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Contagious: What are you spreading–calm or chaos?

At this point, everyone is familiar with the following statement from the American Dental Association (ADA) about dentists and their suggested precautions in the face of the global pandemic of COVID-19 and Coronavirus.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recognizes the unprecedented and extraordinary circumstances dentists and all health care professionals face related to growing concern about COVID-19. The ADA is deeply concerned for the health and well-being of the public and the dental team.

In order for dentistry to do its part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the ADA recommends dentists nationwide postpone elective procedures for the next three weeks. Concentrating on emergency dental care will allow us to care for our emergency patients and alleviate the burden that dental emergencies would place on hospital emergency departments.

As health care professionals, it is up to dentists to make well-informed decisions about their patients and practices. The ADA is committed to providing the latest information to the profession in a useful and timely manner.

The ADA is continually evaluating and will update its recommendation on an ongoing basis as new information becomes available.

As clinicians, we are committed to providing the highest standard of care for our patients. As small business owners, we of course worry about staying afloat and caring for our team and family. During these uncertain times, it can be easy to panic. However, it is important to remain calm. This is what your patients and employees see. They are looking to you for leadership as their doctor and their manager. Rise to the occasion. Dr. Robert Stanley reminds his staff, “Calm is contagious.” So, how should you proceed? “Cautiously”, says Dr. Bobbi Stanley, “This is an evolving situation that you must navigate in real time.” 

As your continuing education partner, we want to come alongside you in this journey. After all, we are in this together. Here are a few best practices for the coming days and weeks.

Plan: 

Decide before your team meeting what you will do as a practice owner. Here are some thoughts to ponder:

  • Will you close?
  • If you remain open, what additional precautions will you take to ensure the health and safety of you, your team and patients? In our Cary NC practice, the following has been implemented: 
    • in reception, patient temperatures are taken
    • patients are escorted from reception immediately upon arrival to a hand wash station and then to an operatory
    • all areas are sanitized between patients, including door handles and light switches
    • hand sanitizer is located in many places throughout the clinic and referred to en route to treatment rooms
    • all team members continue diligently using universal precautions
    • disposable supplies are used responsibly to avoid waste and maximize sanitation
  • If you close, what are your plans for payroll and benefits? 
  • Where can you cutback without compromise? (example: staff meals)

Communicate:

If you have not already, have an unhurried huddle with your team. This is when you will address payroll and benefit concerns. While a crisis, it is also an opportunity for you to cement your role as leader. During this difficult time, your team will mirror your response. While you may understandably be worried, you can inspire confident resilience that will be passed along to your patients. 

Additionally, let your patients know what extra precautions your office is taking and/or your modified hours. Here is sample verbiage to use on your website, email communications and social media platforms (courtesy of California Dental Association). Be certain to reiterate that sick people should not come to the office and there will be no cancellation fee.

In order to ensure the continued health of our patients, we are suspending nonessential or non-urgent dental care for the next 14 days. The health and welfare of our patients and our staff are the utmost priority and we want to do our part to limit the spread of the coronavirus, to reduce patient hospitalizations and lessen the strain on resources needed to treat patients. I value your assistance in making this a smooth transition. I appreciate your commitment to working together to get through this difficult time.

Be Nimble & Utilize all available resources: 

This is an unprecedented circumstance. No one has seen a situation like this in our modern times and there is no roadmap. You need to do what is best for your practice, employees, patients and family. As the situation evolves (hourly), adjust your plans as needed. This is not frivolous, it is responsible.

What does your practice insurance cover? Do you have loss of use insurance or key person insurance that might help you meet payroll? 

In addition to insurance, research other resources as well. Federal and state governments are putting economic support in place to assist private citizens and business owners—stay abreast of these options and use when possible.

While borrowing money should not be a first resort, we are in survival mode. If you do not already have one, consider opening a line of credit. On the plus side, interest rates are at historic lows.

Contact creditors to see if there are options for delayed payment in order to conserve cash reserves in the near term. This may assist you in caring for your employees.

Whatever your circumstance, be well.