We are excited to be sharing with you the second part of a blog series being written by our valued partner and user Dr. Randy LaFrom. Dr. LaFrom was a dentist for over 30 years before he decided to become a consultant. He has incredible insight into the dental industry and has agreed to share it. He has written a series of recommendations on what dentists should do to address the situation COVID-19 has put practices in. If you haven't read Part 1 yet we recommend you do before going forward! We hope you find this information helpful and are able to stay successful during this hard time.
Preparing for the Grand Re-Opening of Your Practice Part 2: The New Normal
As different parts of the world begin to re-open their businesses and try to get back to normal, the United States is cautiously waiting and observing what other countries and businesses are implementing and experiencing. No one knows what the new “normal” will be, but people expect that it will be different.
After 9/11, several new security measures were implemented especially at airports. Now we just expect these "changes", because they are the new normal. Part of our new normal could be as some countries loosen their lockdowns and potentially get a resurgence of the virus again. We should be prepared for the possibility of a second shutdown in the future as well.
Getting accurate information
The top-of-the-mind question our clients will most likely have going forward is “What new precautions has my dentist implemented? and will that be enough to keep me and my family safe?"
There is almost too much information online from numerous sources about conspiracies and how true or reliable any of the information we receive is. The internet makes it easy for anybody to post articles and videos that look very credible. This makes the population challenge what they read and see on TV or the Internet even more now, than in the past.
Some industries such as the travel industry and the food and beverage communities are taking a serious beating during this time. It could be 1-2 years or more before they recover from this. There isn’t much we can do regarding those industries, time will tell what new barriers, limitations on services, and social distancing guidelines will radically change everything. Many of the “new standards of care” that dentistry implements have come from other industries in the past.
Planning for after COVID-19 restrictions lift
Most people think (and hope) that it will be between six weeks to six months after lock-downs are lifted. People will start trusting again and most services and industries will begin to start stabilizing their businesses. Some of the optimal protocols that are being proposed, may not be practical or even financially viable alternatives for many smaller businesses to implement. This may ultimately dictate what new business models we see going forward in many industries including dentistry.
Crowded waiting rooms with several people standing around in a typical dental practice, just can’t be acceptable anymore. Wearing the same mask or surgical gowns and wandering from room to room will not be tolerated. New protocols on handling of masks and how to properly remove them or reuse or not reuse them will need to be evaluated.
5 things you can do differently to promote safety when you reopen
- Prescreening patients prior to bringing them back to the operatory might become the new standard. This might require either establishing a “check-in room” (which may have been the prior “consultation room”).
Depending upon your office size, perhaps having patients wait in their car and call you when they get there. Then a staff member goes out to their car or another designated area to take their temperature with non-contact digital thermometers and ask prescreening questions.
It is important to note that having a temperature or not, is no guarantee that they have the virus or not, it is just simply one tool (along with a series of health questions) we have to use to help screen potentially sick or contagious people from coming into the operatories.
- Training should be given to our front desk staff, dental assistants and hygienists on how to answer new commonly asked questions. These questions will probably be asked regarding updated office sterilization and decontamination procedures used in between patients.
They can’t simply be put on the spot and be expected to say whatever comes to mind. In addition, the front staff cannot be complacent if patients call wishing to cancel. This is a recipe for disaster in your schedule. The staff will be an integral part of the transition, especially should you choose to integrate the next section – telemedicine.
- Telemedicine is used very effectively in the medical field, and while dentistry is more of a “hands-on” profession, there are still numerous ways you can do patient education, consultations and new patient interviews as well as emergency or cosmetic screening using a list of symptoms and combined with photographs.
We discussed options of using FaceTime and Zoom in the past as good interim tools to start getting into teledentistry. Although HIPAA guidelines have been relaxed during this pandemic, you may want to consider shifting over to a professional platform that records the conversations. You'll want to be able to document any photos, x-rays or other materials reviewed with the patients as well as updating records and allergies and medications.
Virtual consultations and new patient interviews can be conducted with anyone who has a smart phone or camera attached to a device. One of the common questions is how to do billing for this. The ADA released new codes to allow and include teledentistry consultations; and if you do it, you should document it thoroughly.
- Every aspect of infection control and containment will be scrutinized. The use of rubber dams, the use of air ventilation systems with HEPA filters, far-UVC lights may be introduced to help sterilize surfaces, the use of ozone and of lasers, the aerosol from ultrasonic cleaners used by the hygienists, as well as from the high-speed drills in operatories will all be topics of discussion that will be researched more carefully in the future.
Something as simple as having inexpensive disposable stick pens for patients to sign and take with them to prevent cross-contamination, or wipeable surfaces on tablets for patients to sign in on will all be things the dental profession will need to embrace as we move forward.
- Communications from the office and related to patient care will shift to more electronic and less paper based (minimizing physical reminder postcards, newsletters, paper folders for charts) will all be part of the steps to minimizing cross-contamination.
More on this topic will be included in Part 3 including more specific actions you should be doing right now to ensure your success and survival in 2020.
In the meantime, we wish you and your families well. We offer complimentary online presence evaluation, marketing advice, and team building coaching to help you grow your practice. Give us a call or email us for more information.
Dr. Randy LaFrom
Business Consulting and Practice Strategies.