In a fiercely competitive dental market, you should invest in opportunities that help you outgrow your competition. Outsourcing the interpretation of dental radiographic images can be one of the methods to do so. Read on to find out how.
Dental teleradiology allows clinicians to collaborate and give patients the most accurate diagnosis and treatment planning. In this article, we will explore the history of dental teleradiology, how board-certified oral and maxillofacial radiologists can be an essential part of your practice, and how delegating radiographic interpretation to certified experts can save you time and money.
History of Dental Teleradiology
The concept of sending radiographic images from one location to another for radiographic interpretation or consultation (i.e. teleradiology) isn’t new. The first record of dental teleradiology dates back to 1929. The correspondence was carried out through the Western Union Telegraph.
In 1991, Francis Mouyen, the inventor of the radiovisiography (digital radiology), gave a presentation as part of the French Dental Association Annual Session, where dental radiographs were transmitted in four seconds between the BellSouth Research Center in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Grand Rex Theatre in Paris, France.
Later on, the rapid advancement in internet services and the emergence of digital imaging and communication in medicine (DICOM) have facilitated the transfer of images virtually everywhere. Dentists and patients no longer have to be in the same geographic location to accelerate treatment plans or have an immediate response to emergencies. This has also helped facilitate outsourcing the radiographic interpretation to oral and maxillofacial radiologists (OMRs), who play a vital role in the patient’s health as the designated experts for referral.
Board-Certified OMRs Extract the Maximum Clinical Value from Radiographic Scans
With the continued advancements in the field of radiology, dentists are continually challenged to be familiar with all available modalities to choose the optimal type of imaging for their patients, and provide the correct radiographic interpretation. This is where OMRs truly shine.
An OMR (i.e. oral and maxillofacial radiologist) is a dentist who studies and interprets radiographic images for conditions affecting the head, neck, face, and jaws (orofacial diseases). They receive advanced training in radiation physics, biology, safety, hygiene as well as interpretation methods of maxillofacial computed tomography (CT), cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and similar modalities.
When interpreting radiographic scans, it is difficult to pick up the features for a diagnosis unless a specialist has a thorough knowledge of what is normal and what is abnormal. All structures included in any imaging must be appropriately evaluated.
An experienced OMR can thoroughly interpret the entire image, not only the region of interest. And because they are familiar with all available imaging modalities, if the patient’s initial scan was unsatisfactory, the OMR provides a preliminary radiographic interpretation, which can be useful in deciding the optimal imaging technique for further investigation.
CBCT Scans and Orthopantomograms Are Particularly Challenging
According to the Practical Guide to Dental Radiology by the Australian Dental Association (ADA), several studies have shown that dentists face challenges when interpreting orthopantomograms (OPGs) and CBCT scans. A higher level of knowledge and skill is required when interpreting such images. The guide also stresses that several authors recommend that specialists with sufficient advanced training should be the ones interpreting CBCT scans.
An article published on the the American Association of Endodontists website, highlighted the great responsibility that falls on practitioners who perform and evaluate CBCT scans. The author writes,
Many authors have demonstrated that numerous incidental findings occur outside of the area of interest and stress the importance of learning how to systematically review a CBCT scan and report imaging findings. A recent study comparing the detection of incidental findings in CBCT scans acquired for endodontic purposes demonstrated that oral and maxillofacial radiologists may observe 50 percent more incidental findings than clinicians. Endodontists who use CBCT should seek continuing education in CBCT interpretation to broaden their knowledge spectrum in radiographic diagnosis. Regardless of the CBCT scanner, “your eyes can only see what your brain knows.” Knowledge is power.
Dental practitioners who interpret the scans are held to the same professional standards as board-certified OMRs. Unless they learn how to interact with the scans to recognize incidental findings (unrelated findings to the original intent of the scan), it is best if the evaluation is assigned to board-certified OMRs.
What Do OMRs Study?
To get an idea of what OMRs study in order to acquire an elite level of knowledge and skill, The Practical Guide to Dental Radiology by the ADA mentions the following fields of study:
It is the in-depth knowledge of anatomy and normal variants; knowing the appearances of all normal structures helps identify the presence of pathology.
It is knowing what diseases and lesions may occur in all regions included in the field of view or scan.
It is understanding the impacts of the strengths and limitations of the various imaging techniques on the interpretation of the studies.
Benefits of Outsourcing Radiographic Interpretation
As of 2021, there are 201,927 professionally active dentists in the U.S. The competition is fierce. To stand out, your practice has to offer impeccable and quick services. Outsourcing your radiographic reports can be one way to do that. Not only do you get to leverage the expertise of board-certified OMRs (once you’ve chosen a trusted service provider), but you can also enjoy other invaluable benefits.
Board-certified OMRs will become your success partners
Trusted providers who offer this service understand that a thorough diagnosis is what drives the long-term success of a treatment plan. This happens when you have access to expert-level radiographic interpretation, diagnostic impressions, and pathological abnormalities review on CT, CBCT, or panoramic imaging for all your patients. Teleradiology service providers that have a team of board-certified OMRs can help your practice be more well-rounded and better equipped to handle all sorts of cases efficiently.
Fast-track your patients’ treatment planning
Within 24 hours or less, you can have excellent radiology reports reviewed by board-certified OMRs; that is how advanced teleradiology services have become. Within a shorter period, with the help of web-based platforms, you can send secure images to be thoroughly analyzed, and initiate the treatment planning phase accordingly with no wasted time or effort.
Cut down on the costs
In the current financial climate, cutting costs is a necessity. Of course, you need to invest in your practice, but you have to exercise caution and weigh all the available options.
Subscription-based teleradiology services can be a more cost-effective alternative when compared to one-off purchases or constant referrals to different practitioners (who may or may not be board-certified OMRs). Not everyone has the luxury of having their own dedicated in-house radiologist! However, with teleradiology services, that’s about as close as you can get.
Trusted teleradiology providers protect your patients’ information
When you decide to outsource radiology reports, concerns about compliance with the regulatory standards and patient confidentiality are only natural. Qualified vendors, like 360Imaging, will put your mind at ease. For example, 360Imaging uses a free cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant platform that facilitates communication between you and the team. You can easily share files and photos, submit your cases, and track your orders, all while maintaining your patients’ rights to anonymity.
There are different teleradiology models, but qualified vendors choose the most trusted. A strong teleradiology system fulfills the ethical and regulatory requirements and includes the proper security tools that support privacy, such as strong 2-way authentication, data encryption, non-repudiation services, and audit trials.