Dental staff are among the most vulnerable professions for COVID-19 infection risk. In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that healthcare systems prioritize urgent visits and delay elective care to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings.
According to the April 1, 2020 edition of ADA News ("HPI poll examines impact of COVID-19 on dental practices"), by early April, 95% of dental practices were fully shuttered—or open only for emergency care.
A COVID-19 pandemic does not mean your teeth go on a vacation from needing cleanings, fillings, or root canals. Eventually, dental-office staff and patients need to go back to supporting their communities with peace of mind.
In order to enhance safety and confidence, the Georgia Academy of General Dentistry (GAGD) has partnered with MedCreds to more safely bring its members and their communities together. By promoting FDA-approved COVID-19 tests and using MedCreds’ verifiable credentialing for those tests, dentists, staff, and patients can now verify one another’s COVID-19-test-result status before any dental procedures.
Through COVID-19 testing and using MedCreds’ privacy-preserving COVID-19 test result credentials — which are owned and controlled exclusively by the patient—dentists can better protect staff and patients from COVID-19 infection risk.
ESSENTIAL TO THE PUBLIC’S HEALTH
In an April 17, 2020 letter written by American Dental Association (ADA) President Chad P. Gehani and Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, dentistry was labeled “essential to the public’s health”.
“Enabling dentists to test patients prior to dental treatment will help lower the ‘very high exposure risk’ of dental personnel in contracting COVID-19 when treating infected but asymptomatic patients,” wrote Gehani and O’Loughlin in the HHS letter.
O'Loughlin added that testing patients prior to dental treatment would add a layer of safety for both dental personnel and the patients they treat.
DENTAL STAFF TEAM SAFETY
Dentists, dental assistants, dental hygienists, and office staff are among the most at-risk medical professions in this pandemic.
By strictly following ADA and CDC guidelines, and incorporating MedCreds’ verifiable COVID-19 test results credentials into safety protocols, dentists make a visible commitment to the safety of patients, staff, and their families.
At its core, MedCreds offers a digital verifiable credential that is a simple, private, and trusted way for a person to hold—and verify to others—their medical test results.
Built on blockchain and cryptography technology and accepted as an open-source global technology standard, MedCreds’ verifiable credentials allow people to verify and share their health status from a smartphone or personal computer, while fully controlling who is able to access their health status information.
By using blockchain-supported verifiable credentials, dental patients can prove their COVID-19 and other health test result status without also sharing unnecessary personal information. This protects personal privacy, and empowers individuals to securely share personal health information.
At the same time, dental practices have greater confidence that staff and patients are meeting best-practice requirements for COVID-19 safety.
THE ‘TRIANGLE OF TRUST’
Verifiable credentials facilitate interactions using a pattern called the "Triangle of Trust"
Issuers (e.g. a certified lab or doctor) issue digital credentials to a patient.
Holders (that would be you) receive a digital credential from an Issuer. This credential is stored in a “digital wallet” (a mobile app) which is accessible from a phone or computer.The holder can then share their COVID-19 test result status.
Verifiers (e.g. a dental receptionist) are those who may request a patient’s COVID-19 test result by sharing a web-link or QR code that prompts a patient for their consent to share their test result status.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT MEDCREDS
Any dentist office can simply and quickly have a MedCreds account created. After that, dentist-office staff can invite all patients and staff to create their free accounts at MedCreds.com by sending to them an email or SMS. The test result credentials can be easily and securely issued via the MedCreds web-portal platform.
When a patient arrives at a dentist office, the receptionist will request that they share their COVID-19 test result (and/or other type of test such as body temperature) by scanning a QR code, or responding to an email or text message. The credential verification proof will show the required information, such as COVID-19 test date, who administered the test, and the test result. But, that verification proof will only be shared after the credential holder (the patient) reviews and approves the sharing of their credential information.
In addition, your patient can also share this status at other locations (e.g. schools, office buildings, airplanes), or any place/situation that requires verifying their COVID-19 test result.
MedCreds enables your patients and staff at your dental office to confirm that each others’ COVID-19 test results were issued by an authorized medical authority.
When a patient schedules a dental appointment, there are important steps that should be taken before issuing a MedCreds “digital credential.”
THE MEDCREDS PATIENT PROCESS
Step #1: A patient remotely asks a dentist to order an FDA-approved COVID-19 test from their local lab.
Step #2: The dentist chooses a lab where the test will be performed.
Step #3: The dentist receives and reviews the test result, and—using the MedCreds’ platform—issues to the patient their personal, verifiable test-result credential.
Step #4: The patient now owns and controls the digital COVID-19 test result credential, and can share their result using a scannable QR code.
Step #5: Upon arriving at the dentist office, a patient scans the QR code prepared by the office staff, and the credential verification is instantly received, proving the legitimacy of their test result. This can also create an anonymous “paper trail” of office visitors’ health test results status, if desired by the dental practice manager.
MEDCREDS RECOMMENDED TIMETABLE
Due to the current challenges and limited availability of testing in some locations, it is advisable for dentists and their patients to follow a schedule such as the one below:
3 Weeks Before A Dental Appointment - Schedule an appointment with a doctor to get a referral for a COVID-19 test,
2 Weeks Before A Dental Appointment - Have a telemedicine visit with a doctor to have a health screening. The patient will be referred to a COVID-19 test at a convenient location,
[NOTE: The 2 items above may be accelerated for short-notice needs]
1-4 Days Before Your Dental Appointment - Visit a testing site to have a test administered using an approved COVID-19 test,
1 Day Before Your Dental Appointment - The patient receives a medical-professional-issued COVID-19 test-result credential from MedCreds.
Day of Patient’s Dental Appointment - Prior to arriving at the dental office, the patient shares with the office a verification proof of their COVID-19 test result via the MedCreds app. The dental office will then have a cryptographically verifiable record of COVID-19 test results issued by an authorized medical provider.
This process provides assurance that all dentist-office visitors have a suitable COVID-19 test result, prior to visiting, that has been issued by an authorized medical professional.
By following this procedure, patients and their dental-care team are assured that participants have made extensive efforts to create a safe environment for everybody, including having cryptographically verifiable records documenting the process.
MEDCREDS PROVIDES AN ADDITIONAL SAFEGUARD
According to a May 29, 2020 ADA press release ("CDC Guidance for Dental Settings Echoes ADA Guidance"), the CDC's Guidance for Dental Settings provides detailed patient management and facility consideration information for before, during, and after dental appointments.
This is in close alignment with the ADA’s Return to Work Interim Guidance Toolkit.
CDC and ADA recommendations include:
- Request that dental staff call patients prior to the scheduled appointment to ask questions about their current health status.
Advise patients to wear a face covering when entering the dental practice.
- Limit the number of people who accompany a patient to the appointment. If possible, the patient should make the visit alone.
- Assess all patients upon arrival; temperature checks may be completed.
- Remove items in office waiting rooms such as toys or reading material to limit potential transmission through high touch surfaces.
- Encourage social distancing practices by minimizing the number of patients in the waiting room by spacing appointments thoughtfully and perhaps by asking patients to wait in their car until the dental staff is ready to treat the patient.
- Advise dental staff members to wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) as appropriate, such as surgical masks or N95 masks, full face shields or goggles with side shields to ensure an environment that is as safe and healthy as possible for patients and the dental team.
- Place hand sanitizer generously around the office for use, and ensure surfaces are cleaned regularly.
Headquartered in Pacifica, CA, MedCreds enables anyone that has a COVID-19 test result to hold a digital verifiable credential that can instantly and privately prove the results of their COVID-19 test, using only their mobile phone or personal computers