Dentists on March 15, 2020, regarding the risk COVID-19 poses to dental professionals. ODA recently announced their support of their recommendations. The College outlines seven different guidelines that they are putting into place to counteract the virus’s spread.

The College urges dentists to temporarily cease all non-emergency dental treatments to minimize the risk that the virus poses to dentists and patients. The College will revisit this recommendation in April 2020, but for now, it is strongly suggested that only emergency treatments should continue.

The primary focus of this blog addresses the college’s recommendations and provides additional resources for navigating the current climate while maintaining your practice. 

What can I do in the meantime?

While the office may be slow for the time being, the downtime provides an opportunity for continuing education and advanced training. Refreshing yourself and your staff on your systems and tools, software applications, and best practices for your office is beneficial during this time so that when business begins to resume regularly, you can get back up to speed quickly and even get ahead of the game. 

This may also be a great time for you to do a practice self-assessment that will give you a better understanding of how you are currently performing and what adjustments you may need to make to meet your practice objectives.

On a related note, it may also be time to ask yourself if you are taking full advantage of all the features your practice management software has to offer. Lorne Lavine, dentist and practice management consultant states that “Many practices are only using a small portion of the capabilities of their software… and this is not allowing them to operate at anything near a desired level of efficiency.”  If you feel this scenario applies to you, it may be a good time to consider more training during a time when you are not operating at full capacity. 

7 Recommendations from RCDSO and ODA

1. The RCDSO strongly recommends that all non-essential and elective dental services should be suspended immediately. Emergency treatment should continue.

As previously mentioned, the College will reassess the necessity of this precaution in the first week of April. RCDSO acknowledges that this recommendation will impact staff members, which is why they also suggest that dental professionals consult with the Ministry of Labour. 

“2. The College will continue to enforce the Standard on Infection Prevention and Control, in cooperation with public health.

This point is expected, and also crucial in this time. Taking some downtime for refreshing your staff on proper protocol for sanitization and safety measures is beneficial. The prevalence of upholding and emphasizing IPAC standards can serve as a practical learning experience for your staff.  

“3. All in-person meetings at the College have been suspended until further notice.

“4. All speaking engagements and presentations by College staff are cancelled until further notice.” 

Many organizations are postponing physical meetings in favour of virtual meetings for the time being to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to more Canadians. 

5. All business travel for staff has been cancelled.

The Prime Minister urges Canadians to come home if they are currently travelling abroad and has also announced the closure of most airports except for four major ones across the country. 

“6. Renewals of existing facility permits and Certificates of Authorization are suspended.” 

RCDSO will not renew facility permits during this time, but instead are extending current permits and extending renewal deadlines. 

“7. The Quality Assurance program is suspended effective March 16, 2020.

In their last point, the College encourages members to continue to earn CE points but urges attendees to do so online or via virtual means to prevent as much physical contact with the public as possible. 

Going along with the theme of attending virtual conferences, ODA has extended their cancellation deadline for all attendees to March 23, 2020, giving dentists and prospective attendees more time to assess the situation before this year’s ASM. 

EDIT: March 18, 2:45 p.m. || ODA has announced that they are cancelling this year’s Annual Spring Meeting due to growing concerns surrounding the virus.

To summarize the points, the College asks dentists to pause regular appointments but keep emergency appointments to attend to their patient’s needs.  

Additional Resources for Dental and Healthcare Providers – by Province/Territory

 

Establishing and Monitoring Key Objectives for Dental Practice Success (Part 3 of 3)

In Part 1 of this series, the concept of Practice Management by Objectives (PMBO) was introduced. The first two objectives of the methodology were outlined; achieving financial targets and increasing hygiene and treatment plan acceptance. Objectives 3 and 4, growing/retaining your patient base and advancing your scheduling were covered in Part 2 of this series. This post concludes the series with Objectives 5 and 6.

OBJECTIVE 5: SAVE TIME AND MONEY BY TRANSITIONING TO PAPERLESS 

Implementing electronic charting and digital radiography result in administrative synergies that are not possible with paper records. A complete patient profile is maintained by efficiently integrating all information related to the patient in one electronic chart. Benefits of transitioning to a “paperless” dental practice include: 

  • Elimination of transaction double entry, manual errors, and inconsistent information 
  • More complete and legible charts through customizable template data entry 
  • Dynamic record-keeping by accumulating historical data that can be viewed incrementally by date 
  • Minimizes need for organizing, retrieving and filing charts and radiographs 
  • Time-saving and reduced confusion by allowing access to data from any place on the network 
  • Requires less floor space
  • Improved data protection since clinical data previously on paper charts can now be backed up
  • Protection of patient and practice privacy 

OBJECTIVE 6: STAFF EMPOWERMENT FOR ENHANCED SOFTWARE EFFICIENCY & SECURITY  

Your goals and objectives including the ones described above and part 1 and 2 of this blog series aren’t achievable without buy-in and participation from a well-informed and trained dental team.  Your team especially needs to be well-versed in how to use your dental practice management software to effectively to ensure the data required for monitoring your practice performance is entered accurately and can be retrieved easily in the desired format.  

With the increasing threat of cyberattacks, the entire team should be well versed in data security measures so that your practice is protected from data breaches. Environmental threats and hazards such as fires, storms, floods, power failures, and electrical surges can cause serious – sometimes irreparable – damage that can destroy your business in the absence of proper planning. 

To summarize, you can use the practice objectives and recommendations outlined above to articulate to your dental team, your own specific goals and practice objectives in a clearly defined way.  The use of KPIs will allow you to quantify your expectations and monitor your progress in meeting them.   But remember, all this is only possible with the right dental team in place.

A Reliable Tool for Objectively Evaluating Your Practice

Are you finding your practice’s production plateauing? Are you looking for new opportunities for your dental office? Do you need to get your practice back on track?

Much like MBO (Management by Objectives), SWOT Analysis has been used for decades by businesses to objectively evaluate their sustainability and how they might better respond to their environment for growth and prosperity. From that perspective, your dental practice is no different from other businesses – it is essential that you do periodic self-assessments for continuous improvement.

But what exactly is SWOT Analysis? In short, it is a technique used to determine and define your practice’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Here is a template you can use to start your own SWOT analysis with links to valuable background information:

Once you have a general idea of the composition of each SWOT category you can begin to drill down to specific examples that apply to you in each category such as the ones referenced in the chart below:

SWOT Analysis example tailored towards a dental practice

Once you complete the above exercise, you should have a much greater insight into what you are doing well, the factors that need addressing and the position your practice occupies in the dental marketplace. The information you uncover can be the foundation for developing a realistic and relevant business plan going forward.

Group of dental professionals having a meeting

Another benefit of SWOT Analysis is that this technique can be applied at a micro level, for example, deciding on whether to take on an associate, expand capacity or move to a new location. In conclusion, SWOT Analysis gives you heightened awareness so that you are in a much better position to capitalize on your strengths, address weaknesses where feasible, act on opportunities and mitigate threats.