As everyone now knows, the coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the globe with tens of thousands of confirmed cases and multiple outbreaks in the United States.
Related to the common flu, COVID-19 causes similar symptoms such as fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. It is an airborne illness that has no known animal vector, meaning that it is transmitted from person to person.
If you are working in the medical profession, The below checklist of 20 strategies will help your office smoothly navigate patient protocol and care during this time.
20 STRATEGIES TO KEEP YOUR PRACTICE AHEAD OF THE CORONAVIRUS
1. Offer complimentary or reduced-fee nitrous, and mini-massages to reduce anxiety
2. Provide personal hand sanitizers for each team member
3. Have your team wear disposable jackets
4. Hygienists should wear shields during treatments.
5. Take advantage of same-day treatment opportunities
6. Be proactive with communication. Give patients access to up to date information detailing precautions on your website or through social media outlets.
7. Stick to the 5 star system- do not create chaos or concern on the phones (this comes with your team having security)
8. Conduct a temperature test in lobby (via forehead) if signs of the virus are exhibited.
9. Be prepare to work remotely if necessary, have software and computers ready for those team members that are not required to be in the office.
10. Complimentary Fluoride- keep appointments
11. Complimentary exams- keep appointments
12. Offer lunch to keep your team safe and calm, expand your hours to include Saturday
13. Create an internal task force to deal with protocols that fit best with your office.
14. Educate team members on proper usage and protocols for supplies that may be scarce.
15. Jay's about allowing his kids to travel, "My kids are getting on planes" is equivalent to "My kids are getting their teeth cleaned".
16. Put out the message to, "Be proactive in your health!" Getting your teeth cleaned and going to your medical appointments are the healthiest things you can do. Do not wait for a problem. Encourage your friends to do the same.
17. Implement a written sick policy defining a protocol for employees and patients
18. Remind your team of the Scheduling Institute Bubble strategies to keep them focused.
19. Expand your comfort menu for patients to keep them relaxed.
20. Make sure your sterilization procedures are in line with the CDC and ADA
Additional information on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) provided below.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that medical personnel, including dentists, use single-use, disposable surgical masks to protect the eyes, nose, and mouth during any patient procedure likely to involve the exchange of body fluids, including mucus, sputum, and blood.
It is absolutely essential that single-use masks be disposed of properly and new single-use masks are used for each patient. In addition, if your mask gets wet during a patient procedure, it is recommended that you dispose of it immediately and put on a new mask.
The CDC also recommends postponing all elective dental or mental procedures for patients who report having or present symptoms of the flu in your office; including a runny nose, coughing, shortness of breath, or a fever.
For emergency or urgent procedures, the CDC recommends that medical and dental providers assess each case to determine the appropriate precautions.
Preventing the Transmission of COVID-19 In a Dental Setting
Since many dentists are not equipped to prevent patient-to-patient transmission of illnesses like COVID-19, the CDC recommends all medical providers to come up with a plan for dealing with potentially infectious patients.
Patients showing signs of COVID-19 or other acute respiratory illnesses may show up at outpatient dental offices. The primary goal for all dental services providers must be to prevent the further transmission of disease.
If a patient arrives and is exhibiting symptoms of an acute respiratory illness, they should be flagged immediately and placed in a (single-patient) room with the door kept closed.
The potentially infectious patient should also be provided with a disposable surgical mask to be worn at all times when outside the treatment room. In addition, the patient should be given tissues and a no-touch receptacle to properly dispose of their mask and tissues.
All team members should strictly adhere to hygiene protocols, including frequent handwashing with soap and water, an alcohol-based rub, or an antiseptic gel.
When assessing the patient, dental personnel should be equipped with a surgical facemask, (non-sterile) gloves, gowns, and eye protection (such as goggles).
Standard disinfection strategies and routine cleaning procedures should be strictly followed at all times.
Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19
As the contagious is still being assessed, all information about the COVID-19 coronavirus is subject to change. However, the known symptoms of COVID-19 mirror those of the "standard" flu, including mild or severe fever, cough, muscle aches, and shortness of breath.
Anyone known to have visited or come into contact with someone who has visited China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, or other confirmed epicenters of COVID-19 within the last 14 days is especially at risk.
Where to Get the Latest Information
Interim CDC guidelines for healthcare professionals can be found HERE.
The CDC's guide on how to identify the symptoms of COVID-19 can be found HERE.
Preparedness checklists for dealing with potentially infectious patients can be found HERE.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does the CDC recommend that dental staff get the flu vaccine, even though it doesn't stop COVID-19?
A: Dental offices should already be implementing their seasonal precautions against the transmission of influenza (the flu). This includes having all members of your dental team receive the latest flu vaccine.
Q: Should your dental team members stay home if they think they might be infected?
A: Whenever possible, anyone who is reporting flu-like symptoms, including fever, coughing, a sore throat, or muscle aches, even if these are mild in nature, should stay home and not report to work.
Furthermore, potentially infected team members should use remote means (i.e. the telephone, websites, apps, etc.) to contact their health care provider before seeking help in person at a hospital, clinic, or medical office.
However, anyone suffering shortness of breath or having difficulty breathing should seek medical help immediately.