Pandemic... Now what?
PANIC! That is all we see and hear nowadays as we turn on our televisions, open social media, or even walk into grocery store. This ever-changing world has its upswings and downturns, though amongst this mass panic, we, as healthcare professionals must remain a beacon of reassurance. Many things are changing for the dental professional and his or her staff, including complete office closures.
By now, many of you have heard from your respective local and larger governing dental associations on recommendations as to what actions to take during this time. It is important to adhere to the recommendations that are being given. Ultimately, it is up to the dentist if he or she would like to stay open. If you decide to stay open, you must make sure that you check with your respective insurance company to see if you are liable for staff or patients if it is found that someone was exposed to or contracted COVID-19 as a result. This sole reason is of great consideration and would be the determining factor of whether or not your office should remain open or closed for the duration.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has recommended, “dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks.” The ADA continues to recommend that dental teams only focus on emergency dental care, which can help “alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergencies.”
What does that mean for you and your team? If you are deciding on closing or have closed, what happens to your patients? Your staff? These thoughts can become overwhelming but are necessary to address. As the captain of this ship, you must show your office team that you are educated and up-to-date on all information that is coming from the government or your dental association. The following are some tips that can help direct you during this difficult time.
As the ADA has recommended, it is important to offer emergency services to your patients. If you have closed, notify your patients via a mass text through your patient communication software, on your office voicemail, or on the office’s social media accounts. Make clear the reason for the office’s closure and give out contact information for emergency situations. It is important to make emergency contact information available to your patients because it ensures them that you are available to them during this time.
If you are still open, it is important to place COVID-19 protocols in place to protect your patients and staff. Creating and following a protocol will give your patients, your staff and you peace of mind. Review these protocols with your team members and make it blatantly clear to your patients that you have made measures to protect their safety. The protocol can include increased cleaning and sanitizing procedures, alterations in confirming appointments, changes in the methods of seeing patients in the office, and staff safety.
When confirming appointments, the staff must ask the following questions: 1) Do you or any member of your household have a fever or any symptoms of the flu/cold and 2) Have you or any member of your household traveled out of the country within the past 14 days. If your patient has answered yes to any of these two questions, it is better to postpone their care for a couple of weeks and only offer emergency service if needed. If you have a patient that is needing emergency services but has been knowingly exposed to COVID-19, the ADA recommends that they call the Health Department for a referral.
In this time of uncertainty, job security is weighing on everyone’s mind. If you do decide to close your office, your staff is faced with the harsh reality of no income. You can and should direct your staff to file for assistance from your state government. This would be considered either temporary unemployment or assistance during the time of closure. This is a viable option for your staff during these times and should alleviate any financial burden faced otherwise. I urge you to please check with your state’s laws regarding assistance or unemployment benefits.
Although this time brings a lot of anxiety, it is important as healthcare professionals to prioritize the safety of our patients and staff. As a leader, prepare and educate yourself to ensure proper guidance in the upcoming weeks and, most importantly, stay safe!
*Please note that updates and recommendations regarding COVID-19 change day-to-day. *Please stay up-to-date by going to the following websites: www.cdc.gov and www.ada.org Dental associations recommendations. Consider your State laws before implementing any advice given.
Sylvie Haber, Consultant
Sylvie first entered the dental field through her mother, who is a dentist. She grew up attending conferences and many dental meetings. Watching her mother’s passion and love of dentistry, Sylvie grew to love the profession as well.
After, she earned her MBA in Healthcare Administration from Loma Linda University. She completed the ADA ‘s Executive Program in Dental Management and also became a Fellow of the American Association of Dental Office Management.
Sylvie enjoys seeing dental offices thrive, become more productive and run smoothly under her guidance through management and coaching.
Sylvie can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org