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    What you need to know about infection control in a digital world

    When it comes to infection control in your practice, physical health and wellness shouldn’t be the only focus.

    In the years I’ve been in dentistry, we’ve seen phenomenal changes in infection control, both in hardware, delivery, materials, techniques and practically anything else that comes  into contact with the patient’s body.

    As strange as it may seem to many of you reading this, there are a good number of doctors currently practicing who can remember providing treatment without wearing gloves.

    The knowledge base that scientists and government organizations had should have been much more concerned about infection control and cross contamination in the late ‘70s and early '80s. Unfortunately, it took the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic to bring the focus of the CDC and OSHA to bear on both patient and employee safety. While there had been limited attempts to decrease possibilities of cross-contamination before, a serious threat created an incredible focus of resources on the problems.

    Looking back on the idea of Universal Precautions with the hindsight of 30 years makes the practice obvious. However, at the time there was actually pushback from some individuals who thought loss of tactile sensation by using gloves would usher in a wave of subpar dentistry. Of course, those concerns seem almost silly now, but I can assure you, at the time those concerns were heard frequently.

    More from Dr. Flucke: Technology may seem scary — but better restults are worth it

    Refocusing our concerns

    As the Technology Evangelist, I’m now attempting to turn the profession’s eyes, ears and concerns in the direction of a different type of infection control. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) began discussing the costs of healthcare as a percentage of GNP. The government was anticipating that by the year 2030, healthcare could potentially be 30 percent of the U.S. GNP. The concern? That any country spending that much on the health of its citizens can’t compete in the global economy.

    That’s the reason there has been such a focus on the electronic health record (EHR) and other ways to increase the efficiency of healthcare delivery. The hope is that by increasing efficiency, costs can be decreased.

    However, with the focus on using technology to increase efficiency, very few have stopped to consider the potential problems of digital security, or as I like to refer to it, “Digital Infection Control Engineering (DICE).”

    Related reading: The terrifying threat ransomware poses to your dental practice

    You can’t get there from here

    A brief history lesson is in order to put things in perspective. As the world became connected through the internet, organized crime saw huge potential profits through the use of spam email. There were many scams used, but the one that generated the most profits (and hence became the most popular with criminals) was the “online pharmacy.”

    The fall of the Soviet Union left things highly unregulated as well as unmonitored. Many criminal enterprises sprung up in this “Wild West” environment driven by the desire for huge amounts of untaxed income. 

    They created tsunamis of spam that advertised “Canadian” pharmacies that sold medications below the prices available in America. Unknowing U.S. citizens, many of them senior citizens looking to save money on their prescriptions, ordered. They thought they were dealing with legitimate pharmacies, but instead, the drugs were manufactured in areas with little or no quality control. Russian criminals made obscene profits while patients were paying for medications that were not always 100 percent of what they were expecting.

     

    Next: The Dawn of the Dead

    Dr. John Flucke
    Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and ...

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