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Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Tag: COVID-19 (Page 1 of 2)

How to talk to patients about returning to your office

As a dentist, you know that regular office visits are essential for your patients’ oral health, but your patients might have questions and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Dental Association, 98% of dental practices are open for business, but less than 50% are seeing the same number of patients as before the pandemic.

The ADA has also found that most people are ready to return to their dentist’s office (although some of them may need assurances that they’ll be safe) even if there are COVID-19 cases locally, and that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ADA are the two most trusted sources of information about whether or not it’s safe to go to the dentist. With all of that in mind, here are some tips on how to get patients back in the office, reassure them of their safety and keep them coming back.

1. Put new safety procedures and practices in place

Reassuring your patients of their safety is an essential first step in encouraging them to return. Dentists’ offices have long been kept meticulously clean to prevent the spread of bloodborne illnesses. The spread of COVID-19, though, has required new practices to address potential infection through saliva droplets. Highlighting these new practices is an excellent opportunity to make your patients feel safer.

For example, these practices may be worth implementing:

  • Have patients wait for their appointments inside their cars rather than inside your waiting room, even if you have the space for them to socially distance.
  • Put up a clear plastic screen between the front desk and the waiting area. This helps to prevent a stray cough or sneeze from spreading saliva droplets when patients are checking in or paying their bill.
  • Install equipment that helps remove germs from the office, such as medical-grade air purifiers.
  • Check patients’ temperature with an infrared thermometer upon their arrival. You’ll want to use a thermometer especially made for use as a wellness device (infrared thermometers that aren’t explicitly made for medical use may be inaccurate when used on the human body.)
  • Have patients do their part, too, such as by performing a peroxide rinse before getting into the chair.

2. Effectively communicate with and listen to your patients

One of the biggest contributors to feelings of fear and uncertainty is a lack of reliable information from a trusted source. When it comes to their oral health, you are your patients’ primary subject matter expert. Explain not just what changes you’re instituting at the office to keep patients safe, but also why you’re making those changes and how they keep patients safe.

It’s important to create opportunities to interact with your patients so that you can keep them informed of the latest changes and persuade them to return when they’re ready. The ADA has found that patients prefer to be communicated with via email, text and phone, in that order.

If you’re using software to communicate with your patients via email or text, let them know:

  • Your office is open for business
  • You’re following new procedures to ensure everyone’s safety
  • You’re available to talk if they have questions or concerns (offering teledentistry appointments is a great way to interact directly with your patients!)

If you’d rather emphasize a human touch, you could have office staff directly call your patients to remind them not to forget check-ups and see if there’s anything your office can do for them.

Also, don’t forget to be an active listener. If you ask your patients their concerns, make sure you indicate that you’re listening attentively and taking their words under consideration.

3. Think outside the box

Finally, when it comes to persuading patients to return and attracting new patients, don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Encourage patients to leave reviews and feedback on social media. A positive review and a description of safety protocols on Yelp or Google can go a long way towards assuring would-be patients that your office is a safe environment.

Similarly, consider updating your practice’s website if you haven’t done so recently. Adding customer testimonials is a good idea, and you can also add photos that highlight changes throughout your office. If you’re feeling especially ambitious, you could also create a video walkthrough of your practice to serve as a virtual tour of the office! Or, add videos that highlight new safety practices and equipment you’ve implemented, such as peroxide rinses or medical-grade air purifiers.

We also suggest updating your current office hours on the Delta Dental Provider Tools site to help your patients access care in your office. Patients often use the Provider Directory when looking for contact information, so making sure that your information is up to date and that it matches the info available in other locations (such as your website or Yelp) can help eliminate confusion. Fortunately, logging in to your profile in our Provider Tools and update your office hours is simple!

The ADA’s Health Policy Institute has also found that nearly three out of four people who visited the dentist in 2019 would be comfortable returning right now. Another 11% would be willing to return to the dentist if they had some kind of assurance that their visit would be safe while the remaining 15% are waiting for a vaccine. That means that if you’re seeing fewer than 85% of the patients you were before the pandemic, you might be able to bring more back to your practice. Follow the steps above, and you might get the extra bump in business you need to make the new normal a little more like the old one.

Return to Care supplemental reimbursement program extended

To help you continue to provide care to your patients during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’re extending the Return to Care supplemental reimbursement program through October 20, 2020.

As a network dentist, you’ll receive a $10 supplemental reimbursement for performing qualifying evaluation or consultation codes. In June, you received notification about this program. We’ve now extended the original end date of September 20 to October 20 to offer you additional support during this difficult time.

Am I eligible?

