The COVID-19 outbreak has caused many challenges for dental care professionals. With the interruption of routine dental services at the end of March 2020, there is a significant number of the general population with acute dental problems. In addition to these, there are patients who had treatment suspended partway through their treatment plans and therefore there is now a backlog of patients awaiting dental care. One challenge that will face the profession moving forward will be facilitating access to these patients and determining which patients should be seen as a priority for necessary dental care. This article looks at the role of real-time interactive video consultations in dental care practice during the recovery and restoration phase of the COVID-19 outbreak and how they could facilitate the management of patients waiting to access dental care.
The World Health Organization describes ‘telehealth’ as the delivery of healthcare by a service provider to a patient, when the two individuals are separated by distance, often using information technology (IT) systems for exchange of information. Telemedicine (a synonym for telehealth) and its use to improve healthcare access to patients have been discussed since the 1990s.
The move to real-time interactive video consultations in the current climate has been a swift response based on the crisis that healthcare especially dental care practitioners have found themselves in during COVID-19. Adaptation to this change in patient management can be difficult, considering that doctor-patient/dentist-patient face-to-face interactions have so far been the established method of healthcare.
Role of Dental Services
With uncertainty nearby infection control requirements and social distancing principles as routine dentists resumes and use of real-time interactive video consultations will likely play a key role in pre-assessment of patients. This could involve undertaking a history, updating the medical and social history, and discussing the likely treatment options and costs of treatment before the patient attends the dental clinic.