Home Technology and Materials Teledentistry: A Disruptive Innovation

Teledentistry: A Disruptive Innovation

by Patti
DiGangi

The term disruptive innovation was coined in the early 1990s by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. Disruptive innovations are not breakthrough technologies that make good products better; rather they are innovations that make products and services more accessible and affordable, thereby making them available to a larger population. We have seen many disruptive innovations over the past decade like Uber and Airbnb. Teledentistry is a disruptive innovation and a rising trend with the tremendous profitability potential for your practice.

Our Model Is Stuck

The long-held model and shared assumption for oral health care is that Dentists’ Offices are the system. It appears that the only relevant actors in oral health are those who are associated with a stand-alone dentistry practice.

Most dentists and practices continue to follow the traditional business model. For the most part, each office remains a silo and stands alone, disconnected and divorced from other dentistry practices in an entirely different world from the overall health care system.

In March 2018, “Our Dental Care System Is Stuck” appeared in the Journal of the American Dental Association. Marko Vujicic, PhD, ADA Health Policy Institute said in that article, “We will not see major expansions in dental care use and sustained improvements in oral health in the coming years, especially among those with the highest needs, under the status quo model. The dental care system needs major reforms.” The article maps out what the author calls disruptive changes.

92 Million Millennials

Millennials are the largest segment of the U.S. population at 92 million. Many millennials were raised going to the dentist every six months for a ‘cleaning’. Their message to dentistry is they don’t value that care. The Pew Research Foundation as well at the ADA Health Policy Institute both have confirmed that millennials have the lowest frequency of dental visits.

The 92 million millennials can’t be easily button-holed, they are diverse. The conclusion of a recent survey shows that, compared to older generations, millennials are more likely to prefer speed and convenience over personal, comprehensive interactions with healthcare professionals.

Teledentistry: Not More of the Same

To better meet oral health needs, we need to see beyond stand-alone dentistry practices and the absence of cavities. Teledentistry expands the traditional dental practice. Doing more of the same won’t change the future or create more opportunities.

Teledentistry is the exchange of health information via electronic communications to improve a dental patient’s clinical status. It can increase access to care, quality of care and revenue streams for a practice, by providing profitable outreach to the community without adding more chairs. Using technology, dental professionals can screen, record, triage, diagnose and order care to be performed remotely.

Pop-Up Practice – Going to Them

As a generation, millennials prefer choices over compliance. Your practice using teledentistry could, like Carnegie Deli, hold a pop-up sponsored screening event.

For those in New York and many around the country, it was a sad day in 2016 when New York City’s legendary Carnegie Deli shut its doors for the final time. Yet Carnegie returned in December 2018 but just for a few days. The return was an 8-day pop-up to support a popular Amazon Prime Video series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

If your office wants to do a quick pop-up, it might not involve much more than a mirror, explorer, probe and HIPAA compliant cloud-based intra-oral camera system. It could be set-up at a place of business, civic center, church or senior center to provide screening services. It could offer more using portable equipment. The equipment investment can be easily less than $20,000. Equipping another room in your office can run 4-5x higher.

A pop-up for millennials could be at their place of work. A conversion rate at these type of events could be great. Why? Many of these millennials have no dental home. You will get new patients.

Floss Bar Example

Floss Bar is brainchild of a former New York hedge fund manager. They tout their services this way, “At Floss Bar, we are constantly looking at ways to do dental differently and bring innovation to an industry that is in desperate need for it,” according to its website, which also touts “no shaming, no up-selling, nor surprise fees, no waiting times.”

“{Teledentistry} can increase access to care, quality of care and revenue streams for a practice, by providing profitable outreach to the community without adding more chairs.”

This hedge-fund manager seems to understand the market in ways traditional dentistry does not. For millennials preferring speed and convenience, it might be a better fit.

Teledentistry Opportunity

Many reading here might have used Kodak film for radiographs. Kodak is a recent example of a massive institution that expended too much energy defending old technologies and failing to properly embrace the disruptive innovation represented by digital imaging.

The world is ever-evolving with countless solutions to make your practice faster, more organized and more competitive. When things are going well, it can be easy to get comfortable. At the same time, while you are comfortable in your success, a new innovation like Uber, Airbnb or Floss Bar comes along and disrupts the status quo. Your practice becomes the next Kodak. It’s time to embrace the future with teledentistry.

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Patti
DiGangi

Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS believes dentistry is oral medicine. As a navigator and long-time clinician, she guides audiences through the rough waters of coding. Patti holds publishing and speaking licenses with ADA for Current Dental Terminology. Patti co-wrote the book Teledentistry: Pathway to Prosperity. Patti offers for continued learning through her DentalCodeology Insiders and DentalCodeology Insurance Navigator Method online insurance/coding courses for clinicians accepted for PACE AGD CE credit.

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