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Resolution calls for study of teledentistry in dental practice

Las Vegas—The 2011 House of Delegates adopted a resolution that directs the Council on Dental Practice to take the lead in investigating the use of teledentistry in dental practices.

IMAGE: Dr. Dufurrena
Dr. Dufurrena: “For this technology to be fully utilized, we need to design a regulatory structure that allows for a simple and seamless transmission of electronic information across state lines.”

Resolution 61H-2011, Practical Development of Teledentistry, also states that a representative from the Division of Dental Practice attend the 2012 American Telemedicine Association Meeting. Dr. Quinn Dufurrena, executive director of the Colorado Dental Association and former ADA Hillenbrand fellow, has taken a keen interest in the topic of teledentistry. In fact, he wrote his Hillenbrand project on the subject in 2007.

In rural areas, Dr. Dufurrena believes teledentistry can help eliminate barriers and increase access. It can also offer faster and more convenient treatment; reduce travel costs and lost work time; provide more continuity of care and increase patient compliance by allowing the patient to remain within their existing support networks while receiving care, he said.

“Teledentistry is a unique telecommunications tool that has the potential to reduce costs, improve quality, change the conditions of practice, and facilitate access to oral health care in rural and other underserved areas,” Dr. Dufurrena says today. “While most people probably assume that the barriers to widespread adoption of teledentistry tools involve the technology, the technology is relatively simple and used every day around the world.”

Dr. Dufurrena looks at teledentistry from the perspective of a dentist who practices in a rural setting, which he did for 25 years in Nevada.

“Many parts of rural America have difficulty attracting and retaining dentists. These retention challenges are often fueled by isolation from the specialists, colleagues and information resources necessary to support rural providers professionally,” Dr. Dufurrena said. “Teledentistry, which allows information to be directly shared from one location to another, could be used as part of a multifaceted approach to address the problem of provider distribution.”

Introducing teledentistry into practices will not be without hitches, Dr. Dufurrena said. In considering the use of teledentistry, CDP will need to consider such questions as licensure jurisdiction, regulatory structures, liability, informed consent, standards for doctor/patient relationships, patient abandonment concerns, long distance supervision of allied dental personnel, privacy and payment.

“For this technology to be fully utilized, we need to design a regulatory structure that allows for a simple and seamless transmission of electronic information across state lines,” Dr. Dufurrena said. “The states look to the ADA for guidance in this domain, given ADA’s reputation as an information resource and the consensus builder.”