Research Summary: Teledentistry from a patient perspective during the coronavirus pandemic

A summary of: Rahman, N., Nathwani, S. & Kandiah, T. Teledentistry from a patient perspective during the coronavirus pandemic. British Dental Journal. 2020.

Teledentistry involves the transfer of imaging and clinical information over remote distances to aid in treatment planning and consultations. Teledentistry has been encouraged and greatly utilised by many hospital trusts following the suspension of all routine, non-urgent dental care on 23rd March 2020. 

A total of 52 patients were given a survey following their telephone or virtual clinic session, the survey was split into two sections. The first section collected information on patient demographic, profession and familiarity with telehealth/dentistry, the second section considered the patients experience and opinion on the following 5 domains utilising a five-point Likert-scale:

  1. Patient satisfaction 
  2. Ease of use 
  3. Effectiveness including increasing access to clinical services
  4. Reliability of the teledentistry system 
  5. Usefulness for patients

The findings of the survey are as follows:

  • 97% patient satisfaction for virtual clinics compared to 94% for telephone clinics.
  • All telephone clinic and 91% of virtual clinic patients had no connection issues, felt they could understand and use the system comfortably.
  • All telephone and 97% virtual clinic patients felt they could express themselves clearly and comfortably, also adding that being at home made them feel more confident and at ease.  
  • Lastly, all participants agreed the use of teledentistry would save time, highlighting that it would save time on travel, parking, waiting rooms and arrangements of childcare or work commitments. Overall, 96% of the participants would use teledentistry for future consultations following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ideally, a reproduction of this survey with a larger sample size and patient confidentiality will aid in gathering reliable results whilst reducing the possibility in patient bias. As this survey was not confidential, patients may have felt that negative feedback would compromise their relationship with the clinician. 

Teledentistry plays a crucial role in limiting hospital footfall and reducing patient exposure to the hospital environment and thus COVID-19 and asymptomatic carries such as healthcare workers. The greater use of teledentistry will aid in the reduction of emergency care crowding, wait and travel time, time off work and long waiting lists for specialist consultations. 

Ali Hashemi

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