What is your dental practice disaster plan?

Your dental practice disaster plan isn’t just necessary after a fire.  It can be very useful after you suffer a career endangering illness or a severe injury.  Whether you cannot practice due to a flood, hurricane, tornado, or earthquake; the results are the same.  You will not be able to work for an indeterminate amount of time.  Missing 6 days, 6 weeks, or 6 months of production; the catastrophic effects on an active dental practice are the same.

Having a well planned checklist with vital information is critical.  This is especially important if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate well.  Lying in a hospital bed and relying on lay personnel or family in the event of disaster, is the definition of frustration.  Please take the time to develop a disaster plan. Each plan is customized to an individual practice model , but all have similar characteristics and principles. We have previously discussed the critical need to teach you spouse how your practice runs. TEACH YOUR SPOUSE HOW YOUR DENTAL PRACTICE RUNS  This is an important first step.

The key components to a disaster plan follows and you will need to take some serious time to develop a PLAN that is workable.  Once you have it ready, get input from your peers, family, and staff.  Place it in a secure location and let everyone know its location.  Having your personal attorney involved is an option in drawing up a legally binding document.

For those that are suffering from a severe injury or illness, look to our posting on the ten steps to take in the event of a disabling event. TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY   In any event use the steps below to prepare/react appropriately to a disaster affecting your office facility, staff, or you personally.   Remember, your plan needs to be clear, concise and able to be enforced/put into action if YOU are not there.

  1.   Take a close look at your physical condition. Are you injured? Can you work? Once  you determine your personal safety and status you can make firm action decisions. If you are injured/ill; seek immediate medical attention and concentrate on recovery and rehabilitation.  You need to be your own best friend in these circumstances.
  2.  Check to see if your dental office/facility is functional. Contact repair services if critical repairs on the facility can get it functional in a timely fashion.  Contact your insurance carrier immediately and review your policy.  An effort to review and update your insurance coverage every few years is invaluable at this point.
  3. Secure your Property.  Ensure your practice burglar alarm codes are not compromised.  Make sure all valuable practice documents/electronic files are secured in a fireproof safe and protected from water.  Make sure all computer programs are backed up with duplicate memory files stored in a secure location.   A remote location is advisable.  Consider a quick run through you office with a digital camera, taking photos of the contents of every drawer and room.   This will help with insurance both before and after a disaster.   Make sure copies of all insurance policies, passwords, duplicate keys, and legal documents are secured in safe locations.
  4. Make up a master list of all critical information. This must include billing records, computer passwords, computer access codes, keys to safes/buildings, important mobile phone numbers/e-mails, a list of important suppliers and payment schedules, insurance/disability documents/policies, payroll data/employee information, credit card data, checking and bank account information, along with copies of all licenses and certifications.
  5. ALERT your staff and keep them informed on your status on a regular basis. They may be able to help get your facility back into shape and functional.  You may set up a command post at your home to coordinate your teams actions.  Don’t let rumors influence your staffs actions/decisions; especially if you are injured.  They are well-trained and will support you if they are involved/informed. They especially need to be kept informed on your progress and expected return to work date.  They have families too, and they cannot wait forever without a paycheck.  Your staff keeps value in the practice and will help you with transition and they foster relationships with your patients.
  6. Look at alternate practice locations if your facility is damaged severely.   If you have staff and your records, that is a start.  Hopefully you belong to a mutual aid dental group, they will run your office in your absence or allow you to practice in their offices temporarily.  A legal agreement prepared in advance will take out any guesswork in this arena.  Setting up a practice from scratch is difficult.  Your insurance company and dental suppliers will play prominent roles in your transition. Don’t rule out the option to work independently as an associate while your practice is being rebuilt.
  7. Make a decision now on who will run your practice in your absence. This may be your office manager, spouse, or a dental business partner.  They will have the responsibility to interact with your staff and arrange for patient care if you are incapacitated.  They will also be in charge of rescheduling your patients and arranging for new appointments with you in the future/referral of patients. Everyone must know who this person is, and that they had full authority to make important decisions.   Failure to do this critical step properly will result in your practice being run by committee and eventual doom.
  8. Designate a financial manager. This person will be responsible for collections (accounts receivable) and making deposits/payroll. This may be the same one who is running your practice while you are incapacitated.  This person will also need to continue to submit billing claims and preauthorizations.  Be prepared to meet emergency cash flows, so have someone with the legal authority to access your business bank accounts. Your bank should be informed, and ensure they have a protocol in place to monitor your accounts in your absence.  An independent financial monitor is advisable also.
  9. Designate a person to treat your patients if you are incapacitated. A DETAILED MUTUAL AID AGREEMENT is critical to the success of this step .DENTAL MUTUAL-AID AGREEMENTS
  10. Make a decision on how to inform your patients, and exactly what you are going to tell them.  Everyone knows someone who has encountered a personal disaster, either with their health or because of an accident.  Your patients will be surprisingly supportive and stay loyal, but not indefinitely.  You have the option of using social media or your website, or just call them.  Beware of giving out too much or too little information. Keep to the facts and let there be little room for speculation.  Your anticipated return to work date and location should be prominently noted as well as your personal along term prognosis if you are sick.   A PRACTICE CONTINUITY PLAN  may be a component of your disaster plan and they will mirror each other.Activate your Emergency Practice Continuity Plan








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