Broker blog from Delta Dental

Tag: teledentistry

New teledentistry options: Toothpic and Virtual Consult

Two new teledentistry options have come to Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier® plans. Say hello to Toothpic and Delta Dental – Virtual Consult.

Utilizing these options doesn’t require any changes to the way members use or pay for their benefits. Instead, it’s a new way for members to use existing plan benefits — remotely. These new tools are an ongoing covered benefit and have no additional administrative costs or access fees for Delta Dental clients or members.1 When members use either of these tools, they can rest easy knowing that they’ll be connected with a licensed Delta Dental dentist they can trust.

Toothpic

Toothpic is a secure HIPAA-compliant app that provides a photo-based virtual dental screening from anywhere you have a smart device and an internet connection. It’s perfect for those who want a dental checkup with a Delta Dental dentist without an appointment. Toothpic lets members:

  • Get evaluations on their own schedule by submitting pictures of their mouth, teeth and gums
  • Receive a personalized in-depth report from a Delta Dental dentist within 24 hours
  • Check in for diagnoses on areas of concern and get info about their next steps 

Virtual Consult

Virtual Consult is a secure HIPAA-compliant video-based tool for having a virtual appointment with a dentist. It’s ideal for those who have urgent oral care needs, like pain or a cracked or chipped tooth, and want to speak directly with a Delta Dental dentist. With Virtual Consult, members can:

  • Schedule and have a video appointment with a Delta Dental dentist without leaving home
  • Have quick, real-time consultations on urgent issues even if they don’t have a dentist they see regularly
  • Get an e‑prescription and aftercare instructions for pain or infection

Virtual dentistry allows members to receive a diagnosis from the comfort of their own home. Whether they’re just looking for a quick check-in or have an urgent concern, these teledentistry options can help them meet their needs with all the ease telehealth offers.

1. Members who have 100% coverage for oral evaluations and who have not exceeded their frequency limitations for office visits or limited oral evaluations are eligible to use Toothpic and Virtual Consult. Using Toothpic to receive a diagnostic report or using Virtual Consult for a remote visit each count as one office visit/oral evaluation for the purpose of frequency limitations.

5 ways Delta Dental is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Delta Dental is working to support our customers, dentists and local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the ways we’re responding to this health and financial crisis.

1. Charitable giving to vital services

The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation has provided nearly $15 million this year to help nonprofits respond to the pandemic. These unrestricted grant funds have supported essential services, including dozens of dental and medical clinics serving low-income communities across our 15-state service area and the District of Columbia.

To help feed vulnerable communities during skyrocketing food insecurity, we’ve also contributed $2.5 million to food banks in Alabama, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New York, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

2. Dentist loan program

Partnering with Provide (formerly known as Lendeavor), Delta Dental has offered over $300 million in loan programs to provide economic relief for qualifying independent network dentists.

The loan program, which extends through the end of the year, covers cash flow relief as well as interest savings. It also includes loans that dentists can use to acquire, refinance, expand or equip a practice, as well as to acquire or refinance commercial real estate for a practice.

3. Relief for groups, individuals and brokers

We’ve offered various forms of premium relief to all lines of our business to help alleviate the financial strain of the pandemic on our individual customers and group clients. To provide further support, we’ve made adjustments to many of our contract policies to help clients and brokers weather the financial impact of the pandemic.

At the same time, we’ve also prioritized our brokers’ financial stability. Commissions have remained intact, with no reductions to offset premium relief.

4. PPE and infection control reimbursement for dentists

The new costs of practicing during a pandemic have added to the financial strain on our network dentists. To help, Delta Dental launched a supplemental reimbursement program for network dentists.

The temporary program, which runs through the end of the year, is meant to help dentists adjust to the new conditions under COVID-19 as they plan for 2021. Under the program, network dentists receive an additional $10 per patient per qualifying service to help cover the costs of additional personal protective equipment and other infection control practices.

5. Teledentistry resources

Delta Dental has encouraged dentists and patients to consider teledentistry options for diagnostic and emergency dental services. Teledentistry, or virtual consultation via phone, text or video, offers a safe, convenient choice and can expand access to care for patients who might otherwise not see a dentist.

We’re offering discounts and free trials on HIPAA-compliant teledentistry services to Delta Dental dentists and are building partnerships with teledentistry companies to improve the experience for our customers and network dentists.

How has COVID-19 affected the dental industry?

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.

Timid patients

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.

Teledentistry: what it is, and what it means for your clients

Businesses, schools and public space have been reopening for months now, and that includes dental offices. As part of the reopening efforts, more dentists and their patients have turned to teledentistry, an emerging trend that has the power to reshape the industry as we know it. Here are some common questions about teledentistry, as well as our thoughts about the impact teledentistry will have on the industry and how Delta Dental is addressing it.

What is teledentistry?

Teledentistry is when a dentist conducts a virtual consultation via phone, text or video to diagnose issues, offer care advice and determine if an in-person visit is necessary.

Teledentistry appointments can be synchronous, such as a video call where the dentist and patient are interacting with each other, or asynchronous, such as when the patient sends a description of his or her situation and a photo and waits for a reply.

Are teledentistry appointments covered by insurance?

Yes. Delta Dental covers teledentistry services as problem-focused exams. That means they fall into the category of diagnostic care, and are subject to the same rules and limitations (for example, D&P is usually covered at no cost to the patient, but only a certain number of such appointments are covered each year).

What kind of equipment is needed for teledentistry appointments?

The equipment and software needed may vary based on dentists’ preferences and capabilities. Teledentistry may require nothing more than a phone or may require a smart device, computer or specialized app.

If dental offices are reopening, why is teledentistry relevant?

Dentist offices may open, but that doesn’t mean that patients won’t benefit from teledentistry solutions. Just as working from home has shown the value of video meetings and connecting with coworkers without being in person, patients may find teledentistry a useful option when seeking dental care.

Additionally, not all patients are willing to return to the dentists. Surveys this past August by the American Dental Association (ADA) have found that 15% of people are waiting for a medical breakthrough such as a vaccine before they’ll go back to the dentist. Whether your clients are eager or hesitant to return the dentist, teledentistry is the perfect tool for staying in touch, getting care and getting advice without going into the dentist’s office.

What is Delta Dental doing with regards to teledentistry?

Delta Dental covers teledentistry appointments at the same benefit levels as diagnostic services to ensure that enrollees have coverage for their dental needs while staying safe from COVID-19. We’re encouraging dentists to use teledentistry for emergency diagnoses and non-emergency consultations. Delta Dental dentists are also eligible for discounts on teledentistry services. What’s more, Delta Dental is looking into partnerships with teledentistry companies to improve the experience for both dentists and their patients.

How will teledentistry change the industry?

COVID-19 has been disruptive to the entire economy, and the dental industry is no exception. That disruption is more than just economic, however. Expectations about what it means to go to the dentist are also changing. Dental patients may expect teledentistry to be included as a standard part of any insurance plan (for example, Kaiser Permanente is launching plans with a heavy focus on telehealth) and they may shy away from plans and dentists that can’t accommodate it. Patients who live in remote areas may also find expanded access to professional care because of teledentistry.

For dentists, teledentistry is more than just another option or add-on when it comes to providing care and in-person treatments. It may become a new source of income in the form of seeing more patients virtually.

For brokers, staying on top of the latest developments, industry best practices and customer expectations about teledentistry will become ever more important.

© 2021 Insider Update

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