Compliance and risk management in your dental practice should be of the utmost importance. We have a responsibility to our patients to maintain their health and safety. Though it can often be overlooked, it plays a crucial role in your practice. Your brand becomes worthless if you don’t have a standard of excellence in place. Linda Harvey is joining me today on Talking with the Toothcop to talk about all things dental compliance.
Linda is equally as passionate as I am about compliance. She’s been in the industry for over 20 years, starting her career as a dental hygienist. After finishing her master’s degree, she worked in medicine and gained risk management experience. She founded the Linda Harvey group as a resource for both medical and dental compliance. In 2014, she founded the Institute for Dental Compliance and Risk Management. Though technically a competitor in the space, Linda is also a colleague and a friend and I highly value her insight in the field.
Outline of This Episode
- [0:40] Linda Harvey’s background in the industry
- [4:45] Reliability and the era of responsibility in compliance
- [10:10] Maintaining quality standards
- [17:10] Instrument processing and monitoring equipment
- [20:10] Monitor your equipment!
- [26:00] Why it’s important to not make assumptions
- [30:50] Dental water line cleaning
- [39:50] Sterilization technician as a future job?
- [41:00] How to connect with Linda
Entering an era of responsibility
Years ago, the biggest issue facing dentistry was controlling the incidences of fraud. Now, with the new technology becoming available in the space, we are entering a time when we must face infection control head-on. The technology we have that allows for more accurate testing and accurate cleaning of tools places the responsibility for our patient’s health squarely on our shoulders.
I strive to make those resources available to you as well as consistently inform you of changes and strides being made in the industry. I hope that you embrace becoming as big of a nerd about compliance as I am! The Institute for Dental Compliance and Risk Management provides education and training for those looking to expand their skills—I recommend checking them out!
The standard of care should be your baseline
Every practice has a brand and an image to uphold. Your community has a perception about you and it is your responsibility to go above and beyond that standard. Does your practice boast the best and latest technology? Do you offer exceptional care? Is your staff up-to-date with the latest training and certifications?
My greatest pet peeve is dental websites that tout they “Are compliant with all OSHA and CDC recommendations and requirements”. Of course, you are, because your practice wouldn’t be open if you weren’t! I want to know that your standards go above and beyond what’s expected because as a patient, that’s what I deserve. As a practice, you should follow the most stringent requirements for safety—not the baseline.
Do not make assumptions
Linda and I talk about multiple examples of instances where a dental practice wasn’t necessarily being non-compliant but they were allowing things to slip through the cracks. One practice had ordered Peel Packs from 4 different vendors and didn’t know how long they’d had any of them. So how do they know if they’ve expired? Compliance is in the details—so we encourage practices to keep those things in mind.
Linda was working with another practice that had a small metal trash can under the table in their surgery center. She noticed what appeared to be rust spots on the exterior of the can. So she put on some gloves, used a little elbow grease, and scrubbed off the spots. It was exactly as she had hypothesized. The trash can didn’t have rust spots—it was covered in blood. It’s a good reminder to focus on keeping your practice spotless and don’t make assumptions.
The future of infection control in dentistry
Most of the sterilization processes in a dental office are delegated to a dental assistant. In most cases, these employees are also juggling patient responsibilities and administrative tasks. As of right now, I’m unaware of a practice that has someone on staff whose sole job is infection control. Linda hypothesizes that the future of dentistry includes some sort of sterilization technician.
With the dangers of biofilms in water lines and untreatable infections running cropping up, sterilization of all tools and equipment should be prioritized. A dental infection control certification could be required down the road and would be a great leap towards better client care. We don’t want to continue seeing reports in the media of people falling ill because of neglect on our part. Caring for our patients and their well-being is why compliance and risk management is necessary.
Listen to the whole episode to hear my conversation with Linda as we cover some great tools and resources!