The beginning of a new calendar year is often a time of reflection, resolution setting and planning. It’s a time to applaud yourself for getting through any difficulties of the past year and prepare yourself for an even brighter future. And while this may be second nature for you personally, you should do the same for your dental practice. The post-holiday season is an ideal time to review what’s been going well in your practice and what adjustments you may need to make to ensure optimal success in the coming year.
In a past blog, we outlined key areas dentists should consider annually to ensure optimum ‘legal health’ for themselves and their businesses. And while we still recommend you perform that Legal Health Checkup, there are a few additional things this year that you’ll want to add to your review, which centre around the Covid-19 pandemic and its residual effects on your dental practice. Specifically, in a post-pandemic world (*knock on wood*), you should consider adding the following to your annual checkup:
Over the past year, many government restrictions and Covid-19 guidelines have loosened. For example, we are no longer required to wear masks, maintain social distancing, or take rapid/PCR tests. In addition, on August 3, 2022, the RCDSO also provided COVID-19: Revised Guidance on its website, lifting multiple significant Covid-19 restrictions for the dental profession. However, the RCDSO emphasizes that dentists are still expected to maintain certain standards for infection prevention in tandem with the revised guidance. See COVID-19: Managing infection risks during in-person dental care for details.
After reviewing the RCDSO guidance, you should consider any protocols still in place at your practice and if any are no longer required. Making the determination will be office-specific and will depend on your risk tolerance. But, to get you started, here are some areas to consider:
- What is your patient demographic? Are your patients generally older or at risk of being immunocompromised?
- Are protocols related to Covid-19 and infection prevention affecting the patient experience or patient scheduling (i.e., fallow time or appointment availability)?
- If a new variant or other virus were to arise, would you be prepared/capable of reinstating similar restrictions?
- What are the financial costs to the dental practice of having or not having certain protocols?
At the end of the day, the safety of your dental practice should always be a high priority. However, if the more rigorous protocols, such as limiting the number of patients in the practice at one time, are no longer necessary, it may be best to remove them. On the other hand, the less impeding protocols, such as warnings and instructions for patients experiencing particular symptoms, could be protocols worth keeping.
Inventory and Supplies
The Covid-19 guidelines required more PPE supplies and cleaning materials than usual to run your dental practice. The Ontario Ministry of Health set out Guidelines for Pandemic Stockpile Use which provides best practices for inventory management that apply to healthcare entities, such as dental offices. While PPE and related supplies will always be needed for a dental practice, reflecting on your current inventory needs and how much is being ordered is another essential consideration post-pandemic. Some things to consider are:
- If particular protocols are changed, will you still need the same amount of supplies, or should you adjust what you are ordering?
- Do you have a storage room? How much inventory do you want to keep on hand?
- If you have storage space, could you order in bulk to save money?
- Are things that were not reusable during the pandemic now reusable?
- What sort of cleaning are you doing, and what do you require cleaners to do?
A great way to determine your answers to these important factors is to review old records and look back at your pre-pandemic expenses. For example, comparing what percentage of expenses and storage space went towards safety and cleaning supplies then vs now could help you establish a good place to start this year.
While vaccine or immunization requirements were a pivotal part of many Covid-19 Protocols, the topic of mandatory vaccination is still controversial around the country.
Considering whether or not to change or remove such policies should again be measured against factors such as your risk tolerance and your patient demographic. For example, will such policies limit your ability to hire new employees or take on new patients? These questions and the changing nature of the effect Covid-19 has on our society today should be carefully considered before implementing any policy changes in your dental practice.
We hope this guidance will help you review your dental practice operations and adapt to the post-pandemic world. And don’t forget to review the rest of our recommendations for your annual Legal Health Checkup to ensure that all your legal and business matters are in line.
If you have any questions or need advice specific to your practice, please reach out to our team. We are dedicated to helping dentists shape their practice and are happy to offer our knowledge and experience. So, send DMC an email or call our team directly at 1-844-443-9280.