Telemedicine and specifically remote monitoring is commonplace in general health care. Originally developed as a way to provide care to patients living in rural areas, it is now increasingly used as a tool for providing convenient health care to every patient. The fact is, that however much a patient may like their doctor they would prefer not to waste time traveling to the office or sitting in the waiting room.
A new tool offers orthodontists the opportunity to extend this technology to their patients. And all they need is one simple, ubiquitous tool: a smartphone.
With Dental Monitoring™, distributed by Denver-based RMO® Inc in the United States, orthodontists can offer patients virtual treatment monitoring. How does this work? Patients first download the free Dental Monitoring app to their smartphone. From there, the doctor sets up a text alert schedule that reminds the patient when to send the 10-13 photos of their teeth. Currently, a video upload option is available for iPhone and some Samsung phones.
Once the patient uploads the pictures or video, they go to Dental Monitoring which cleans up and analyzes the photos and calculates tooth movement since the last photo submission. Within 1 to 2 days, the photos and progress report, including 3D modeling, are sent to the orthodontist.
An email notifies the doctor that the report is ready. The orthodontist can then look at the photos and the report and message the patient within the app’s communication tool to say, “Looks good. Keep up the good work,” or “Time to come in for an appointment.” Parents also receive all the messages so they can track their child’s care.
The orthodontist can also use the communication function to message the referring dentist to virtually share patient progress. If a patient calls the office with an emergency, the patient can be advised to send in a photo via the app for an emergency virtual exam. The orthodontist can see the photo immediately and assess whether or not the patient needs to come into the office. The system is cloud-based and HIPAA compliant.
When a Dental Monitoring patient eventually does come into the office for an appointment, both the doctors and the staff know what to expect, and they can prioritize how to spend the patient’s time. “Now my visits are planned,” says the office of Drs. Sellke & Reily who have been using the app since 2016 after discovering this Paris-based Dental Monitoring service. The office elaborates more, “[My visits are] not so much reactive as proactive. For example, before the patient sits in the chair, you can plan for adding a new bracket. It allows you to get the most out of your visits in the office.”
Depending on the level of monitoring the doctor wants, Dental Monitoring’s photo monitoring costs approximately $8/month per patient. Drs. Sellke & Reily say they do not charge patients an additional fee for remote monitoring as it saves chair time. In addition, they see it as a practice differentiator. “Patients choose us because we’re respectful of their time,” they say.
For parents who worry their child may not keep up with brushing or rubber band wear without the motivation of an upcoming in-office appointment, Drs. Sellke & Reily points out that our office will actually be seeing their child more often—in two-week intervals for check-ins. This allows our office to better track and motivate our patients.
For those patients who require more supervision or motivation, Dental Monitoring allows the orthodontist to set custom alert intervals—for example, a patient who is failing to keep up with brushing might be required to submit a picture weekly so the orthodontist can hold the patient to account. In essence, the orthodontist is offering patients more care.
Drs. Sellke & Reily say the quality of the remote monitoring has tracked just as well as if they had seen the patients in-office. In addition, they say it’s more control over our day. “You know ahead of time what the problems are. The day runs a lot smoother” they say.
As Drs. Sellke & Reily see it, the notion of standardized medicine is no longer feasible in orthodontics. Patients want personalized and connective care. Simple technology, like a smartphone, and a remote treatment monitoring app make that possible.