A couple of years ago, a Maple Ridge dentist started a project that could allow dentists to virtually visit with their patients, now with the introduction COVID-19, that software is more relevant than ever.
Westgate Dental Centre owner Dr. Tarn Dhillon got the idea for the patient-to-dentist software after one of his patients, who was travelling in Mexico, broke his tooth.
The patient didn’t know whether or not he should see a dentist in Mexico, and Dhillon knew there was a better way to interact with his patient in a secure manner that provided easy access to medical records. Dhillon started the development of p2pdentist.com in 2018, which is a patient-to-dentist video platform that does exactly that.
The software was created by a team of local dentists, community entrepreneurs in Maple Ridge, and a team of technology experts that specialize in tele-health software.
“The reason why we started this back in 2018 is on the patient side, it’s always been hard to get their dentist on the phone after hours. Waiting for prescriptions, even when prescriptions were called in there was a lot of back and forth,” Dhillon told The News this week.
“We had no access from home when we were out of the office to the patient medical history and what medications they were taking. It was hard to call in the right medication without doing a lot of investigating.”
Dhillon also noted issues with access to care caused by geography and physical and mental handicaps.
“The last part to it is hospital emergency rooms are over taxed. My brother is a doctor in Abbotsford and they see dental emergencies all of the time. To us, those areas should be saved for life-threatening conditions and people that have medical emergency.”
The software allows dentists to make non-modifiable legal notes, create and send .pdf prescriptions, and virtually see their patients on a secure platform that is based Canada.
“And then, COVID happened,” Dhillon said. “That’s when virtual care in a lot of industries really changed. There was a huger demand for our platform. I was just creating this as a project on the side.”
May 6, the province announced that B.C. residents can look forward to small gatherings, dentistry, physiotherapy and other services, and most provincial parks are to reopen for day use starting May 14. Specific dates for dentistry were not included in the announcement.
With his office currently closed, Dhillon said he receives 5-10 calls from patients a day that are in need of dental care or are in pain.
However, when Dhillon is allowed to reopen, he anticipates it will be on a gradual basis with strict guidelines on health and safety.
Dhillon said it will be some time before elective and non-urgent care is allowed. There’s also a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), he said, adding that he donated most of his PPE to the hospital.
And then there’s the fear.
“Patients don’t want to come out to the dentist. All of this is going to mean less patients at the office but still that need for care is going to be there.”
Because of these reasons, Dhillon said the P2P Dentist software can be an everyday tool for dentists returning to work.
To sign up for the system, participating dentists send their patients a unique identification number. Patients use that number on the website, which will pull up their dentist’s profile with his or her schedule. The patient then selects an available time slot and the program automatically confirms the appointment.
Patients are charged a tele-health service fee of $3 per call, and dentists pay a monthly subscription that ranges from $30 to $35.
“We tried to keep the fees as low as possible to cover the cost of development and our servers.”
With an increase in virtual appointment’s due to COVID-19, Dhillon said insurance companies are starting to recognize that there is a need. He said tele-health and tele-dentistry codes have been added for the first time by some insurance companies.
Dentists who use the program have full flexibility on what they charge for the appointment.
While the standard fee for the consultation is around $59 per visit, Dhillon said some dentists, including at his business, are not charging patients.
“We didn’t want it to be that the dollar amounts would prevent dentists or patients from signing up or being able to use the platform,” he said. “Dentists are in a situation where a lot of them are hurting right now, too. They’ve paid their overhead for two months and have been shut down.”