After performing compliance inspections at several hundred dental practices around the country, I found trends quickly became evident. (Interestingly, the ebb and flow of compliance violations and neglect of best practices varied from state to state and practice to practice.)
Here are three tips addressing problem areas I’ve noted lately.
Make sure your staff knows where the bathroom key(s) is.
“Where is your bathroom key?” seems like an innocuous (albeit odd) question. Over three-quarters of practices I inspected don’t have a clue where their key is located. But it’s important your staff knows the answer.
This scenario illustrates why.
Patient Smith is waiting in the reception area with her elderly father. Her father excuses himself and heads to the patient restroom. Fifteen minutes pass, and Patient Smith grows alarmed when she knocks on the restroom door and her father doesn’t respond; because he has heart disease. The door is locked, and it appears the practice has a medical emergency on the other side of it. If the staff can’t locate the key immediately, someone will have to break down the door.
Test autoclaves for spores at least weekly.
The great majority of practices know to test their autoclaves. Not all are aware the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you should be testing them at least weekly. I’ve been in several offices the past few months that skipped autoclave testing for two or three weeks—multiple times.
This creates two major liabilities for a practice.
Lack of weekly testing puts the dentist’s license at risk, should an investigator with the State dental board show up at the office.
The other is the practice will have a liability “tail,” because if a patient claims he acquired an infection from a procedure performed during a period when a spore test was missed, the practice will immediately be on the defensive because it didn’t follow CDC recommendations.
Date sterilization pouches.
If your latest spore test result is “failed,” what should you do? Retest, certainly. But your office must also re-sterilize instruments that haven’t been used yet, and were sterilized during the time testing occurred.
How will the staff know which instruments were sterilized during that time period? Sterilization pouches should be dated with the sterilization date for this exact scenario.
In the last six months, my team of compliance advisors and I observed that less than 10% of practices we inspected are doing this critical task.