As Coronavirus continues to spread, it is top of mind for the general public and businesses alike. As this is a novel virus, nobody has built up an immunity to it yet, which is partly why the infection and death rates are higher than the influenza virus. Reported cases of the coronavirus have ranged from mild to severe- with more severe symptoms or death being more likely in the elderly or those with a compromised immune system. Once acquired (or suspected of having come into contact with someone who is positive for the coronavirus) a patient is quarantined for fourteen days, which is considered to be the infectious period. So, what does that mean for your dental practice? It is time to review your patient protocols as well as your practice’s infection control protocol. We offer some advice to get you started to ensure you are demonstrating best practice as we all try to deal with the effects of this outbreak.
Minimize the Chance for Exposure:
Minimizing the chance for exposure to patients and staff will help to control the spread of the virus. By updating your reminder script in phone messages, text messages and emails to patients will help to remind them that if they exhibit flu-like symptoms or have a temperature of over 100 degrees they should not come in for their appointment. Additionally, having disposable thermometers available at the front desk can allow for front end staff to screen patients and their families when they come in.
Adhere to Standard, Contact and Airborne Precautions:
This is an airborne virus. It is essential to practice good hand washing techniques as well as utilize personal protective equipment. The Center for Disease Control recommends that staff use healthcare grade hand sanitizer before and after seeing each patient. When wearing a face mask, it is important the mask stay on, and never come down over the chin. When the mask comes into contact with your neck, it is no longer sanitary on the inside, and then the contaminated mask will be pulled up over the nose and mouth area. If you must take the mask off, put a fresh one on every time.
Monitor and Manage Ill and Exposed Healthcare Personnel:
Clinic and office front staff need to be aware of what COVID-19 is. Giving them recent, accurate facts will help to keep everyone in the workplace healthy. Review hand washing techniques and how to wear and remove PPE. Discuss how the office handles patients who are ill. If a staff member is ill, they should stay at home. Practices should ensure they have a sick day policy in place that is flexible and does not punish employees for missing time from work due to illness. Practices should be proactive, and in some cases, may consider taking the temperatures of all staff at the start of each day to ensure everyone who is at work, is healthy.
Implement Environmental Infection Control:
Front office staff should make sure they are disinfecting public areas frequently. Things such as door handles, countertops and frequently touched surfaces should be especially target. For the time being, offices should consider putting away any communal toy chests or game consoles that many hands come into contact with throughout a day for the time being. The mild disappointment will be outweighed by the appreciation and comfort patients will have knowing you are paying attention to detail.
The positive to come out of all this is it is allowing practices to review their policies and protocols around infectious diseases. Knowledge, communication and best practices will help to ensure your patients and your staff are healthy and your business is thriving during these somewhat uncertain times. We are here to support your practice! Visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PerformDDS or give us a call at 949.232.4788 to see how we can help you optimize your practice!