Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association

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This article has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication. It is in production and has not been edited, so may differ from the final published form.

Cost savings from a teledentistry model for dental screening: An Australian health system perspective

Mohamed Estai , Stuart Bunt , Yogesan Kanagasingam , Marc Tennant

Abstract

Objective: To compare the costs of teledentistry and traditional dental screening approaches in Australian school children. Methods: A cost-minimization analysis was carried out from the perspective of the oral health system, comparing the cost of dental screening in children using a traditional visual examination approach with the cost of mid-level practitioners such as dental therapists screening the same cohort of children remotely using teledentistry. A model was developed to simulate the costs (over a 12 months period) of the two models of dental screening for all school children (2.7 million children) aged 5-14 years across all the Australian States and Territories. The fixed costs and the variable costs, including staff salary, travel and accommodation costs, and cost of supply were calculated. Results: The total estimated cost of the teledentistry model was $50 million. The fixed cost of teledentistry was $1 million and staff salaries (tele-assistants, charters and their supervisors, and IT support) were estimated to be $49 million. The estimated staff salary saved was $56 million and estimated travel allowance and supply expenses avoided were $16 million and $14 million respectively. The proposed teledentistry model of dental screening resulted in an annual reduction of costs by $85 million. Conclusions: This study shows that teledentistry model of dental screening can be cost minimizing. The estimated cost savings were primarily due to the low salary of dental therapists and the avoidance of travel and accommodation costs. Such savings could be redistributed to improve infrastructure and oral health services in rural or underserved areas.

AH16119  Accepted 06 April 2017

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