A Metro Vancouver dentist has created a new TeleDentistry platform during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow patients to see their dentists virtually.
Dr. Tarn Dhillon, founder of P2P Dentist, says the platform is the first of its kind in Canada.
“We need an avenue to be able to see people,” the dentist who runs a practice in Maple Ridge told Daily Hive in a phone interview. “This is another tool in the toolbelt for dentists.”
Patients are turning to existing Telehealth platforms in higher numbers during the pandemic, and the federal government and certain provinces have put more money into developing new Telehealth platforms.
Dhillon says now it’s time for dentists to follow suit.
The idea for P2P Dentist started a couple years ago when Dhillon chatted with a patient who creates Telehealth apps for doctors. Dhillon wanted to create a secure, reliable way for dentists to see patients with broken teeth or other emergencies after-hours.
But once the pandemic hit and dental clinics across the province closed, developing the platform became more urgent.
Dhillon and his team buckled down to launch the platform on May 4. Within the first week, about 60 dentists signed up to use it, Dhillon said.
“I thought we were building it for the younger generation of dentists. But we got everybody,” he said.
P2P dentists provides a secure video calling platform where dentists can receive mouth photos and prescribe medication for patients. It also allows them to schedule appointments, take notes for record-keeping, and access a patient’s history.
The platform keeps patients with their regular dentist. When a dentist signs up for the service, they’ll get a unique ID code. A patient can input that ID code to find openings in their dentist’s schedule on P2P’s website.
The service also encrypts data and everything is stored on secure Canadian servers, Dhillon said. It avoids problems with practitioners using non-secure video services such as Zoom and FaceTime.
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A new virtual dentistry billing code was recently approved in BC, Dhillon said, so he hopes most major insurers will adopt it so patients can get reimbursed for their remote visit.
P2P Dentist charges dentists a little more than $30 per month, and based on average dental billing fees some practitioners will be able to pay for the cost of the platform after just one visit, Dhillon said. Patients will also see a $3 TeleDentistry consult fee for a virtual visit. For the month of May, though, Dhillon says dentists can use a free trial.
Preventative care such as hygiene appointments will need to wait until dental hygienists and dentists can go back to the clinic in person, Dhillon said. He expects patients and dentists to use the platforms right now for urgent tooth needs.
But even after the pandemic, Dhillon expects dental care will look much different. His practice is an eight-chair open concept office, which won’t work in a post-pandemic world. What’s more, many dentists in BC donated their personal protective equipment to the front lines — and won’t be able to reopen without an adequate supply of masks and gloves.
Although the pandemic has been incredibly disruptive to dentists across the province, Dhillon views it a bit as a blessing in disguise for getting P2P Dentist off the ground.
“If this hadn’t happened, I could never have put 100% into developing this platform.”