Back-to-school time means germs are spreading— not just in the classroom, but also in your dental office. Before the cold and flu season hits in earnest, make a plan to protect your staff and patients from illness. Here are seven things you can do:
- Start with your employees. Remind your team about what’s necessary to prevent the spread of germs in your office, such as personal protective equipment for dental care providers. Also remind them that they should not come to work when they’re sick. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends staying home from work for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone.
- Get the flu vaccine and encourage your staff to get it as well. Most insurance plans will cover the cost, but if yours doesn’t, consider reimbursing employees for the cost of vaccination to get more compliance. According to the CDC, last year 88% of healthcare personnel whose employers required vaccination were vaccinated early in the season; about 65% of those whose employers recommended it were vaccinated; but only about 29% of those whose employers did nothing were vaccinated.
- Keep it clean. In addition to keeping treatment areas and equipment clean, be diligent about cleaning surfaces employees and patients touch. Keep disinfecting wipes on hand so your staff can spot-clean waiting room tables and chairs, door and doorknobs, the front desk and other surfaces throughout the day.
- Provide supplies. Make sure to stock up on plenty of tissue and hand sanitizer. Put them throughout your office where both patients and staff can quickly access them when needed or install hand sanitizer dispensers in your waiting room. (While you’re at it, here are some other changes you may want to make to your waiting room.)
- Clear the air. According to recent research, it’s possible to catch the flu just by breathing the same air as someone who’s ill— even if they don’t cough or sneeze. That makes now a good time to have your HVAC system serviced and make sure you’re using HEPA filters for maximum effectiveness. The more particles you can remove from your office air, the better.
- Deter ill patients. If you normally charge a late cancellation fee or fine for patients, consider waiving it for patients who are sick. Otherwise, patients with colds and flu may come in and infect your entire office because they don’t want to be charged. When you contact patients or send automatic appointment reminders, tell patients that if they are feeling sick, they should call to reschedule with no financial penalty. Here are some other seasonal scheduling tips for dental practices.
- Be prepared. Cancellations are part of life during cold and flu season, but if a patient cancels an appointment at the last minute, it doesn’t have to mean lost revenues. Lighthouse 360’s Cancellation Fill-In feature automatically detects cancellations and contacts patients who have expressed interest in last-minute appointments. (Get more tips on how to deal with cancellations.)
What if it’s you or someone on your staff who gets sick? If you’re so shorthanded that you need to close the office unexpectedly, or if a dentist or hygienist needs to go home sick in the middle of the day, Lighthouse 360 can send an alert message to all the patients whose appointments are affected.
Colds and flu don’t have to put your dental practice out of commission. By taking some commonsense steps to prevent the spread of disease, you’ll boost your chances of having a healthy winter—and healthy profits.