Exploring the role of teledentistry in providing dental care
Zletni, Abeer A. Abdelhamid
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STUDY AIMS: The overall aim of this project was to evaluate the dental care services provided through teledentistry and to evaluate the methods used to diagnose and manage patients’ concerns during the televisits. STUDY DESIGN: This study was a retrospective chart review and included patients who completed televisits between March 1st, 2020, to January 31st, 2021, at the Boston Medical Center (BMC). Information on a total of 323 patients was obtained from EPIC, the electronic patient record system. These patients completed televisits in both the Departments of Pediatric Dentistry and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at BMC. For each televisit, we gathered information from the televisit workflow form which includes detailed information on the patient’s visit. The level of accuracy of diagnosis and details on the management of the diagnosed condition during the televisit was compared to the diagnosis and management completed during the in-clinic visit. Differences in the level of accuracy by patients’ characteristics were analyzed. Other factors correlated with the level of accuracy were also evaluated using univariate and multivariate analysis. All statistical tests were conducted using SPSS statistical software. RESULTS: Overall, almost half of the study population (49.2%) presented to the televisit with the chief complaint of pain. The majority of the televisits, 99.1%, were completed by phone and only 13% of the patients’ charts included photos. In terms of management, 49.8% of the cases were managed conservatively during the televisits and 57.9% were advised to follow-up to the clinic for dental treatment and among these patients about 78% returned to the clinics at BMC. Accuracy of diagnosis was found to be 72.4% when comparing the diagnosis made during the televisits to the clinical diagnosis. The level of accuracy was significantly associated with the type of management that was provided to the patients during the televisits (p-value=0.008). CONCLUSION: Teledentistry can be used as a successful module in providing the optimum patient care especially where the in-clinic visit cannot be achieved due to geographical or financial barriers, or due to lack of access. It is also a valuable mode of communication with patients in severe emergency situations such as the recent COVID pandemic.