COVID-19 has had far-reaching impacts on the world and across industries of all shapes and sizes. Healthcare has been among the most profoundly affected sectors, and in more ways than one. Prior to the pandemic, telehealth was a trend just starting to emerge—but the pandemic has propelled progress in this area ahead by years.
Now, there are many more care providers, insurers, and customers all embracing virtual care because it’s a way to safely get needed care while quarantines and lockdowns are common. Even aside from pandemic concerns, telehealth is a convenient way for customers and providers to check in, ask questions, and monitor treatments.
What does all of this mean? On a broad scale, it means that insurers are expanding coverage of telehealth in order to meet rising demands. For SmileDirectClub, it means that a new partnership has formed with MetLife, a top dental insurer.
SmileDirectClub partners with MetLife
This new partnership means big things for SmileDirectClub, a telehealth provider that offers affordable and convenient orthodontic care remotely. By partnering with MetLife, a respected dental insurer, now more than 20 million people under MetLife dental plans will be able to take advantage of SmileDirectClub’s services under in-network coverage.
The partnership between MetLife and SmileDirectClub will officially launch in early 2021, and when that happens, another big development will unfold alongside it. SmileDirectClub provides access to clear aligner therapy, which will be covered by almost all major U.S. insurance providers. The list includes Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Dominion National, MetLife and United Healthcare. Several international providers outside of the United States offer coverage with SmileDirectClub.
ADA steps in to provide guidance on teledentistry
Among other developments, the American Dental Association (ADA) has come forward to announce new teledentistry guidelines as telehealth trends continue to rise. One major takeaway from these new guidelines states, “As the care provided is equivalent to in person care, insurer reimbursement of services provided must be made at the same rate that it would be for the services when provided in person, including reimbursement for the teledentistry codes as appropriate.”
What this means is that SmileDirectClub’s services should be eligible for the same insurer reimbursement rates as one might expect from in-person dentistry for services that offer the same level of care.
According to ADA guidelines, there are a variety of modalities that can be included in teledentistry customer care. Synchronous live video is one method which involves two-way interaction between the customer and provider. Asynchronous care involves recorded health information like photographs, video, test results, digital impressions or other materials transmitted between the customer and provider over a secure communications system.
Remote customer monitoring means that providers can remotely collect medical data from a customer via electronic communication, and mobile health means that health services are supported by mobile device usage. These are all potential paths for teledentistry to expand, all of which are used by SmileDirectClub.
With this, the ADA also stipulates that customers should expect certain rights. For example, customers should expect that any dentist delivering care will be licensed within the state where the customer is receiving care, and that access to the licensure information should be available upon request. SmileDirectClub offers this service to customers. Customers should also expect that care will follow evidence-based practice guidelines to ensure safety and quality of care.
All in all, the ADA’s guidelines are designed to ensure customer safety via telehealth, guaranteeing that the level of care is the same as one would receive via in-person care—and that is something that SmileDirectClub is pleased to be able to offer. It’s a cause that the ADA supports.
Per their guidelines, “The ADA believes that examinations performed using teledentistry can be an effective way to extend the reach of dental professionals, increasing access to care by reducing the effect of distance barriers to care. Teledentistry has the capability to expand the reach of a dental home to provide needed dental care to a population within reasonable geographic distances and varied locations where the services are rendered.”
In other words, it’s all about democratizing care so that more customers have affordable access to services they need—and this is SmileDirectClub’s foremost goal, too.
The partnership with MetLife is a notable step forward for SmileDirectClub, a company with a history of revolutionizing teledentistry. Earlier in 2020, SmileDirectClub announced its SmileDirectClub Partner Network, which partnered with thousands of organizations across the United States. Part of this network included the deal SmileDirectClub signed with Unified Smiles, which should help expand access to their services. All of it together signals good things for SmileDirectClub, which in and of itself is a revolutionary company notable for being the first to provide a telehealth platform for teeth straightening.
For people with MetLife insurance, there will be three ways for customers to get in on the innovative clear aligners that SmileDirectClub offers. Customers can go for a 3D scan of their teeth, which is performed at a SmileDirectClub smile shop, or they can visit a Partner Network affiliated dentist or orthodontist to have the scan completed.
For fully remote treatment, a doctor-prescribed at-home impression kit will be available, too. Thorough instructions are included to help customers take molds easily.. Each of these options involves treatment prescribed and remotely monitored throughout the process by licensed orthodontists and dentists.
There are other ways to pay for treatment through SmileDirectClub, too. The company accepts HAS, FSA and Care Credit, all of which are great ways to help fit teeth straightening into budgets. SmilePay is also available, which is a convenient program offered through SmileDirectClub that allows for a down payment followed by affordable monthly payments for 24 months.
SmileDirectClub’s aligners are an innovative product made from BPA-free plastic that doesn’t irritate gums the way that metal braces often do. Because they are smooth and clear, they look nice while wearing them, and they don’t crowd one’s mouth or cause discomfort.
In addition to standard 22-hour wear aligners, the company also offers Nighttime Aligners™, which allows for customers to wear these devices for 10 consecutive hours per night in order to complete the treatment plan. For many, this is a convenient option that allows for teeth straightening with minimal interference in usual daily activities.
With a vertically integrated model, revolutionary products, and a first of its kind teledentistry platform, SmileDirectClub is anticipated to continue being a leader in the telehealth industry. The company’s mission is to democratize access to oral care by providing affordable and accessible options to everyone—and as of right now, it looks as if SmileDirectClub succeeded in that mission.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!