The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has become a major public health emergency in the United States. This disease has infected 180,000 people globally and caused more than 7,000 deaths (as of March 17th).
As updated by the CDC on March 17th, the U.S. has seen a total of 4,226 cases. And there have been 75 deaths. Different parts of the country see different levels of COVID-19 activity, some in alarming states. As a result, many parts of the U.S. have taken extraordinary measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus. There has been a complete lockdown of the Bay Area, including San Francisco. People must stay at home except for essential needs.
How does COVID-19 affect the dental industry?
There is no surprise that dental practice will see much fewer patients due to the corona pandemic, as patients are now reluctant to go anywhere except the supermarkets.
Offices may see a massive decrease in the number of patients, from about 20 patients a day to just 2. Dentists will lose a large sum of revenue. Small dental offices that usually earned $100,000 a month may receive only $3,000 in the upcoming weeks.
Additionally, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends dentists nationwide to postpone elective procedures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. According to the New York Times, health care workers, especially dentists, are at the highest risk to contract coronavirus among all occupations.
As a result, dental offices around the country are closing in the next few weeks.
So what should dental offices do during this outbreak?
Apply standard precautions at all times in the dental setting
At a dental office, dental patients with coronavirus can easily transmit the disease to the staff and other patients.
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, practices should follow the following multi-step approach, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Patients with acute respiratory illness should be identified at check-in and placed in a single patient room with the door kept closed.
- Adhere to respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette infection control measures at the first point of contact with any potentially infected person.
- Offer a disposable surgical mask to persons who are coughing, and provide tissues and no-touch receptacles for used tissue proposal.
- Ill persons should wear a surgical mask when outside the patient room.
- Dental healthcare personnel assessing a patient with influenza-like or other respiratory illnesses should wear a disposable surgical facemask, non-sterile gloves, gown, and eye protection.
- Patients and dental healthcare workers should perform hand hygiene after possible contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.
- Apply routine cleaning and disinfection strategies.
Dental practices should follow and rehearse the above protocols. Additionally, dentists should display information and posters regarding coronavirus and control procedures throughout the dental offices so patients can read them.
Try to detect potential case before setting an appointment
To keep your dental office healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, dentists should attempt to identify potential cases of coronavirus before having patients come to the office.
Ask patients over the phone about their travel history. Ask them if they have shown any symptoms or have been isolated. Only set up appointments with patients who satisfy all requirements.
Maximize your income through medical billing to keep your office running
As offices are expected to lose lots of revenue in the upcoming weeks, it is crucial for dentists to find new ways to maximize their income.
Medical billing is a payment practice within the U.S. health system. The process involves a healthcare provider submitting, following up on, and appealing claims with health insurance companies in order to receive payment for services rendered, such as testing, treatments, and procedures.
A key benefit of medical billing is that it can increase the revenue gained by dentists. Since medical insurance carriers have no annual maximum, practices that do both dental and medical billing have statistically made an average 30-40% more revenue than traditional practices billing dental only.
Medical billing for dental practice is in fact 100% legal. Through the medical billing process, dental offices could boost their revenue from $3,000-$4000 a month to $30,000, giving them the required funding to cover expenditures such as leasing, salary, and maintenance cost for equipment.
Moreover, up to 70% of the procedures that may be billable to medical are procedures that dentists are already doing in their practice, such as exams, implants, bone grafting, extractions, etc.
At pH Dental, we have developed a medical billing for dentists service called New Era Consulting. Since medical billing is a complicated process, our goal is to offer consulting, guidance, and support dentists in this whole process. Visit our page to learn more.
Follow reliable sources to keep up-to-date with information
Finally, dentists must keep getting informed about the coronavirus pandemic to be proactive in responding to changes. Dentists should follow websites of organizations such as the CDC or ADA, dentistry magazines, and trending topics relating to coronavirus on LinkedIn and Twitter.
There is no doubt that coronavirus will cause severe damage to the dental industry. However, we are confident that dental offices could survive through this pandemic with the appropriate business strategies.
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