Lighting a path to infection control best practices

August 5, 2019

How the Hu-Friedy GreenLight Dental Compliance Center™ can become a vital resource in dental practices’ infection control efforts.

Public relations is one of the many aspects to running a successful dental practice, and finding ways to get your office, staff and even patients into the news can be a great practice builder…unless you find yourself making the wrong type of headlines.

This negative coverage could center around a case gone awry, an employee’s personal misdeed, or quite often, a breach of infection control procedures. These breaches involve the potential of dangerous illnesses being spread to patients and staff, and they can cause major harm to a practice’s reputation. They’re also the easiest negative stories to avoid as long as a practice stays on top of infection control requirements, including proper cleaning and sterilization procedures, regular education and required documentation. Of course, keeping up with all that is a challenge unto itself.

Trending: 10 questions to test your understanding of infection control requirements

“Compliance is one of those things that, it’s essential but, unfortunately, if you don’t have a problem, sometimes it’s easy to ignore,” says Dr. Christian Willig of Orange Door Dental Group in northern Indiana. “I have seen some of the news, some of the stories about infection control problems or other compliance issues that were brought to light, whether it be by a disgruntled employee or a patient.”               

Staying up to date

Of course, keeping up with the requirements and properly cleaning every part of a dental practice is a major challenge, even if the requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA don’t change with great regularity, says Jessica Wilson, MPH, who works as a global business development manager for Hu-Friedy where she specializes in infection control. Performing the proper cleaning, sterilization and maintenance is one thing, but Wilson notes that just understanding the requirements as they’re meant to apply to your specific practice is a challenge for many practices.

“I think what we see is there is a lack of compliance if you were to go in, in real time, and a lot of that is a lack of proper education and information around what is correct compliance,” she says. “I think when it comes down to real practice, there’s just a lot of confusion on what does this mean in my practice? And is this an exception? Do I have to do this? Is this a requirement?”

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Wilson says it’s important for practices to understand CDC guidelines should be considered a minimum standard of care, and those requirements should be just the starting point of a solid infection control policy for a practice. While every practice is required to have a designated infection control coordinator to take ownership of the policies and practices, everyone in the practice needs to know his or her responsibilities and should be aware patients will notice everything you do while providing their dental care.

“People are just more educated on infection control measures,” Wilson says. “You have people that, they notice, and maybe they’ll say something, and you have plenty of people that will notice things like whether or not hands were washed.”

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Guiding light

To help practices make sense of the requirements and keep things up to date and properly documented, Hu-Friedy created the GreenLight Dental Compliance Center™. This online portal was designed to serve as a single place for practices to find answers to every aspect of infection control that might be causing confusion.

The GreenLight platform includes information about which regulations apply to a specific practice, how to properly perform the outlined infection control procedures, what training is required and more, Wilson says. It also provides a place where practices can ask questions to infection control experts, create and store the practice’s infection control compliance plan, document required actions and even receive required infection control continuing education.

“We produced probably the definitive guide on all the state regulations and CDC protocols,” says Hu-Friedy Chief Marketing Officer Patrick Bernardi. “We worked hard at codifying all those regulations so the clinicians wouldn’t have to. Their passion revolves around clinical-grade outcomes. Maybe their passion isn’t residing in knowing exactly what protocol changed, or what state regulation changed. That’s hard work. What we’ve figured is to take that off the plate of the clinician, and the doctors and the staff, and let us do the research.”

Related reading: 3 pieces of infection control equipment you're using improperly

This is exactly how the service is working for Dr. Willig and his practice. They want to be sure they do everything they’re supposed to and provide the optimal patient care they can, and GreenLight has become a valued resource for information both on the regulations and on the practice’s specific compliance. His practice uses GreenLight to make sure the clinicians are up to date on the critical aspects to their infection control efforts.

“There’s a lot to worry about. Compliance issues sometimes take a backseat,” he says. “Just having one place we can go to means we’ve got a tabulation of, we do this today, this next month and this next month. Things get missed or forgotten or not updated and GreenLight is going to keep us on track.”

While it’s not the only compliance program available, Wilson says GreenLight stands out because it’s comprehensive, customizable and easy for practices to take advantage of. Whether a practice already has a written infection control plan or needs to create one, setting things up in GreenLight only takes about an hour. This initial written protocol is the center of any practice’s efforts, and on GreenLight, it’s an easily accessible and easily updated digital asset.

Beyond the initial steps of creating and storing a plan, GreenLight really provides value to practices with the education and answers it offers, Wilson says. The service includes training modules and videos and offers detailed information on every required infection control action. Wilson says this is critical to a successful infection control effort because checking a box to say something was completed without understanding if it actually was properly completed doesn’t help a practice or its patients.

Infection control product information is another useful aspect to the GreenLight platform. The site can store documentation and instructions for infection control materials and products to make it easier for practices to use them properly. Of course, the first step is actually reading these instructions, and Wilson says this is a step that should never be skipped, even if you’ve used something similar and you think you know the proper way to use something new in your practice.

Related: 6 scary consequences of not following good infection control practices

Teamwork is important

These resources are the types of things in GreenLight that are useful for the entire team at a dental practice. The infection control coordinator might be the owner of the protocols and documentation steps, but everyone can use easy access to answers about their specific infection control tasks.

“I’ve coined it as a team sport, it really is, because it involves and includes and affects every single person in that practice, including the patient,” Wilson says. “With GreenLight, the infection control coordinator will be the one to make sure things are set up properly, and they’re going to roll it out just like any other program, but they’re kind of the drivers of the team. They’re the captains.”

The patients are the focus of any practice, and for Dr. Willig, they’re also a focus when it comes to infection control efforts. One of the reasons his practice began using GreenLight is to be sure he not only meets all the requirements for a properly cleaned practice and properly sanitized tools, but also operates in a place where patients feel safe and comfortable. He knows they’re smart and going to notice what he and his team do.

When a practice is run the right way, patients will notice that too.
Wilson agrees and feels every practice should be prepared to not only meet infection control requirements but to answer patients who have questions about what’s necessary and how it’s being done. Whether doing it on your own, using GreenLight, or working with another service to help a practice create and keep up with a plan, the important thing is to engage in infection control efforts as a team.

“There are a ton of different resources available for dental clinicians and practices,” she says. “My message would be don’t wait. Find a program that works for you. And if you’re interested in GreenLight, then we’d love to share it with you and see if it can help you."

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