In order for dental practices to succeed during the pandemic and have patients return, dental offices need to be sensitive to their fears. This can be done by following the CDC/ADA recommended safety procedures including interviewing patients on the phone prior to setting up their appointment, scheduling them when no other patients are there, or just one or two at a time, separating them in the waiting area. Common practices should include taking temperature when patients arrive, making sure operatories are sanitized between patients and so forth.
This “new” commitment to safety, and the increased awareness of oral health being a determinant of overall health, provides an opportunity for all oral health providers to be a positive force in improving the health of dental patients. For example, now dental practitioners have the opportunity and the responsibility to educate their diabetic patients on sound nutrition and A1C testing. Please check with the insurers to see if they are willing to add this as reimbursable procedures. It is possible to move in that direction to succeed now and into the future.
While still at home, Dr. Jack has been working with a few innovative groups, creating webinars, publications and advice for oral health providers and dental industry companies. It is becoming more common for this activity from our professional organizations and dental schools due to COVID-19, and will continue to be the norm over the next few months, as dental offices continue to open and make changes to comply with the new safety requirements.
Dr. Jack continues to contribute and urges all healthcare professionals to reassess their practices, especially when it comes to improving the overall health and safety of dental patients and staff.
As I sit here in Jerome, Arizona I am trying to focus on not catching this disease while doing what I can as a public health provider and a community leader. I realize that this is a generational moment that could not have been imagined or predicted. Here in Jerome, a town of 457 people, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Arizona is being called upon to thrive while shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and wine tasking rooms, are closed and jobs are evaporating. I marvel at the generosity of a local restauranteur who opened the doors of his restaurants to distribute the remaining food for free to locals. Other healthy citizens are preparing food for those that are unable to leave their homes and the town shuttle driver is donating his time to bring food from nearby markets.
Those of us in the dental field are asked to not provide “elective” dental services – which has a significant financial impact on our practices and clinics. I wish that organized dentistry would work with our other health care professionals to see how dental personnel – dentists, hygienists, therapists, community health workers and assistants can be integrated into the overall health/medical environment. We need to work with the health insurers/payers to develop reimbursable ways that tele-health can be an effective means to provide needed services to our patients without them coming to our offices/clinics. We need to adopt reimbursement opportunities allow those with special needs – those with autism, down syndrome and other conditions to receive “elective” dental care during this time that is draining our health care resources.
Like everyone else, I too have had to make some significant adjustments to my calendar and travel plans. The Senior Dental Leaders program in London – at which I was to be a speaker – was postponed for a year. Additional speaking and meeting engagements in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Nantucket and Israel were all postponed for up to a year. While an inconvenience, these changes are not nearly as impactful as the significant effect the pandemic is having on so many.
Unfortunately, the strain on our health system and each other will get worse before it gets better – but it will get better! Please work together as leaders – though that may not be your personal aspiration – to engage our colleagues, elected officials and payers so that we can be part of the solution in creating a meaningful, responsive, caring health care system that adequately pays our providers while not over charging our patients for the care they need.
Please be safe as we all go thru this difficult time. Thank you for listening and for all you do to be part of the solution.
"The most difficult glue to find is the one to repair broken trust." Dr. Jack Dillenberg