In 2003, the UNMC COD established a satellite program to provide distance education to dental hygiene students in Gering, Nebraska. The West Division of the Dental Hygiene program offers a full academic program at the Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska (FQHC) in Gering. The COD presents all of the didactic coursework utilizing full two-way interactive audio and video technology in real time from Lincoln. The COD now transmits and receives over 40 hours of distance education courses per week and has developed state-of-the-art facilities to conduct both distance learning and teledentistry.
Success of the Gering project led to the establishment of the UNMC COD Teledentistry Project to better serve the oral health needs of the people of Nebraska. Teledentistry is part of the overall concept of telemedicine and can be defined as “the provision of real-time and on-line dental care such as diagnostic planning, consultation and follow-up via electronic transmission from different sites.”
The Nebraska Teledentistry Project utilizes the Nebraska Statewide Telehealth Network as well as local providers to connect rural sites to the COD. The Telehealth Network is an interactive video and data network providing integration and connectivity among hospitals, public health departments, public laboratories and other entities across the state. Over 70 hospitals, 19 public health departments and six labs are connected on the network.
The COD is now connected to three FQHCs, two public health departments and one county hospital with teledentistry equipment, including intraoral cameras. Training is provided to rural practitioners in equipment use for communication with the college in areas of expertise ranging from continuing education to patient consults.