Streamlined, cost-cutting post-treatment dental advice via iPad

February 2, 2018, Case Western Reserve University
Credit: Case Western Reserve University

With increased numbers of baby boomers using technology, Case Western Reserve University researchers investigate streamlined, cost-cutting post-treatment advice

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University's School of Dental Medicine are exploring whether using technology—rather than a self-care professional to give patients' follow-up care instructions—might be an effective, cost cutting means to streamline patient self-care.

The research team evaluated 60 patients, looking at participants' willingness and ability to follow oral hygiene instructions given by computer rather than directly from a health care professional.

"In , we are not only preparing for an influx of elderly patients and a growing global middle-class wanting to improve quality of life, but also trying to keep a lid on the skyrocketing costs of care delivery," said Leena Palomo, associate professor in the Department of Periodontics, who designed the project. "The challenge is how we can help more people who need it and help cut the already high cost of care delivery."

"This is a new pathway to manage a self-care communication to the expected large numbers of people who need it," she added.

"Think about it: your care professional teaches you how to floss, how to brush. You ask questions, you leave. The conversation takes between eight to 10 minutes."

But what if technology could work just as well? There is an opportunity to cut the costs of self-care instruction.

On a mobile device, such as an iPad like the researchers used, patients can request more guidance, have instructions repeated or learn more. Dentists could also include follow-ups and daily maintenance in an electronic platform.

The researchers divided the study subjects into two groups—those either older or younger than 50—to assess preferences based on age. There were 30 patients in each group.

The younger group overwhelmingly preferred the tablet.

Then, the surprise: about half of the older group preferred hearing follow-up care instructions face-to-face, while the other half was indifferent about computer-assisted instructions. In other words, the older group not only didn't mind using the technology, but felt comfortable with it.

"We asked, 'Is it actually better to do this with technology?'" Palomo said. "The current 50-and-over crowd is as satisfied with technology as with the caregiver."

She said the results could be a big deal for the future of dentistry.

The idea makes sense, Palomo said, considering that the number of baby boomers—people born between 1946 and 1964—will reach an estimated 71 million by 2029, according to US Census data.

"It's nice to have that caregiver talk, but today's 50-year-old is tomorrow's 70-year old," she said. "That's what gave rise to this testing."

Using a tablet or other devise for giving self-care instructions shows promise for potential applications in other areas of medicine as well, Palomo said, such as self-care for diabetic and chronic-obstructive pulmonary disease .

The research warrants further "significant future investigation," according to the study, published this month in the Dentistry Journal. Follow-up studies to learn more and explore potential applications are in the works.

Explore further: Entitled people don't follow instructions because they see them as 'unfair'

More information: Kristin Williams et al. Effectiveness of Oral Hygiene Instructions Given in Computer-Assisted Format versus a Self-Care Instructor, Dentistry Journal (2018). DOI: 10.3390/dj6010002

Related Stories

Entitled people don't follow instructions because they see them as 'unfair'

December 20, 2017
From job applications to being in line at the DMV, instructions, and the expectations that we follow them, are everywhere. Recent research found people with a greater sense of entitlement are less likely to follow instructions ...

Electronic health record alert improves HCV screening and treatment among baby boomers

September 15, 2017
In a recent study, screening rates for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among baby boomers increased fivefold in the year following implementation of an electronic health record (EHR)-based prompt for primary care physicians. ...

Improving readability of discharge instructions leads to fewer patient follow-up calls

October 26, 2017
The National Institutes of Health and the American Medical Association recommend that health information should be written at a sixth grade level in order to be effectively understood by an average adult. However, disparities ...

Use of mobile app reduces number of in-person follow-up visits after surgery

March 22, 2017
Patients who underwent ambulatory breast reconstruction and used a mobile app for follow-up care had fewer in-person visits during the first 30 days after the operation without affecting complication rates or measures of ...

EHR-based prompt ups hepatitis C screening for baby boomers

July 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Implementation of an electronic health record (EHR)-based prompt can improve hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening rates among baby boomers, according to a study published online July 17 in Hepatology.

Better patient communication needed after urgent care

October 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—Patients and primary care physicians (PCPs) need to communicate better after urgent care visits, and patients value their relationships with their PCPs, according to research conducted by Harris Poll on behalf ...

Recommended for you

The starch risk to teeth

August 7, 2018
An examination of research on oral health, commissioned by the World Health Organisation, has indicated that for oral health we should stick to whole grain carbohydrates and avoid processed ones, especially if sweet.

Experts question benefits of fluoride-free toothpaste

August 7, 2018
Dental health experts worry that more people are using toothpaste that skips the most important ingredient—fluoride—and leaves them at a greater risk of cavities.

Researchers discover cellular messengers communicate with bacteria in the mouth

May 8, 2018
A new UCLA-led study provides clear evidence that cellular messengers in saliva may be able to regulate the growth of oral bacteria responsible for diseases, such as periodontitis and meningitis.

Drug-filled, 3-D printed dentures could fight off infections

April 25, 2018
Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. denture-wearing population suffer frequent fungal infections that cause inflammation, redness and swelling in the mouth.

Bacteria boost antifungal drug resistance in severe childhood tooth decay

April 25, 2018
Early childhood caries, a form of severe tooth decay affecting toddlers and preschoolers, can set children up for a lifetime of dental and health problems. The problem can be significant enough that surgery is the only effective ...

Absence of a transcription factor halts tooth development in mid-stride

April 11, 2018
Amjad Javed, Ph.D., and University of Alabama at Birmingham colleagues have found a key role in tooth development for the transcription factor Specificity protein 7, or Sp7.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.