To receive the Return to Care reimbursement, you must participate in one of the following networks and treat an eligible patient covered by one of these Delta Dental plans:

  • DeltaCare® USA
  • Delta Dental PPO™ and DPO in Texas (see applicable Delta Dental companies below)
  • Delta Dental Premier® (see applicable Delta Dental companies below)
  • Delta Dental Federal (Legion), Medicare Advantage

Applicable Delta Dental companies include Delta Dental of California, Delta Dental Insurance Company, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania, Delta Dental of the District of Columbia, Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc., Delta Dental of West Virginia, Inc. and Delta Dental of New York, Inc.

The Medi-Cal Dental, CDPHP (NY Medicaid) and HSCSN (Washington, D.C. Medicaid) networks aren’t eligible for this reimbursement.

How do I receive the reimbursement?

If you’re a DeltaCare USA dentist with a capitation agreement, simply submit your DeltaCare USA encounter form when you treat a DeltaCare USA enrollee. We’ll add $10 to the encounter fee during processing.

If you’re a dentist in another network, or a DeltaCare USA dentist without a capitation agreement, we’ll reimburse you when you submit a claim for any of these evaluation or consultation codes:

  • D0120
  • D0140
  • D0145
  • D0150
  • D0160
  • D0170
  • D0180
  • D0190
  • D0191
  • D8660
  • D9310
  • D9430

Please submit your usual office fee, not your contracted fee. Charges for sterilization or infection control aren’t billable under Delta Dental plans and can’t be charged to the patient.

Can I use procedure code D1999 to charge a separate fee for personal protective equipment (PPE)?

No. You can’t submit code D1999 to receive reimbursement. Personal protective equipment is considered part of the delivery of care. It’s not separately billable and can’t be charged to the patient.

What if I don’t perform an evaluation or consultation at every visit? Can I receive the reimbursement for other submitted procedure codes?

No. Only the 12 qualifying CDT codes are eligible for the supplemental reimbursement.

Will frequency limitations still apply for evaluation and consultation codes?

Yes. Specific plan benefits and frequency limitations will apply. If a patient exceeds the frequency limitation or has exceeded the plan maximum for one of the qualifying CDT codes, the patient will be responsible for the allowed amount, which will include the temporary supplemental reimbursement.

I still have questions. How do I get more information?

If you’re a DeltaCare USA, PPO or Premier dentist, email your questions to providerconcierge@delta.org. If you participate in Federal Programs (Legion), email FSPS@delta.org.

Processing policy changes in response to COVID-19

To help keep you and your patients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are implementing temporary changes to our processing policy. These changes allow you more options to reduce the spread of infection in your dental practice.

These modifications will be in place until November 30, 2020.

Exceptions for periodontal scaling and root planing (SRP)

Delta Dental’s current policy is that no more than two quadrants of scaling and root planing are benefited on the same date of service in the absence of supporting documentation.

Effective immediately, Delta Dental will consider concerns regarding exposure to COVID-19 as a valid clinical reason to perform more than two quadrants of scaling and root planing on the same date of service.

As always, radiographs and a copy of the patient treatment record (clinical progress notes) are required if more than two quadrants of scaling and root planing are performed on the same date of service.   

Radiographic images for restorative procedures

Radiographic images are required when submitting for crowns, fixed partial dentures and scaling and root planing. Periapical radiographic images depicting the apex are preferable when submitting for crowns and fixed partial dentures.

To avoid the need for additional visits and limit staff and patient exposure, Delta Dental will accept diagnostic panoramic images when submitting for these services.  

Periodontal chart

A periodontal chart is necessary for scaling and root planing and periodontal surgery procedures. Under Delta Dental’s clinical guidelines, a current periodontal chart is one that is taken no more than 12 months prior to the date of service.

To reduce the need for staff exposure and additional appointments, Delta Dental will now accept a periodontal chart that is taken no more than 15 months prior to the date of service.

Upcoming webinars on Provider Tools and Return to Care

Have you already opened up your practice, but you’re seeing fewer patients than before? Want to learn more about the latest tools to help you run your business more easily and more efficiently?

Not only will our webinar series show you all the tips and tricks you need to get the most out of Provider Tools, it will also offer insight into running a reopened practice. Whether you’re a Provider Tools expert or a first-time user, whether reopening has gone more smoothly than you imagined or has been a bumpy ride, we’re here for you.

Attend a Provider Tools and Return to Care webinar to learn:

  • How to use Provider Tools to manage your patients
  • How to communicate with patients about coming back for dental visits
  • How to protect yourself, your staff and your patients against COVID-19
  • And more!

Don’t miss out — register today!

August 13, 11 am PT / 2 pm ET

August 21, noon PT / 3 pm ET

August 25, 9 am PT / noon ET

Dentists seen as indicator of economy’s health

As dentists go, so goes the economy. This according to a recent New York Times article, which describes dentists as “the perfect barometer” for the economy’s health during the coronavirus pandemic.

