Triaging and categorizing dental practice patients after COVID-19

Your dream doctor. Cheerful dentist looking at camera with smile while sitting in dentist’s office

Hello again from my kitchen table to yours,

I hope you all are remaining healthy and well as we close the book on the 3,000 days of April 2020. What a strange month it’s been.

The good news is that I have been talking to many doctors getting ready to return to practice. There is light at the end of the tunnel. 

In this newsletter, I discuss:

  • Re-hiring Employees
  • Triaging and Categorizing Patients
  • The ADA Return to Practice Toolkit
  • Ultraviolet LEDs
  • PPP Loan Guidance for Self-Employed 
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for Business Owners/Self-Employed

As always, please forward this email to anyone who you think may benefit.  


Hiring Employees Back Part-time Can Cause Challenges for their Unemployment

This last week we’ve helped a few doctors start to re-hire employees. Just as a heads up, it’s generally better to bring back a smaller team full-time than a half team part-time from the team’s perspective. It makes it much more complicated to collect unemployment if you have a part-time position, so it’s better to go all in.

And if you’re choosing who to re-hire, ask your team about who feels comfortable returning to work. It’s likely that some team members will feel more comfortable than others, and it makes the most sense to bring back those who are ready to return. 

Triage and Categorize Your Patients 

When you re-open, don’t plan to just start seeing the patients on the schedule. You’ll need a plan to triage your patients and make sure that the most important, urgent dentistry gets completed first. This means that you’ll need to clear your schedule of routine patients for, say, the next two weeks. We’ve been seeing this work well in real-time.

Then look back at the patients with canceled appointments and break them into groups. Prioritize emergencies and urgent dentistry. Don’t see any patients for routine dentistry until you’re more comfortable with the new schedule and you’ve seen all the patients with urgent treatment requirements.

Here’s how I’m seeing it work in a few offices: Once you bring your staff back, you have a day or two of training and re-organization. On your first day seeing patients, you see only 2 or 3. The next day you add another patient, then another, and so on until you get more comfortable with the new procedures. 

This is uncharted territory, so we don’t know what an ideal schedule looks like yet. And patients understand that businesses are in flux. At this point, we recommend putting patients on lists rather than trying to reschedule them. 

ADA Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit

I suspect that most of you have seen this, but in case you haven’t, here you go. This is a fantastic resource that includes:

  • Sample letter to patients
  • Guidance on pre-appointment screening
  • In-office patient registration procedures
  • Reception area preparation strategies
  • Chairside checklist
  • Staff protection strategies
  • Supplies shopping list

Here’s the link to get the toolkit. (They do ask for your email address.)

Ultraviolet LEDs

I’ve been learning more about UV light and it’s applications for dental practices – it’s fascinating stuff! 

From an article: “One major application is in medical situations — the disinfection of personal protective equipment, surfaces, floors, within the HVAC systems, et cetera,” said materials doctoral researcher Christian Zollner, whose work centers on advancing deep ultraviolet light LED technology for sanitation and purification purposes. He added that a small market already exists for UV-C disinfection products in medical contexts.”

There are lots of options out there and I’m not ready to make recommendations yet. If anyone has more info, please let me know. And be a little wary of the wands. If they are effective, it’s only after holding it in place for 10 seconds. At that rate, it’d take ages to disinfect an operatory. 

Independent Contractors/Self-Employed are Eligible for the PPP (with no employees)

If you haven’t applied for the PPP yet, there is still time. Most practice owners I have spoken to recently have applied, but many associates don’t realize that they are eligible. 

On April 24, the Treasury released more comprehensive guidance about how to calculate loan amounts for all borrowers, including independent contractors. See the guidance here.

“Your 2019 IRS Form 1040 Schedule C must be provided to substantiate the applied-for PPP loan amount. You must also provide a 2019 IRS Form 1099-MISC detailing nonemployee compensation received (box 7), invoice, bank statement, or book of record establishing you were self-employed in 2019 and a 2020 invoice, bank statement, or book of record establishing you were in operation on February 15, 2020.”

Smaller lenders remain a better bet for timely application processing. I’ve had good luck with Ready Capital (you can reach out to Dan Bywater at 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

“If you are a business owner, independent contractor, self-employed worker, freelancer, or gig worker and only received a 1099 tax form last year, you are most likely eligible for PUA. You can apply for benefits starting April 28.” Here’s the site:

To be eligible for PUA, you must meet any of the following criteria:

Any criteria related to changes in employment status due to COVID-19

  • You had a definite date to begin work, but the job is no longer available, or you could not reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You are unable to travel to your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your workplace is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You are self-employed or work as an independent contractor (with reportable income, such as a 1099) and you are unemployed, partially employed, or unable to work because COVID-19 has forced you to stop working.

Concluding Thoughts 

I hope everyone is continuing to stay sane. This week we’re back to Yo-Yo Ma and his Songs Of Comfort. From the video: ❤️ For the canceled weddings, separated lovers, new loves found, and loved ones near and far. This is Elgar’s “Salut d’Amour.” #songsofcomfort ❤️

Here’s the link. Enjoy!

Stay safe out there. 

Good health and best wishes to you and your families,

Trevor Kimball, PhD

President, Integrity Practice Sales

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