NYLON – Newly signed statewide legislation allows dental offices to serve as provider locations for telehealth services, which is designed to offer greater access to dental care for those in rural communities and those with limited means.
According to a press release from state Senator Catherine Young, the program allows increased access to specialists who focus on unique diseases, and faster, more convenient treatment options.
“Telehealth has proven effective in providing healthcare coverage to those who may not otherwise have been able to access needed treatment resources,” said Senator Young. “Patients, especially those who live in rural communities like the ones I represent, need more cost-effective programs that provide wide-ranging medical and dental care. Incorporating teledental services into a dental professional’s array of treatment options will allow them to better provide for their patients, and encourage more people to seek care for dental medical issues.”
The new law clarifies that teledental care prescribed at a dental office is a reimbursable form of medical coverage under Medicaid, thus ensuring that patients who would otherwise be entitled to receive the same coverage through in-person services will now be permitted to receive care through the use of telehealth technologies.
Telehealth, which uses two-way video technology to monitor a patient’s care and condition, is intended to incorporate modern technological advancements into health care to reduce travel cost, lost work time, and other expenses incurred by patients.
“Reducing patient cost and treatment time should be the aim of all public health policies,” said Senator Young. “When those with limited means go without needed treatments, it costs everyone more in the long run. We’ve already seen the success of blending developing technology into other forms of medical care, and teledental care will continue this progress.”
The State’s Dental Health Bureau recently concluded a study that found the number of dentists in New York declined from 16,872 in 1997 to 15,291 in 2006, and that an additional 371 dentists would be needed to meet current demands.
To provide additional assistance to the rural communities she represents, Senator Young successfully secured $500,000 in this year’s state budget to support two programs that are currently being used to address the ongoing shortage of dental care in rural areas of New York State. The Rural Dentistry Pilot Program was funded at $250,000 to provide mobile dental services to children in the rural communities that make up Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua Counties. The New York State Dental Association also received $250,000 to fund a rural dental demonstration program that will provide free dental services for at-risk populations by sponsoring several free dental clinics in Federally Qualified Health Centers located in different rural areas of New York State.