Is your dental office prepared to reopen after the 2019 Coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown in compliance with new guidelines?
Coronavirus has had an impact on almost every business and the way it functions. Before reopening or ramping up business at your dental office, consider the recommendations below.
Does the Appointment Schedule Need Adjusted?
With new guidelines in place for social distancing and the number of people allowed in certain spaces, your office may not be able to accommodate the same number of patients as it did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consider staggering appointments to allow ample time for disinfection in between patients and to help ensure social distancing. For example, if your office has six chairs, stagger appointments so that only chairs 1, 3, and 5 are used and then rotate the next set of appointments so that chairs 2, 4, and 6 are used while the others are disinfected.
Should Changes Be Made to the Check-In Process?
In addition to appointment schedule changes, you may want to reconsider your patient check-in process. Ask patients to call when they arrive and wait in their vehicles until their dental hygienist is ready for them to help eliminate congested reception areas. You can also screen the patient for symptoms over the phone when calling to confirm their appointment and then use a non-contact thermometer to take their temperature upon arrival. Plexi-glass barriers should also be installed at check-in and check-out counters to create a barrier between employees and patients.
What PPE Should Employees and Patients Wear?
Since dentists, dental hygienists, and office employees will regularly come in direct contact with patients, it’s important they are equipped with the personal protective equipment (PPE) recommended by the FDA and CDC. Installing additional filtration systems in patient treatment areas may also help to eliminate germs that become airborne during an appointment before infecting others. Communicate these changes with patients and let them know these extra precautions are being taken to not only protect employees but also to protect them!
If not mandated in your city or state, ask patients to wear a face mask when entering and exiting the facility and offer disposable face masks at check-in.
Are Protocols for Sanitization and Disinfection Being Met?
Along with practicing social distancing, one of the best ways to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to regularly sanitize and disinfect. Before reopening, take a look at your normal disinfection procedures and make sure they align with state and federal guidelines. Additional sanitization and disinfection needs may mean hiring additional employees, disinfecting all deliveries, and asking patients to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer or using a disinfecting mouthwash prior to beginning their exam.
Is Social Distancing Possible?
You may need to reconfigure the layout of your office space to make sure the recommended six feet of distance can be kept between employees and patients.
Place floor stickers at check-in and check-out counters and in other heavily trafficked areas of the office to serve as a visual reminder of where patients should stand to maintain social distancing. If you choose to keep reception areas open, remove chairs so that waiting patients are separated by six feet of distance. Other reception area items like children’s toys, product displays, and magazines should also be removed.
Lastly, we always recommend reviewing emergency preparedness plans with employees, especially if the office was shutdown or the layout was changed to comply with state/federal guidelines. Make sure your original plan still flows as intended, automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) are still accessible, AED signage points in the right direction and employees know how to use them. Everyone should understand their role should an emergency arise!