The new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly altered how the dental industry operates. Here are three ways the pandemic has changed the dental insurance landscape.
There’s an almost daily debate of what constitutes a good reason for leaving your house right now. Individual states are at different stages of re-opening or shutting back down. With so much uncertainty, it makes sense that 42% of patients respondents may skip or postpone care out of fear or discomfort, particularly for non-emergency procedures.
This on top of the 61% of people who already suffer dental fears means that showing patients the extensive infection control measures in place may be an important aspect of getting them back in the chair.
A boom in teledentistry
Teledentistry is a way for dentists to provide a virtual consultation through a phone call, text, or video chat. Dentists can use teledentistry to address problems that don’t need an office visit, which allows them to save time and money on infection control measures like personal protective equipment and sanitizing office spaces. This gives practices an ideal way to assess and triage patients without a risk of exposure, while also potentially allowing a dentist to see more patients in a day.
Even before the pandemic, teledentistry was showing itself as an interesting and promising addition to traditional dental care. It allows dentists to see patients who are at-risk, live in rural areas, or those who just desire the convenience as well as potentially decreasing costs of dental care overall.
The key ingredient to the success of teledentistry is widespread patient acceptance. One possible issue, according to a review of survey’s about teledentistry, is that patients may feel like the quality of care received remotely is not as high as care received in person. However, users in one study were generally satisfied with the experience and respondents in another survey indicated that they would use teledentistry if it was available.
Americans losing health insurance
The biggest shift has been in the number of people with access to health insurance. With millions of jobs lost, many individuals and their families have lost both their coverage from their employers as well as a steady income. According to researchers from the Urban Institute, some individuals will be able to become insured under a family member’s policy, through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Medicaid or by choosing individual coverage through a broker. Still, that leaves almost 3.5 million people who may become uninsured. With the end of federal programs to support those who have lost their jobs, one big question for the dental industry is whether or not people will make the choice to go to the dentist.