Dental Treatment Evolving with Digital Technology (Part 13)

The Second Part: Interview with NTT DATA IOMC, ‘Verification Project on Medical and Dental Cooperation Using ICT’

Telemedicine, Examination and Diagnosis, Dentistry, Japan, AI (Machine Learning, Deep Learning), Clinical Doctor

Source: Shutterstock

What Technology is Required for Online Dental Treatment and Medical-Dental Collaboration?

The ‘Verification Project on Medical and Dental Cooperation Using ICT’ is a project to examine future initiatives of ICT in dentistry, as online treatment is developing in the medical field. The project was commissioned by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) to NTT DATA INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT CONSULTING, Inc. (hereafter referred to as NTT DATA IOMC). The project investigates the possibility of realising medical-dental cooperation by using ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to enable dentists and dental hygienists to manage oral hygiene and provide guidance and dental treatment in hospitals and nursing homes that do not have dental facilities.
For example, remote confirmation by a dentist using a smartphone camera instead of an intraoral camera, which is difficult to operate was examined. Multiple professions observed eating situations in meal rounds online and evaluated functions. As a result, some cases reported that oral hygiene conditions improved when the dental hygienist checked the oral images and provided specific care instructions to the caregivers, they knew from the home visits. 1)

Left: Instruction in Meal Rounds, Right: Brushing Instruction
Source: NTT Data IOMC

Other findings include the impact of the level of progression of dementia on ICT-assisted dental care in terms of whether the dentist's instructions are understandable. The benefits of the online meal rounds, where patients (users) can relax as they do not meet face-to-face. On the other hand, the issues of personal information, consent, and security, were raised.
In FY2020, some staff members who are not dental professionals said that it was difficult for them to call the specialised names of the parts of the oral cavity and to take the necessary photographs for examination. Therefore, in the FY2021 project, a guide on points to note when conducting remote checks has been prepared for participants.
Following on from the First Part of this issue, we spoke to Mr. Dai Tomonaga, Associate Partner, and Ms. Yuko Hanawa, Manager of the Life Value Creation Unit of the NTT DATA IOMC. 

Q3. What findings and challenges have you encountered through the verification project?
Ms. Hanawa: It has been pointed out that ICT-based dental treatment should be verified in comparison with face-to-face treatment. We are considering conducting verification in the future, including the development of equipment to be used, by accumulating the number of cases in multiple demonstration fields (clinical sites). 
In particular, in ICT-assisted dental care, an examination of the development of equipment and conditions for remote dental professionals to properly view the inside of the mouth when necessary, would be required. It is also important for dental professionals to take the lead in promoting more medical-dental cooperation. Thus, we propose that dental professionals actively develop operating rules and organise training sessions.

Intraoral Photography
Source: NTT Data IOMC

Q4. How do you see the theme of ‘medical-dental cooperation’ from a consulting perspective?
Ms. Hanawa: It is expected that the promotion of oral management through the intervention of dental professionals and collaboration between care workers and dental professionals in the community will help to build a comprehensive community care system. Cooperation would lead to the early detection of diseases and prevention of serious illnesses.
We believe that we should promote a better understanding of dentistry among medical and care professionals. The need for cooperation and information sharing between dentistry and other (multi) professions, including medicine, is felt in the field, but such efforts are not widespread. There is a need to make medical and care professionals widely aware of the impact of a dental intervention on the prognosis of patients and users. Doctors do not know what dentistry can treat and what it can do.  It will be necessary to work to increase their understanding of what dentistry can do and when to make referrals.

Q5. In your capacity as overall supervisor, what do you think of the significance of this project?
Mr. Tomonaga: We believe that multidisciplinary cooperation is essential in order to provide safe and secure community healthcare for local residents. 
Since around 2008, we operate projects to improve the regional healthcare provision system. We have been conducting research and consulting on telemedicine and regional medical cooperation mainly in the medical field. 
We believe that if we can make appropriate use of ICT in the field of dentistry, the possibilities for dental care that can be provided in the future when a dentist's consultation is required will expand. This will also help to correct regional differences.

Q6. What are your prospects and views on dental ICT through the ‘Verification Project on Medical and Dental Cooperation Using ICT’?

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