Learn how to implement telehealth dental care

Dentists interested in expanding the ways in which they provide services to patients outside of their practice can attend a lecture about telehealth-connected teams at CDA Presents The Art and Science of Dentistry April 30-May 2.

Led by Paul Glassman, DDS, MBA, the lecture, titled “Expanding Dental Practices Using Telehealth-Connected Teams and Virtual Dental Homes,” will delve into the options dentists will have in the near future to make a greater impact in their communities. By working with members of their teams remotely via telehealth technology, dentists are able to provide care for those who experience barriers to oral health care.

“Anyone who is interested in this area and sees this as a potential to expand their services and wants to hear what it means for them and how it might affect their practice should attend the lecture,” said Glassman, who is a professor of dental practice, director of Community Oral Health and director of the Pacific Center for Special Care at the University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.

“Essentially, dental hygienists and assistants will be able to go out into places where underserved populations are such as Head Start, elementary schools, nursing homes and community centers and collect a set of diagnostic records, have those transmitted into a cloud-based server and then the dentist can review those and provide treatment instructions,” Glassman said.

Glassman led the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development’s (OSHPD) “Virtual Dental Home” Health Workforce Pilot Project, which took place over the last several years to test the concept. That project will now continue as a permanent program as a result of new legislation.

The new law, as established by AB 1174 (Bocanegra; D-Pacoima), will allow certain expanded duties (determining radiograph needs and placing protective restorations, known as interim therapeutic restorations (ITR), under the diagnosis and direction of a dentist) for registered dental hygienists, registered dental hygienists in alternative practice and registered dental assistants in extended functions in a virtual dental home setting (community clinics, nursing homes, preschools, etc.) using telehealth technology.

New laws are implemented through regulations, and part of the virtual dental home legislation included provisions that the telehealth model make its way through three regulatory agencies: the Department of Health Care Services, the Dental Board of California and the Dental Hygiene Committee of California. CDA, which was involved throughout the development of the legislation, will continue to work with stakeholders through the regulatory process.

Glassman expects the regulations to be complete by the end of 2015, which would then allow dentists, hygienists and assistants to participate in the program. His CDA Presents lecture, which will be held on May 2 at the Anaheim Convention Center, will give those interested a jump on how the program will work when all of the regulations are in place. Glassman will discuss advances in science and technology that enable the expansion of dental practices through virtual dental homes using telehealth-connected teams. Additionally, he will review a list of strategies and best practices for expanding the reach of dental practices using telehealth.

“There is some pretty solid science out there that is different from when a lot of us were in dental school,” Glassman said. “There is new science about sealing caries in place and interim therapeutic restorations and chronic disease management. These are things that can be done in a community setting under the direction of a dentist through digital technology.”

The new law will also ensure reimbursement for dental care rendered regardless of the location of the service, allowing reimbursement for dental services provided through telehealth technology. The billing steps are still being worked out by the state, but Glassman said he expects those to be finalized this year as well.

“This lecture will be a great introduction to the subject as a whole and give an early adopter the benefit of knowing what’s coming, and then as the regulations begin to fall in place, they can hit the ground running,” Glassman said.

CDA identified the use of quality and cost-effective technology solutions as a strategy for providing oral health services to those who experience difficulties in its access to care plan, Phased Strategies for Reducing the Barriers to Dental Care in California. Approximately 30 percent of Californians face barriers to oral health care and this report was developed in 2011 as a comprehensive strategic approach to reducing these barriers for vulnerable Californians.

For more information on this lecture, visit cdapresents.com.