Should I Offer Dental Advice Online?
The current situation with the coronavirus has created a number of challenges. Many of them are related to social distancing. While dentists are getting more guidance regarding what kind of consultations or treatment they can offer, they have to consider limiting most of their patient interactions to remote consultations.
This is a very challenging time for all healthcare professionals. The treatment of patients is of vital importance, but there has to be a way to deliver it in a safe way. If you haven’t considered remote consultations, such as online video calls, now may be the perfect time to do so. However, keep a few things in mind.
This article offers guidance regarding the suitability and safety of remote consulting, or teledentistry.
If you decide to offer remote consultation
When considering an online consultation, you should consider whether you are able to properly assess the patient remotely. If you are not sure, then you should recommend an alternative way for the patient to find dental care, according to public health guidance.
In situations where a face-to-face consultation is not an option, you need to be satisfied that you can properly assess the patient remotely. You should write down that you have considered this in your records. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances, it would be better to have remote consultations with patients who are already known to you so you can access their current dental records.
Online consultation with a current patient in another country
In some cases, you may be contacted by a current patient whose dental records you already have, but they are in another country and are unable to return due to quarantine. If this is the case, you should advise the patient to follow the proper alternative route, which may mean looking for a local dental care specialist.
If the patient is asking you about a known dental problem, and you think you can provide advice, you should decide whether this is the safest alternative for the patient. Keep in mind that your advice can be very limited right now.
Online consultation with a new patient in your country
If you are asked to give an online consultation to a new patient, you need to think about whether you can get enough medical information to assess the situation and provide advice.
Online prescribing should only be an option if local regulations allow this, and it can be clinically justified. Also, before any prescription is advised, you must be sure that you have the patient’s full medical history and have been able to properly assess the issue. You must also support this with evidence in the patient’s dental records.
In all online consultation situations, it is your responsibility to continue practicing according to any laws and regulations about the diagnosis, treatment, and giving medication to patients – both in your country and, if applicable, abroad. Remember that dentists who depart from the usual practice will still remain accountable for their actions.