Telemedicine is growing in popularity fast (and this isn't stopping - it's expected to grow by 64% in 2020 across all ages and demographics). Still, many people can be unsure about talking to a doctor online, AND for their dental care how does that work? It is different from a traditional dental experience - its instant, low-cost, and a convenient and approachable way of getting your needs addressed. But what can a dentist help with remotely? And how does this save me money if I have insurance or if I don't?
Teledentistry can save you a trip to the dentist. And if you are hesitant to go to a dentist (especially during a pandemic), then getting instant care from home can help you with a variety of issues like: Is this tooth pain serious? What is this red bump in my mouth? And how do I care for my mouth after an extraction? A dental expert (dentist or hygienist) can help you navigate this from home with valuable guidance, or a prescription mouth rinse or antibiotic. If in-person care is needed, they can ensure you understand whether that dental visit should be this week or in 6 months, and then refer you to a trusted dentist.
You might think, "that all sounds great, but is it true?" I want to provide an honest look at what we have seen over the last 5 months with patients who use Wally's teledentistry. I'm going to use this post to illustrate (with some internal data) what we have seen here at Wally and what this means for the future of dental care.
Dental care is broken
Why: going to the dentist has the highest cost barriers of any healthcare service. Best case, we go to the dentist and pay too much, and worst case we get screwed by our insurance / get over treated, and don’t go back to the dentist for a while. This leads to dealing with dental problems in a reactionary way (even more so during a pandemic), which only makes problems bigger. We founded Wally to fix this.
How does teledentistry help?
Looking at the data from our chats, we found that teledentistry is used for a wide variety of cases. At first, we thought teledentistry would work best for “clinically” urgent dental cases. After reviewing the chats, we found that only 32% of cases were truly urgent and required immediate attention.
This is because what feels urgent to a patient is, most of the time, not medically urgent. But patients rightly demand that their concern be addressed the moment they are thinking about it.
Here are some of the non-urgent cases we saw for our teledentistry solution:
- 26% of patients had post-op care questions
- 14% of patients wanted a second opinion because they weren't comfortable with their dentist's recommendation
- 9% of patients had questions about whitening or clear aligners
- 4% of patients were concerned about lumps or white and red spots on their gums
- 3% of patients had questions about vaping's effects on their oral health
Ok, hold the phone. Why don’t patients just call their dentist? We asked the same question considering 55% of patients who chatted with us HAVE a dentist they regularly visit. But they either couldn't get a hold of their dentist, or in many cases they didn't feel comfortable asking their dentist.
Let's talk about “comfort” some more. Our patients feel more comfortable talking to our clinicians about their problems because they trust Wally is on their side to give unbiased care. We are built for patients. Imagine that - sounds different than any other dental care solution … including traditional insurance.
A chat with Wally's dental expert is also much more affordable than the alternative. A typical urgent in-person visit to a dentist ranges from $75 - $200 depending on the location and need. Other teledentistry solutions cost between $59 and $99 per visit. Wally is $9, and is $0 throughout the pandemic.
Does teledentistry replace in-person care?
Definitely not. But we’ve eliminated hundreds of unnecessary trips to the dentist office. In fact, we’ve seen 80% of all virtual visits address a patient's issue.
Some addressed their issue completely through text or video calls with a dentist. Others streamlined their urgent care. Normally an urgent case requires two or three trips to the dentist, but teledentistry streamlines these cases to one visit by making evaluations, planning, and follow up visits virtual.
It’s also an extremely effective way for patients to gain peace of mind over milder concerns that may not even require a physical visit to the dentist.
What does this mean for our dental care moving forward?
Teledentistry is driving change to our dental care, and we are excited to be leading this alongside many forward-thinking dentists. Throughout the pandemic we will continue to drive a transformation to the industry not seen since the 1960’s.
At Wally, we are more than just another dental care company, insurance alternative, or technology company. We are on a mission to drive change for people and their health. This is just too f***** important.
Innovation can provide a far better experience at a lower cost - by passing the savings back to you, especially if you are like most people and don't have dental insurance.
So, for everyone out there who has a dental question, come check us out. I’m excited that our “Talk to a dentist” feature will be at no-cost throughout the pandemic. And we are working hard to offer this service for free as long as we can.
Much more to come!
Co-Founder & CEO