An accidental meeting has resulted in one regional pharmacy being the first in Australia to offer a virtual dental service
When Dr Christine May, the founder of the ViDe virtual dental consultation and concierge service, walked into the Moodies’s Pharmacy in Bathurst, NSW, she was struck by the pharmacy’s consultation rooms – and after talking to pharmacists, she decided that the site would host an in-pharmacy trial of the service.
Moodie’s, winner in the professional services division of the Pharmacy of the Year Award 2015, is notable for its approach to consultation rooms and its focus on high standards.
And Bathurst sees more than its fair share of dental and oral health problems, says Krysti-Lee Rigby, pharmacist in charge.
“The biggest issues is cost,” she told the AJP. “From what we see as pharmacists, it’s a lot of people coming in on weekends and afternoons, and they have dental pain or an infection in their mouth.
“They can’t get in to see the dentist because it’s such a long waiting list, or cost is a big issue. A lot of people who present with these issues are from lower socioeconomic areas, and they just don’t have that money to go to the dentist.
“That’s why we saw an opportunity to partner with Christine – I think it’s fantastic because so many people can’t get in to see a dentist, the GPs are booked out and they don’t want to deal with dental issues because they have so much else to do already, and the hospital is so overworked that you can take six or seven hours waiting for an antibiotic.”
Dr May said that after 25 years of working as a dentist around the country, she remains frustrated at these difficulties accessing dental care.
“I’d noticed Telehealth being adopted in other health modalities like medicine, psychology and even physiotherapy and thought the same could be applied to dentistry,” she said.
“Exploring the scientific research confirmed this—there’s plenty of great pilot studies that’ve been completed here in Australia and overseas, specifically for teledentistry applications: particularly for some of the most vulnerable populations such as rural and remote located communities, aged and nursing care residents, school kids and workers as part of employer wellness programs.”
She said that the technology uses the “the global leader in video conferencing,” Zoom, which “integrates seamlessly with a healthcare compliant booking platform and secure online form application”.
“The technology in this space is advancing rapidly and this approach gives us the agility to click apps in/out as needs evolve or something better hits the market without the legacy costs of a custom platform build at this stage,” Dr May said.
“It also means these solutions are already familiar to many users. After piloting the concept myself in 2018, ViDe soft launched in May 2019.
“To date this has been predominantly a word-of-mouth service, however partnering with pharmacy is a key delivery channel, aged and nursing care along with workplace wellness employee programs are other key sectors ViDe is keen to work with to build ongoing oral health partnerships for better patient smile and health outcomes.”
Ms Rigby said that in the consultation rooms, a dental practitioner can provide a live consult as well as advice, using detailed images or video taken with an intra-oral camera.
Pharmacy staff have been specifically trained to use the technology.
Ms Rigby said that the dentists can then provide a review and assessment, plus guidance on treatment options, scripts for pain relief or antibiotics, and referral to a local dentist if needed.
The Life Pharmacy Group plans to trial the service in Bathurst until the end of the year, and then roll it out to other stores as 2020.
“The Life Pharmacy Group see the partnership with ViDe as ongoing,” said Kristi-Lee Rigby.
“Pharmacists should not be afraid to reach out to different professions and connect with these potential partnerships,” Ms Rigby said.
“This all started with a conversation when Christine just happened to walk into our pharmacy by chance, and see the clinic rooms – and she asked, ‘What are you guys doing there?’
“If we can make a positive impact on our patients’ health by providing this service it will be successful, even if we help just one person.
“There was very little expense for Moodie’s in facilitating this service as our clinic rooms have been ready for telehealth services for a number of years now.
“As this is not necessarily a ‘Pharmacist led Program’, it is designed so that all staff including pharmacy assistants are trained in the delivery of the service so there is limited impact on the already demanding duties of day to day pharmacist activities.
“Therefore by providing this service it empowers our pharmacy assistants to be indirectly involved with providing health outcomes, as well as enable the pharmacist to focus on other Pharmacist led initiatives.”
She also noted that the consultations are a paid service.
“I think a lot of pharmacists are scared to implement these, but we really need to get more confident in the services that we provide. And people are happy to pay for it.
“We only launched a week ago, and we’ve done two so far; it’s going to be slow to build up. But the two people who have paid for the service so far said it was fantastic.”