The COVID-19 pandemic left all industries reeling, including surprisingly, the medical industry. In an effort to preserve personal protective equipment and ensure medical resources were available in the early days of the pandemic, many medical offices closed down.
This included family practitioners and dentists.
There has been a significant financial impact on dentists who had to either temporarily close their practices or who lost clients because of the COVID-19 crisis.
What does the future hold for the industry and these medical professionals?
OSHA has created workplace recommendations during COVID-19, which could be here to stay. These recommendations do apply to dental practices, and all businesses should have an infectious disease preparation plan and a response plan. There are basic prevention measures like immediate isolation of anyone with signs of COVID-19.
There are further guidelines for individuals working in high-risk jobs, and this includes dentists. Dental workers are regularly exposed to aerosol droplets by the very nature of their work.
Dental practices will have to ensure they’re compliant not only to keep their staff safe and protected but to ensure clients feel comfortable resuming their dental care as well.
Those dental practices that really step into the most rigorous sanitization procedures may fare the best from a business perspective.
Patients are going to be more discerning as they return to the dentist too, and more aware of how important a sterilized environment is. Be prepared to tell clients exactly what you’re doing to protect them.
Minimal Contact Services
One trend in dentistry we’re likely to see more of moving forward is minimal-contact services. Essentially, patients would be seen and get treatment, but a lot of the risks could be reduced. For example, maybe virtual waiting rooms are a good idea for your practice.
With a virtual waiting room, patients wait in their car, and they then receive a call or text, letting them know it’s time to come in for their appointment.
Telemedicine is a big priority in medical practices right now too. Dental telemedicine could involve initial consultations, and then procedures could be scheduled as needed.
There are advanced certifications and accreditations you can currently receive relating to hygiene and sterilization, and there are also likely to be new programs arising focusing on minimal-contact dentistry.
If these are available and your staff participates, use this as part of your marketing.
You can’t just go above and beyond to ensure your patients are safe. You also need to convey the message of their safety to them through marketing and advertising but also general education content.
Create a Disaster Plan
If you don’t already have a disaster plan in place, create one now. Your disaster plan can cover what might happen if there’s COVID-19 exposure in your practice and how you’ll respond to that.
You may also want to start building a disaster plan as far as what might happen if there’s another global pandemic that leaves supplies at risk. COVID-19 led to a worldwide surge in demand for PPE, hand sanitizer, cleaning products, and masks. Be aware of your inventory at all times, and keep in regular communication with your vendors.
Dental practices do put a lot of emphasis on lowering their overhead by maintaining a supply of only what they need in the immediate future, but you might want extra on-hand in terms of protective gear and sanitizing products. You may also identify back-up vendors.
General Reopening Tips
The following are some general tips to remember as you reopen:
- Talk to every patient about what you’re doing to keep things safe, and also go over how PPE works with each patient
- Stagger your appointments and slowly rebuild your scheduling
- If you have new procedures in place, let your patients know over the phone as they book their appointment.
- Take patient temperatures when they arrive, and record them for your records
- Do a phone screening before a patient’s appointment regarding any COVID-19 exposure or possible symptoms.
- Close your reception area and have check-in done over the phone.
- Hygienists should have an assistant help them with procedures that involve aerosol spray
Finally, you might think about bringing on a new assistant whose primary job is to continuously monitor everything going on in the practice and make sure everything is sanitized and proper protocol is being followed.
It’s been a difficult few months for dentists and dental practices, but it may be valuable to use this experience to rebuild a business that’s even better than before.