Initially, due to the COVID pandemic, members in many countries could not see their patients in person at all and had to rely on remote consultations to attempt to assess, diagnose, provide advice, analgesia and antibiotics (if appropriate) and referral to an urgent dental care centre, if available. Matters have moved on since then but many practitioners still require to undertake remote consultations, often to ascertain if an appointment for treatment is required and to determine whether an aerosol generating procedure (AGP) might be necessary.
Remote consultations are therefore still often the first point of contact in the patient care process, and it is important that steps are taken to minimise the risk of patient care being compromised as a result.
The practitioner must balance the risks of limiting advice to a remote consultation and be satisfied that they can adequately assess the patient’s condition remotely if they decide that a face to face appointment is not necessary. Naturally, use of video consultations may supplement the assessment process and assist in assessing any facial swelling or other clinical presentation, but the practitioner needs to be satisfied that the image is sufficient to fully assess the condition and this will be dependent upon the quality of the image and lighting. If there is any doubt, it would be prudent to offer a face to face appointment if available.
Regardless of the circumstances, members should make a clear record of the fact the consultation was undertaken remotely, the reasoning behind any decisions made and the information given to the patient, in case it is necessary to explain the approach taken later. It is also important that any advice to the patient regarding the need for follow up or further consultation is clearly recorded and consideration given as to whether any specific instructions should be followed up in writing or by email to the patient.
If you are undertaking remote consultations and providing patient advice it is important to ensure you have appropriate active membership to cover this and this would not be included if your membership is in a deferred status. Please be reassured that should you need to do a remote consultation with a patient whom you would ordinarily see face-to-face, but are unable as a result of restrictions on practice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your membership with Dental Protection will enable you to request assistance for matters that could arise from such consultations during this time.