Teledentistry Needs to be Integrated in TeleHealth Programs, EIOH Study Recommends

Nov. 30, 2018

"Some of the papers in here opened my eyes," said Alan Weil, editor of Health Affairs, at a briefing Tuesday about the issue's telehealth theme, "to things like the use of  telehealth in addressing the country's opioid crisis, or the use of telehealth in oral health where there are tremendous amounts of unmet need."

Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, DDS, MPH, Eastman Institute for Oral Health associate Dr. KKprofessor, was among a select group of authors who presented their studies published in the December issue of Health Affairs, the leading journal of health policy. The study demonstrates that teledentistry reduces cost and improves access to pediatric dental care. Dental caries is the most prevalent infectious disease among U.S. children. The paper, co-authored by Sean W. McLaren, DDS, chair, EIOH’s Pediatric Dentistry, and Ronald J. Billings, DDS, MSD, professor emeritus.

“To be most effective, teledentistry needs to be integrated with local, regional, and national telehealth programs,” said Dr. Kopycka-Kedzierawski, “and we encourage policy makers to help establish a framework for teledentistry in the overarching health care system.”

Eastman Institute for Oral Health initiated research on the use of teledentistry to screen large numbers of children for dental caries in the public health setting 14 years ago and following its success in this domain, extended this technology to an interactive service involving EIOH pediatric dentistry and a community health center in an underserved rural region of New York State.  Read more.

In addition to Eastman Institute’s teledentistry study presented at the National Press Club panel of authors at HA briefingTuesday to congressional staff, academics, health care policy professionals and media, other topics included the use of telemedicine by physicians, retail outlets using telehealth, patient portals, home tele-monitoring in heart failure, and electronic visits for common acute conditions, among several others.

"When you take the kind of deep look into an issue, you realize how much more complex it is than you might have imagined," Weil said. "Not only are there multiple dimensions, there are myriad implementation issues. It's important to understand not just what the barriers are but to  read examples of how organizations have overcome those barriers."