Who would have thought a little over a month ago we would be going through what we are experiencing today?
As I sit and look back at what was going on in the office just a short while ago, COVID-19 has made an impeccable impact on what we are going through and what we will possibly plan to expect in the upcoming future.
My goal is to always try to have the best answer, but at this point in time, there is not really a good or solidified solution. I have never encountered having to release an employee from a position, let alone layoff 20 of them in one day.
March 19 was a turning point for all of us in the dental industry and the country itself. On that day at 5:00 p.m., I had to present each of my employees with a temporary layoff letter with the intent to rehire once the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.
But the big question was, and is, when will that be?
At this time, there are not any real answers; the President wanted to have the economy up by Easter, but the number of coronavirus cases was still too high. So now, the next target date is possibly the beginning of May.
As a dental practice manager, it’s up to me to keep the office afloat while the staff is anxiously awaiting the call to return to work. An action plan is a necessity for once everyone comes back.
Your dental office manager action plan
What can we do to maintain infection control yet have a welcoming front-office area?
- Take the patient’s temperature upon arrival.
- No magazines, books, toys, or games in waiting rooms or operatories.
- Reception area chairs, counters, and door handles must be sanitized between each guest.
- Install a plexiglass shield system at all patient check-in/out areas to protect the employees and patients.
- Ensure that all patients are filling out paperwork prior to arriving for their dental appointments (if the paperwork is not completed prior to their appointment start time, let the patient know that their appointment may need to be rescheduled).
- Create a COVID-19 page for our patient paperwork packets.
- Integrate the check-in process so that the patient will check-in from their car once they arrive and wait there until their appointment time, at which point a staff member will let them know once it’s time to come in.
- Confirm that neither the patient nor anyone in their household has had a fever, tested positive, is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or traveled outside of the state/country to a possible hot zone.
- Keep the number of employees at the check-in area to a minimum.
- Coffee machines and water bottles removed from the patient waiting area.
What to do in the clinical setting
- Patient hand-washing and pre-rinse protocol.
- Review treatment plans in the operatory before the patient is excused.
- Staff wears the same headset each day, minimizing interactions if they need supplies or materials.
- Utilize the rover if something is needed in a room and you are in with a patient.
- Disinfect iPads between patients.
- Establish proper PPE protocols and equipment, including additional PPE such as gowns, surgical caps, goggles with side shields, etc.
- Remove all uniforms and shoes prior to leaving the office, including errands or lunch breaks (ALL staff).
- Aerosol reduction protocols, such as external suctions, rubber dams, reduced ultrasonic use.
- Disposable barriers for patient headsets (while watching TV or listening to music).
Practice manager to-dos during temporary layoffs:
- Follow appropriate government officials and agencies, including state dental boards and the CDC for the most up-to-date mandates.
- Log-in to AADOM cares Webinars, Zoom meetings, and Facebook live sessions to stay up to date with the current protocols
- Review employee manual for policies and procedures for appropriate updates.
- Familiarize oneself with appropriate state unemployment information and protocols.
- Set up specified protocols and contact methods so that the doctor can see emergency patients as needed.
- Contact currently scheduled patients to inform them about necessary cancellations (be prepared for how to reschedule them in the future.)
- Address billing and outstanding accounts. Have a protocol in place if someone needs to make payment arrangements.
- Go through outstanding claims and close them out as appropriate.
- Contact dental supply reps to discuss supply inventory levels for when the office re-opens.
- Set a potential opening date with a staff meeting to review new procedures, ideas, concerns, and scheduling.
- Contact companies or services the practice uses, to discuss potential payment deferrals or discounts.
- Eliminate unnecessary supply purchases, orders, or subscriptions.
- Pay the minimum monthly balance on all accounts to help maintain cash flow.
- Look into appropriate small business loans that the doctor can utilize.
Although these lists are by no means everything you need for a dental office manager action plan, it’s a good start. My hope is that we – as a tribe – can come together and add to it as our practices work through this pandemic together.
Meet the Author
Originally from Kentucky, Leslie is the chapter president of AADOM Wilmington, NC… This text opens a new tab to the Wilmington, NC chapter website…, and holds a bachelor’s degree in business management (Liberty University).
She loves the long-term patients in her practice who have become like family.
Leslie and her husband Joe are proud parents to Peyton Grace and five fur babies. In her free time, Leslie is a long-distance runner and has checked off two full marathons and 20 half marathons.
Her favorite bible verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”