The Use of Telemedicine in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

Publication Date: 
Mar 28, 2016

PURPOSE: To determine the perceived utility and demand for the application of telemedicine for improved patient care between nonsurgical dental practitioners (GPs) and oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMS).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Two distinct questionnaires were made, one for GPs and one for OMSs. The GP questionnaire was sent to practicing Virginia Dental Association members on an e-mail list (approximately 2,200). The OMS questionnaire was sent by the Virginia Society of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery to members on an e-mail list (approximately 213). Questionnaires included questions about access to care, benefits of telemedicine consultations, reliability of telemedicine consultations, and perceived barriers against and opportunities for the implementation of telemedicine. The questionnaire was completed by 226 GP and 41 OMS respondents.

RESULTS: There was a significant difference among responses of GPs based on practice location: rural patients had a longer average time from referral to OMS consultation (P = .003), rural patients traveled longer distances (P < .0001), rural practitioners referred more patients (P = .0038), and rural GPs referred more single-tooth implant cases (P = .0039). GP respondents moderately agreed to statements about the benefits of telemedicine, whereas OMS respondents were more neutral. GPs responded they would refer more patients (4.4) if consultations could be performed by telemedicine. OMSs agreed that more referrals would influence their decision to provide telemedicine consultations (51%). Practitioners had neutral perceptions about the reliability of telemedicine. OMS respondents agreed they would implement telemedicine in their practice if it provided equally good consultations as in-office visits.

CONCLUSION: According to the present findings, telemedicine could be an important step in the right direction for overcoming current issues with patient access to care and increasing health care costs. The benefits of telemedicine technology have been documented and will continue to be seen with wider application of its use in other areas of health care such as oral and maxillofacial surgery.