To Reopen, we must Reframe, Revive and Restart
Government orders are binding, but dental association recommendations are not; some states require more mitigation than others; do you listen to the ADA or the CDC? Homeland security says dentistry is an essential business, and so goes the continuing rhetoric. The news changes daily, and there are better days ahead as we take stock of what we are doing and what we can do to reopen our dental offices.
Like taking an old picture out of a frame and replacing it with a new one, we must “reframe” our thoughts. Our view of the world has changed, and now we must live in that world.
What do we need to do to provide dental care post-pandemic safely?
Whatever services are provided during this unprecedented time, they must be covered under the provisions of your malpractice insurance. Offering teledentistry is an example as it is illegal in some states as the law stands today. Ensuring the HIPAA rules are followed is mandatory. These laws are subject to change as the process is developed to adhere to better standards of delivery. Teledentistry is in the future of dentistry, so now is the time to introduce it to our practices.
OSHA standards plus the new CDC guidelines for infection control specific to dental practices must be current and abided by stringently. Being lax in these areas will only spread this virus and other unwanted pathogens. During these fragile times, we must use our professional judgment in doing dentistry in an environment that does not spread disease.
eAssist created a Certificate of Cleanliness that launched this week for all practices, whether eAssist clients or not to display as proof that your practice has met high standards of disinfection.
What worked before in your reception room will not work now. No longer can people be gathered in groups, read magazines, and help themselves to a community coffee bar. Plexiglass dividers, six feet apart, will replace comfy office chairs and tables. An infra-red touchless thermometer will welcome each patient instead of a beverage. Paper forms will be replaced with tablets or online registry only. Your practice will be revived with a new set of protocols, systems, and rules to engage and to practice dental care.
In the clinical area, we will be dealing with the elimination of vapors and aerosols. Clinical staff will wear gowns, gloves, face shields, and n95 masks and maybe foot coverings depending on the rules. Air purifiers, vapor suction of aerosols, and essential oils for calming nerves must all be employed to revive our patient’s perception of trust.
The office must smell sterile all the time.
Opening the doors will not mean “they will come.” Think “start-up” in the beginning when you had a few patients and times with empty chairs. Get the word out in any means possible that you are there for the patients, and they are safe in your chair. State step by step, what will happen when the patient comes into the office for care and why each step must be followed. Easing fears is essential in this critical period of the restart.
Learn the new CDT codes that can be developed into future practice systems such as teledentistry and emergency care coding. Remember that if you are a PPO provider, you must see emergency patients within 48 hours. Many insurance plans are offering an extra oral examination to ensure patients are seen. Which codes you choose, how you combine them, and what you say in clinical notes equals what you get reimbursed from your insurance plans.
Instead of trying to find someone with excellent billing skills or training them when you don’t know the new information, outsource to expert professional dental billers who will collect every dollar earned, ensuring constant cash flow.
We have our work ahead of us, and that will keep us busy building our dreams again. We are all in this together, and together we will succeed.