Wisconsin Lawmakers Mull Telehealth Regulations for Dentistry
– Wisconsin lawmakers are drafting a bill aimed at regulating the use of telehealth in dentistry.
State Senator Dale Kooyenga and State Representative Amy Loudenbeck have issued a letter calling for co-sponsors for their proposed bills, LRB 5706 and LRB 4551. Their goal is to set guidelines for the use of connected health technology and give the state’s Dentistry Examining Board the authority to oversee teledentistry before it becomes an issue.
The bill, as now proposed, would set a definition for teledentistry that adheres to the state’s definition of telehealth, including audio-visual and asynchronous telemedicine platforms and remote patient monitoring. It would also enable those licensed in other states to use telehealth to treat patients in Wisconsin, and require any dentist or dental hygienist using telehealth to provide his or her full name and license number to the patient prior to treatment.
“As medical technology continues to evolve, it opens doors in professions not previously affected,” the two wrote in their letter to colleagues. “While telemedicine has received much attention in the last several years, using telehealth in dentistry is emerging as a tool for practitioners in rural areas and increasing access to the underserved.”
“While this technology would not be useful in all practices, it would allow for increased basic care in settings such as nursing homes, where even simple exams and cleanings can be hard to come by,” they added. “Dental hygienists can practice in these and many other settings without being under the direct supervision of a dentist; their use of intraoral cameras and store-and-forward technology can mean faster diagnoses and referrals, if necessary. In addition, patients not located near a dental office can benefit from a dentist’s ability to examine images remotely, thus still enabling them to diagnose, plan treatments, and refer appropriately.”
The bills are being drafted with help from, among others, the Wisconsin Dental Association, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Delta Dental of Wisconsin.
Loudenbeck and Kooyenga are no strangers to telehealth advocacy. They were successful in 2019 in passing legislation that expanded Medicaid coverage for telehealth and expanded the platform to include asynchronous and RPM modalities.
Now they’re hoping to get ahead of a telehealth trend before problems arise, as lawmakers in California have found out.
Last year, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 1519, which reauthorized the Dental Board of California and included restrictions on how dentists and orthodontic companies use telehealth. That bill included a provision requiring online teledentistry and orthodontic companies to obtain written or verbal permission from a patent to use telehealth or review x-rays.
Online companies like the SmileDirectClub opposed the bill, saying it favored brick-and-mortar dentists over those using telehealth to improve access to dental care.
The state is now facing another battle. California Assemblyman Evan Low recently introduced The Dental Practice Act (AB 1998), which would, if passed, require dentists to conduct an in-person visit with a patient before using telehealth.
“California is proud to be the incubator of innovation — but we cannot sacrifice patient health and safety in exchange for making billionaires out of tech bros,” Low said in a statement provided to Politico. “The industry should view AB 1998 as a sign that the Legislature is serious about requiring meaningful safeguards if these questionable and controversial business practices are allowed to continue.”