Coronavirus and Your Dental Practice
Dental offices are understandably concerned about the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019, and how it will affect their patients, their employees and their business. Many schools and colleges are temporarily closing and moving education to an online format, conferences and events are being cancelled, travel plans are being suspended and organizations that are built on large group gatherings such as churches and sporting event venues are suspending operations. The spread of coronavirus uniquely effects medical facilities, including dental offices. While the public may begin to avoid group venues and public places, they will continue to seek medical treatment including dental treatment for the moment. All practice owners will need to evaluate their business continuity plan and their employee sick-leave policy and determine the best course of action for their own business. You will also need to establish appropriate protocols if a sick patient comes to your office. There are a lot of difficult decisions to be made, weighing the financial consequences of each decision with the health and safety of both patients and employees. Below we have gathered the best information available at the moment from our insurance company partners as well as the CDC and OSHA, to help guide your decision making process.
Disclaimer: This content is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or legal advice. Please seek medical advice from your physician and legal advice from your attorney. Links to additional resources provided by the CDC, OSHA, ADA and AGD are included below.
COVID-19 and your insurance
At Emery & Webb, we have been fielding a lot of questions regarding whether or not there is insurance coverage for a business income loss that results from the Coronavirus Disease. Many businesses are suspending operations, reducing hours, or modifying their normal business operations in some way as a result of the virus. This has led to concerns regarding decreased revenue, and handling employee concerns. Most traditional Business Owners Insurance Policies in the U.S. do not include business income coverage for a business income loss caused by a communicable disease. Business income coverage can only be triggered by a covered cause of loss, which in most cases is physical damage of some kind. Similarly, suspending business operations at the request of a state or local civil authority due to a communicable disease outbreak does not trigger business income coverage.
As always, the forms, language and exclusions of your specific policy will determine coverage. Please review your policy carefully to determine any applicable coverage. Or call your insurance agent to review your specific policy.
We are recommending that all our clients review their Business Continuity plan, as well as their sick-leave policies for employees, and update both as needed to respond to this unique situation.
You may find that employees are anxious and afraid not only because of the threat of contracting the Coronavirus, but also the added stress of caring for older loved ones, handling child care if schools and day cares are closed, cancelled travel plans and the potential financial consequences of their employer closing or their spouses’ employer closing. Business owners are responsible for creating a safe and healthy work-place environment. That is never more important than during an international health situation. You set the tone for your business. Your response during times of stress matters. Your communication with your employees is critical.
- Keep calm and communicate. Your calm response and clear communication with employees, along with reasonable cleaning and safety precautions will go a long way towards alleviating anxiety and preventing panic. Anticipate that there will be rumors, misinformation and fear. Establish a clear communication plan with employees in response.
- Encourage sick employees to stay home
- If an employee reports to work with acute respiratory symptoms including cough, fever or shortness of breath, send them home
- Ensure that your sick-leave policy is flexible and consistent with current public health guidelines, and that all employees are aware of the policy
- Limit and/or suspend any required employee travel
- If schools are closed, Day Care facilities may be closed as well. Remember that employees may have no choice but to stay home with their children.
Creating a safe, healthy and calm environment for your employees and patients during this time is critical. It is your responsibility as the practice owner to establish protocols for both employee safety and patient safety.
- Clean and disinfect your office daily using regular household cleaning products, paying particular attention to frequently touched objects such as door knobs, light switches, phones, keyboards, medical equipment, bathroom fixtures, countertops, remote controls, waiting room and break room furniture. You are already sterilizing your tools. Remember that the x-ray machine, the dental chairs and other large furniture and equipment need to be disinfected as well.
- Post reminders regarding hand washing, covering coughs, and staying home if symptomatic
- Maintain appropriate confidentiality of people with confirmed COVID-19
- Follow all instructions from state and local civil authorities. Continue to check the www.cdc.gov/coronavirus website for updates.
- Cancel group meetings/events or reschedule them via on online meeting forum
- The CDC recommends not requiring a doctors note to validate illness or to return to work, as healthcare providers may be extremely busy, resulting in paperwork delays
- If a patient presents with symptoms of a respiratory infection, keep them separate from other patients. The CDC advises that it is appropriate to consider postponing non-emergency procedures or elective procedures for patients presenting with potentially contagious symptoms. If urgent treatment is needed, you will need to make decisions on a case by case basis to protect your staff and other patients. It may be necessary to provide the emergency dental treatment in a facility that is better equipped to handle potentially infectious patients, such as a hospital or out-patient surgical center.
Stay up to date
Please remember that social media is not an accurate news source. There is a lot of misinformation available on the internet. Remember that your staff and patients may be receiving misinformation as well. Stay up to date on the latest coronavirus information at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.
**The above information is not to be construed as medical or legal advice. Please consult reputable sources including the Center for Disease Control, OSHA, your state Dental Board, the ADA and AGD for up to date information regarding the virus, and appropriate measures to take within your practice. Information is changing and being updated daily.
**If you experience acute respiratory symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath, please call your physician immediately.
**Call your physician to discuss your symptoms before going to their office. Your healthcare provider may need to take precautions before your visit to protect other patients.