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Your Practice: Business Issues Resulting from the Coronavirus

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) begins to affect communities in North America, many AAO member practices may be impacted. Possible challenges include temporary shutdowns, exposed employees and purchasing delays due to supply chain problems.

To help you prepare, below are some facts relevant to these issues and recommended resources for more information.

Job #1 for Potential Coronavirus-Related Practice Shutdowns:
Check Your Business Insurance Policies
If the coronavirus severely impacts your community, a variety of circumstances could result. If you and some of your team become ill, or civil authorities require local businesses to close – or if your patients and parents are refraining from going into public spaces – your practice may have to close temporarily.

The financial impact of such a situation will be a key concern for most practices. Many orthodontists’ business insurance policies may include business interruption coverage; however, a close review of your policy to determine the qualifying circumstances is highly recommended.

Some business interruption policies may specifically exclude situations caused by viruses and bacteria. In other cases, coverage may extend to situations in which civil authorities have effectively restricted access to your commercial enterprise by requiring shutdowns, meaning that you may be covered regardless of the reason cited by authorities.

In still other cases, “physical loss” may be the determining requirement. Some insurers have argued that virus-related shutdowns do not meet the physical loss requirement, but a legal consensus on this question has not yet emerged.

According to jonesday.com, “Courts in a number of jurisdictions have determined that contamination and other incidents that render property uninhabitable or otherwise unfit for its intended use constitutes a ‘physical loss’ sufficient to trigger business interruption coverage.”
Read More about Business Interruption Insurance in jonesday.com

Protecting Your Patients, Your Team and Yourself When Your Office is Open
● An AAO Webinar will address coronavirus management.  Infection control and safety expert Jackie Dorst, RDH, BS will present “Coronavirus Management in the Ortho Practice” on March 17 at 10 am CDT and 2 pm CDT and March 24 at 7 pm CDT. (Free to members)

● Employers should be aware of legal concerns when employees may have been exposed to the coronavirus or have tested positive for it. The Epstein, Becker and Green law firm blog reviews the best practices.

● The Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has published, “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic.” Scroll down to “How Organizations Can Protect Their Employees” for discussion of the hierarchy of controls for addressing workplace hazards, and discussion of each type of control.

● The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published, “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus 2019.” The guide includes an overview of how to prepare an infectious disease outbreak response plan and communicate it to your employees.

● The American Dental Association recently published a handout on the coronavirus, based on CDC guidelines, that addresses situations in which patients come to an office with upper respiratory symptoms. The ADA subsequently published an in-depth clinical guide, also based on CDC recommendations, encouraging isolation of patients with coronavirus-like symptoms.

Purchasing Reminder: It May Become Hard to Get Needed Items
Securing gloves and masks may already be a challenge for some orthodontic practices. Beyond those items, manufacturing slowdowns in Asia could cause supply chain issues for a range of products that you use in your practice.

If your practice has not done a recent inventory review, checking on supplies immediately and stocking up on key supplies is recommended. Calls to key suppliers to check into what they anticipate in terms of product availability during the spring may also be worthwhile.

Finally, Some Possible Good News about the Coronavirus
In a Slate column, Dr. Jeremy Samuel Faust, emergency physician and health policy/public health faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, examines potential flaws in some of the data reporting on mortality rates.