Dental Tribune America

California bill offers protection to teledentistry patients

By Dental Tribune International
October 17, 2019

LOS ANGELES, U.S.: Consumers in California who receive treatment from teledentistry providers will be afforded new protection from January 2020. Crucially, Assembly Bill 1519 (AB 1519) will establish a standard of orthodontic treatment in California that does not discriminate between the care provided in the dental office and that which is provided through remote teledentistry.

The operations of teledentistry providers in the U.S. are largely regulated by individual states and California has passed the first law of its kind in the country to provide greater protection to teledentistry patients.

Supported by the California Dental Association (CDA), the bill brings three important changes to the state’s dental practice act. These changes seek to secure patient safety as telehealth advances.

The bill requires that dentists offering remote treatment provide the same basic information to patients that dental practices are required to provide, such as the full name and state license number of the treating dentist. It also preserves the right of consumers to submit complaints about their treatment to the dental board, regardless of whether or not they have signed an arbitration agreement or nondisclosure clause. The most important change brought about by the bill, according to the CDA, is the parity of orthodontic care it establishes across orthodontics. Dentists providing orthodontic treatment will have to meet a basic standard of care by reviewing patients’ radiographs prior to the movement of teeth regardless of whether patients are treated at dental clinics or remotely.

The bill was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Oct. 13 and will come into effect in January 2020.

“Shares in SmileDirectClub, the biggest teledentistry provider operating in the state, took a major hit after the signing of the bill.”

Claiming victory for patient protection, the CDA pointed out in a statement that the bill responds to recent developments in orthodontics: “With emerging business models offering various dental services outside of a dental office’s four walls, including companies that provide direct-to-consumer orthodontic services, it is imperative that dental treatment continues to meet the standards of care.”

Shares in SmileDirectClub, the biggest teledentistry provider operating in the state, took a major hit after the signing of the bill. The company’s shares fell 13% on Oct. 14, to a new low of $9.44, closing at $9.70. The drop continues what has been a spectacular 60% fall in share value for the teledentistry company, which priced its shares at $23 for its initial public offering on Sept. 12.

The company criticized the bill strongly in a statement, saying it creates arbitrary barriers to technological innovation in dentistry. “There are no clinical studies or guidelines that affirm the mandatory radiography or other equivalent bone imaging requirement included in AB 1519,” SmileDirectClub wrote. “Simply put, this bill represents the dental lobby’s thinly veiled attempt to protect traditional dentistry at the expense of Californians.”

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