David: This is David Schwab. And today I’m really excited because my guest is Linda Harvey, a nationally recognized healthcare risk management and compliance expert who helps dentists and teams understand and navigate regulatory requirements. She is the founder and president of the Dental Compliance Institute, as well as a compliance consulting firm. Her career in dentistry began as a dental hygienist. Since that time, she has worked in corporate risk management and has been recognized as a distinguished fellow in the American society of Healthcare Risk Management. In addition, she was honored to consult with the ADA on three separate occasions regarding compliance.
Linda, welcome to the program.
Linda: Thank you, David. It’s a pleasure to be here.
David: First of all, how did COVID impact your business last year?
Linda: Well, David to say that it was insane would be an understatement with the constant flow of new information that we were trying to learn. As a consultant and coach for doctors and teams around the country, we were trying to stay one step ahead of all the new, late-breaking information. So we ended up coaching doctors remotely across the country, as well as our local clients. And we participated in a number of different social media events and interviews. So, we can help bring that voice of reason and help everyone be calm and understand the requirements so they could sort of settle into those massive changes that we all had to make so quickly.
David: Yes, I can imagine. The regulatory work that you do is so important, but once COVID hit, it must have just added a tremendous number of new questions and people needing help.
Linda: Absolutely. There were questions from everywhere. We began questioning how or why we’d always done something in the past. You know, we weren’t sure if we were handling the possibility of transmission in our practices appropriately and how much should we do and how much was overkill and what was actually regulatory required and what was, you know, something that we were doing to make us feel good and it really wasn’t effective at all. So we were really working hard to get accurate information out.
David: Now that more people are getting vaccinated, do you see things settling down this year?
Linda: David, I have to tell you the short answer is absolutely no. We now are in a better position because we have a year’s worth of understanding of COVID and variants in order to help protect different populations, patients, as well as workers. The regulatory changes are going to keep coming. For example, OSHA launched a new national emphasis program about a month ago, and this was related to worker safety in all industries and their protection against COVID-19. So when this launched, when you read the background on this information, this actually came from the presidential executive order back in January, trying to make sure that all workers in all industries were safe, have protection against COVID-19. So, we’re going to see some inspections being carried out by OSHA, both onsite and remote. And those inspections will include dentistry. They’re going to be looking first at those industries and organizations that had high rates of employees contracting COVID at work, because OSHA is concerned about on-the -job illnesses and injuries. And we know that dentistry was placed in that high-risk category because of the aerosols that are produced. OSHA we’ll also offer training and outreach. So I highly recommend that any of our listeners, if they see or hear about any OSHA outreach training in their area, please be sure to attend it.
David: Linda, do you foresee any other compliance issues on the horizon?
Linda: Yes, we have a lot of things going on. There are several other compliance changes on the horizon. In addition to OSHA’s national emphasis program that was launched last month, that’s going to include both remote and onsite inspections, OSHA will be offering training and outreach programs. I highly recommend that you keep your eyes open for those trainings so that our listeners can actually hear and meet with representatives of OSHA firsthand. In addition, we’re seeing a couple of changes on the HIPAA side of the house, so to speak. In January, the HIPAA Safe Harbor bill passed. And now there are also proposed changes to the privacy role, and I’ve been trying to immerse myself in that. Absolutely, a lot of changes going to happen. For example, the privacy rule has always been about patients’ rights to access their information and how we have to protect their information within our practices, but this new section, that’s going to be global.
It’s going to be passed. I mean, it is still under that rulemaking process, but the recommended rules and proposal changes are going to significantly modify the provision of the individual’s rights to access their protected health information. And one of these big things that I’m struggling with here now, they’ve been trying to understand is that in doing so, it’s going to strengthen the patient’s rights to inspect their protected health information, both in person, which is going to allow the patients to take notes or use other personal resources to view and capture images of their PHI–protected health information. This is going to be an eye-opener when we think about how this can impact the practice. I’m curious to follow this more closely during the public comment period for about another month and see what kind of feedback comes and how that’s going to be interpreted by the regulatory bodies.
David: Linda, I’m sure many doctors feel that this could be just overwhelming, and we don’t want that to happen. So what’s your advice for offices so that they can stay current and prepare for these changes?
Linda: You’re absolutely right, David. This can seem awfully overwhelming, and we need to approach it in that calm level-headed fashion. So, we’ve identified three ways that offices can kind of get their arms around this. First, start off by reading your current policies and procedures, know what you have in place, so you can begin to identify gap where you would need to make changes as these rules get rolled up next.
Second, be sure you’re relying upon qualified experts for advice or assistance. You know, in other words, always question why, but question in a good way, not in a resistance way, but in a way that’s going to open yourself and your team up to learning, you know, are you actually doing the process properly? Is that actually the way you should be releasing records? Is that actually the way you should be cleaning and disinfecting an operatory? Sometimes we add in extra steps and do other things, regardless of what regulation we’re talking about. And before we know it, we’re really not in compliance.
And third, I invite our listeners to join us at the Dental Compliance Institute for that extra compliance edge, or better yet sign up for one of our courses or our Inspection Ready Series. That’s our new IRS, David, and that’s those workshops. And the IRS workshops are where we take a deep dive into one of those particular standards. It’s such a great feeling when a practice can go from being confused or crazed to confident competence.
David: Linda, it’s a brave new world. We always needed you for so many things like HIPAA, but now with all of the new regulations, new laws and everything that the pandemic has caused to come into practices, we need you more now than ever before. Thanks so much for speaking with us today. You’re doing great work in the world.
Linda: Thank you for having me, David. It’s been a pleasure.