The COVID-19 pandemic made telemedicine more popular than ever before, propelling the adoption of this technology much more quickly than expected. More and more healthcare providers, insurers and consumers are embracing virtual care to safely and conveniently give and get the care they need.
Following this trend, insurers are expanding coverage of telehealth for primary care, eye care and dentistry. Because of this SmileDirectClub, which offers orthodontics exclusively via telehealth, has entered into a new partnership with leading dental insurer MetLife to deliver in-network coverage of SmileDirectClub’s orthodontic care to MetLife’s more than 20 million individuals covered under its dental plan.
SmileDirectClub CEO David Katzman said “We’re pleased to launch this partnership with MetLife and provide their millions of participants with access to our pioneering teledentistry platform and our premium, American-made clear aligners on an in-network basis. With this partnership, SmileDirectClub’s innovative clear aligner treatment is now covered by almost all major insurance providers in the U.S. We’re proud to join with MetLife in our mission of making orthodontic care convenient and affordable for everyone.”
The SmileDirectClub/MetLife partnership takes flight
The SmileDirectClub/MetLife partnership officially launches in early 2021. It will bring SmileDirectClub’s affordable, innovative, American-made aligners to even more people looking to improve their smiles. MetLife is the most recent in a collection of dental insurance providers to work with SmileDirectClub for orthodontics. Now, most US dental insurance providers cover SmileDirectClub aligners, including Aetna, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and Dominion National. SmileDirectClub works with several providers in different countries as well.
MetLife customers have three ways they can access SmileDirectClub products and services. They can get a 3D scan at one of SmileDirectClub’s SmileShops,visit a SmileDirectClub Partner Network affiliated dentist or orthodontist, or they can take molds using SmileDirectClub’s doctor-prescribed remote impression kit. In all three cases, treatment is prescribed and monitored remotely by state-licensed dentists and orthodontists from start to finish using SmileDirectClub’s pioneering teledentistry platform.
Telemedicine explodes as a new type of healthcare
Telemedicine is a broad, umbrella term that refers to conferring with a health care professional and receiving medical or dental care and advice via an electronic device or software. This might be a consultant with a pediatrician, a followup visit with a doctor for someone with a chronic health condition, monitoring of health metrics electronically, or getting aligners fitted, maintained and adjusted without having to visit a dentist office.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic has made telemedicine more desirable than ever before. “Forbes” magazine reported that approximately 46% of Americans have engaged with health care professionals virtually during 2020. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there has been a 154% increase in the use of telemedicine between March and October, 2020.
Clearly avoiding in-person contact is a major reason for the increased use of telemedicine this year. However, this is just one of the many benefits to telemedicine. Meeting with your doctor or dentist virtually means less travel time and less time away from work and family obligations. It also offers a greater degree of privacy, since other customers can’t overhear your conversation with your doctor. Telemedicine is also more cost-effective and can potentially help to hold down increases in health care costs.
Adding to the telehealth tailwinds, the American Dental Association (ADA) has also recently announced new teledentistry guidelines, stating that “As the care provided is equivalent to in person care, insurer reimbursement of services provided must be made at the same rate that it would be made for the services when provided in person, including reimbursement for the teledentistry codes as appropriate.” Delta Dental’s policy is currently in conflict with the ADA’s recommendation.
The news of the MetLife/SmileDirectClub partnership and these developments in telehealth help to demonstrate the tremendous trajectory SmileDirectClub is on as it continues to execute against its mission of democratizing access to oral care through telehealth and having that care covered by dental insurance.
Founded in 2014, SmileDirectClub is an oral health company and the first such company to offer their orthodontic products exclusively via telehealth appointments. The company is dedicated to making orthodontics affordable and available to all consumers who “want a straighter smile”. Their clear aligners are designed to straighten teeth using non-invasive methods to gently guide teeth to the desired placement. SmileDirectClub is quick to point out that a straighter smile is not just about improving a person’s appearance; their aligners can also improve a person’s overall dental health and help them treat or prevent painful issues.
According to the company’s website, SmileDirectClub can give a person a “smile they will love” safely at home in four to six months at a cost of less than $3.00 per day. The company claims their treatment costs up to 60% less than traditional braces. SmileDirectClub aligners qualify as Health Savings Account and Flexible Health Account expenses.
SmileDirectClub is now one of the leading providers of telehealth solutions for orthodontia, with more than one million customers worldwide. Headquartered in Nashville, SmileDirectClub operates in North America, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe and Asia.
In 2020, while the rest of the world was busy with the pandemic, SmileDirectClub launched the SmileDirectClub Partner Network, which works with more than 1,000 locations in the United States.
MetLife has been around since 1868 and is one of the leading global providers of healthcare and other types of insurance. The company has more than 90 million customers in 90 countries and reported revenue of nearly $69 billion in 2018. It was the #43 ranked company on the Fortune 500 list of United States corporations in 2018.