Penn Dental Medicine is continuing to build upon its services to persons with disabilities through the development of two new resources – a teledentistry assessment portal and a series of education videos, being made possible in great part through recent gifts from CareQuest Institute for Oral Health and the Eagles Autism Foundation, respectively.
“We are tremendously grateful to the CareQuest Institute and the Eagles Autism Foundation for their support,” says Dr. Miriam Robbins, Director of Penn Dental Medicine’s Care Center for Persons with Disabilities. “The service we are able to provide to our patients will truly be enhanced through these new resources.”
The teledentistry assessment portal, piloted this fall through a $67,600 grant from CareQuest, is helping to maximize access to the School’s Personalized Care Suite within its Care Center for Persons with Disabilities. The Care Suite, which became fully operational in early 2021, is specially designed and staffed to treat individuals with wide-ranging disabilities.
“The teledentistry program will help our patients and their families navigate access to appropriate oral care,” says Dr. Robbins. “The difficulty for many is obtaining care advice and pre-visit consultation. We see utilizing teledentistry to provide counseling on oral health maintenance, ameliorate non-urgent dental problems, and triage true emergencies.”
The primary application of the teledentistry program since its launch is as a pre-visit platform to facilitate gathering essential medical and behavioral information ahead of a patient’s first in-person visit so that first appointment can focus on beginning the evaluation of necessary services. The Center’s patient navigator collects pre-visit demographic information to help patients make appointments and to ensure that any identified special needs of the patient can be accommodated. A nurse practitioner on staff at the Center along with DMD students conducts a pre-visit teledentistry call to collect necessary medical information, including identifying the need to obtain information from other health care professionals.
The goal is to establish a baseline of teledentistry services over the next three years with metrics captured to evaluate patient satisfaction and value. “We want to provide an enhanced patient experience both pre- and post-appointment with follow-up calls and instructions as needed,” says Dr. Robbins. “Utilizing teledentistry can add this extra level of support for patients, their families, and caregivers.”
Another part of this patient/caregiver support are plans to develop educational tools that can be easily accessed by patients, their families, and caregivers and other health care professionals through the Penn Dental Medicine web site. A new series of orientation videos supported by a $20,000 grant from the Eagles Autism Foundation will be a key resource in this area.
Targeted to both the patient and caregiver, they will provide an introduction to the Care Suite facility and what is involved in a visit to the dentist, helping patients prepare for their visit. The Care Suite has two specialized treatment rooms specially designed with low lighting and soundproofing to serve patients with light and noise sensitivities.
“We recognize that going to the dentist can be anxiety producing for anyone,” says Dr. Robbins. “Add to that the challenges with communication for an autistic person and the anxiety can skyrocket. Using videos to acquaint patients to the dental environment and what it means to go to the dentist ahead of a visit can be tremendously beneficial.”
The educational videos will be utilized in conjunction with teledentistry visits before and after in-person appointments and will be available to the general public as well.
Individuals interested in making an appointment at Penn Dental Medicine’s Care Center for Persons with Disabilities should call 215-898-8180, www.dental.upenn.edu/PersonalizedCareSuite.