Teledentistry refers to the use of telehealth systems and methodologies in dentistry. Telehealth refers to a broad variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services. Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of means to enhance care and education delivery.
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Teledentistry can include patient care and education delivery using, but not limited to, the following modalities:
Synchronous (live video): Live, two-way interaction between a person (patient, caregiver, or provider) and a provider using audiovisual telecommunications technology.
Asynchronous (store and forward): Transmission of recorded health information (for example, radiographs, photographs, video, digital impressions and photomicrographs of patients) through a secure electronic communications system to a practitioner, who uses the information to evaluate a patient’s condition or render a service outside of a real-time or live interaction.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM): Personal health and medical data collection from an individual in one location via electronic communication technologies, which is transmitted to a provider (sometimes via a data processing service) in a different location for use in care and related support of care.
Mobile health (mHealth): Health care and public health practice and education supported by mobile communication devices such as cell phones, tablet computers, and personal digital assistants (PDA).
General Considerations: While in-person (face to face) direct examination has been historically the most direct way to provide care, advances in technology have expanded the options for dentists to communicate with patients and with remotely located licensed dental team members. The ADA believes that examinations performed using teledentisty can be an effective way to extend the reach of dental professionals, increasing access to care by reducing the effect of distance barriers to care. Teledentistry has the capability to expand the reach of a dental home to provide needed dental care to a population within reasonable geographic distances and varied locations where the services are rendered.
In order to achieve this goal, services delivered via teledentistry must be consistent with how they would be delivered in-person. Examinations and subsequent interventions performed using teledentistry must be based on the same level of information that would be available in an in-person environment, and it is the legal responsibility of the dentist to ensure that all records collected are sufficient for the dentist to make a diagnosis and treatment plan. The treatment of patients who receive services via teledentistry must be properly documented and should include providing the patient with a summary of services. A dentist who uses teledentistry shall have adequate knowledge of the nature and availability of local dental resources to provide appropriate follow-up care to a patient following a teledentistry encounter. A dentist shall refer a patient to an acute care facility or an emergency department when referral is necessary for the safety of the patient or in case of emergency.
As the care provided is equivalent to in person care, insurer reimbursement of services provided must be made at the same rate that it would be made for the services when provided in person, including reimbursement for the teledentistry codes as appropriate.