And the good news is that there’s cause for optimism.

Why dentists? According to some economists, dental practices are an ideal business model: The practices tend to be long lived, their dentists earn consistently high salaries, and the services they provide can’t be found elsewhere. If you need dental care, you need a dentist.

This stability makes dental practices a good indicator of how well — or if — the nation is rebounding from the ongoing pandemic. And so far, the signs are positive.

Initially among the hardest hit industries within the healthcare sector, the dental industry is staging a strong recovery. Almost 90% of dental practices are paying their employees fully as of the week of July 13, according to data from an American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute survey. That’s up from only 11% during the first week of April.

This rebound equates to 250,000 jobs gained — which is 10% of the jobs added to the entire U.S. economy — according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

While this is encouraging, the recovery is not complete. Employment with the industry is still down 30%, with almost 300,000 fewer people employed than were before the pandemic.

Perhaps more telling is patient volume. The Times article reports that patient volumes are currently half of what they were before the pandemic. And, fewer than half of practices report having patient volumes greater than 75% of their typical volume, according to the ADA survey for the week of July 13. So while you and your staff might be ready to return to work, your patients might be a bit more reluctant.

Still, patients are returning. For instance, in mid-April more than 85% of practices reported that their practice volumes were less than 5% of what they usually were. The current figures then, while down from pre-pandemic numbers, are a significant improvement and more importantly, part of a consistent upward trend.

Collections, too, are trending up. While in mid-April more than three-quarters of practices reported their volume of collections at less than 5% of normal, the most recent survey data reveals that more than 80% of practices have at least half of their usual collection volume, and more than half of those practices have more than 75%.

So while there are still significant challenges to overcome, the overall news is good. This data suggests not only a positive outlook for the American economy, but a particularly strong comeback for the dental industry.

Receive Return to Care supplemental reimbursement

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected dental practices across the country. To help you deliver valuable care to your patients, Delta Dental is temporarily offering a $10 supplemental reimbursement for each qualifying evaluation or consultation code, starting June 22, 2020 and ending October 20, 2020.

Am I eligible?

To receive the Return to Care reimbursement, you must participate in one of the following networks and treat an eligible patient covered by one of these Delta Dental plans:

  • DeltaCare® USA
  • Delta Dental PPO™ and DPO in Texas (see applicable Delta Dental companies below)
  • Delta Dental Premier® (see applicable Delta Dental companies below)
  • Delta Dental Federal (Legion), Medicare Advantage

Applicable Delta Dental companies include Delta Dental of California, Delta Dental Insurance Company, Delta Dental of Pennsylvania, Delta Dental of the District of Columbia, Delta Dental of Delaware, Inc., Delta Dental of West Virginia, Inc. and Delta Dental of New York, Inc.

The Medi-Cal Dental, CDPHP (NY Medicaid) and HSCSN (Washington, D.C. Medicaid) networks are not eligible for this reimbursement.

How do I receive the reimbursement?

If you’re a DeltaCare USA dentist with a capitation agreement, simply submit your DeltaCare USA encounter form when you treat a DeltaCare USA enrollee. We’ll add $10 to the encounter fee during processing.

For other dentist networks (including DeltaCare USA dentists without capitation agreements), the reimbursement will be provided when you submit a claim for any of the following evaluation or consultation codes:

  • D0120
  • D0140
  • D0145
  • D0150
  • D0160
  • D0170
  • D0180
  • D0190
  • D0191
  • D8660
  • D9310
  • D9430

Please submit your usual office fee rather than your contracted fee.

Any charge for sterilization or infection control is not billable under any Delta Dental plan and cannot be charged to the patient.

Can I use procedure code D1999 to charge a separate fee for personal protective equipment (PPE)?

No, personal protective equipment is considered part of the delivery of care and not separately billable. Additionally, the patient may not be charged.

You cannot submit code D1999 to receive the temporary supplemental reimbursement.

What if I don’t perform an evaluation or consultation at every visit? Can I receive the reimbursement for other submitted procedure codes?

No. Only these 12 qualifying CDT codes are eligible for the supplemental reimbursement: D0120, D0140, D0145, D0150, D0160, D0170, D0180, D0190, D0191, D8660, D9310 and D9430.

Will frequency limitations still apply for evaluation and consultation codes?

Yes, the specific plan benefits and frequency limitations will apply. If a patient exceeds the frequency limitation or has exceeded the plan maximum for one of the qualifying CDT codes, the patient will be responsible for the allowed amount, which will include the temporary supplemental reimbursement.

I still have questions. How do I get more information?

If you’re a DeltaCare USA, PPO or Premier dentist, email your questions to providerconcierge@delta.org. If you participate in Federal Programs (Legion), email FSPS@delta.org.

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