North American Dental Group (NADG) is now administering COVID-19 tests to patients at its affiliated practice in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Dentists at Refresh Dental are the first in the state to administer COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody tests to patients.
“Dentists, hygienists, and other dental professionals face an especially high risk of exposure to COVID-19, especially since so many carriers of the virus lack symptoms. By testing patients before treatment, we can better ensure their safety and our teams by minimizing that risk,” said Dr. Andrew Matta, chief medical officer at NADG and a practicing dentist.
“In addition to the health and safety benefits, testing at NADG-supported practices will help Pennsylvania expand testing capacity and gain access to key analytics to better understand the virus and its spread,” said Matta.
The dental services organization (DSO) is partnering with Integrated Health 21, a Pittsburgh-based national provider of coordinated health management programs and services, to administer the COVID-19 tests.
“There’s much more to this process than just administering the tests,” said Matta. “We wanted to ensure our patients have access to physicians, initial therapies, and follow-up services if they test positive and need treatment. Integrated Health 21 provides them with the resources and tools they need to navigate their care.”
Team members at Refresh Dental will contact all patients prior to their appointments to register them for the diagnostic and antibody tests. Patients will be asked to stop by the practice 48 to 72 hours prior to their appointments to be tested, which takes about 15 minutes.
The diagnostic test requires a nasal swab. The antibody test requires a blood draw. Both samples will be processed by LabCorp, which has been working with federal and state authorities, health officials, and other constituencies to make testing available to patients across the country. Results will be available in 24 to 48 hours.
A representative from Integrated Health 21 will inform all patients of their test results. The company also will work with patients whose diagnostic test is positive for COVID-19, which means they are currently infected with the virus, to ensure they receive the medical treatment and care they need, NADG said.
Integrated Health 21 will inform NADG of the test results as well. Appointments for patients who test positive for currently having the virus will be rescheduled for a later date when they are no longer infected.
Patients whose diagnostic test is negative will be able to proceed with their appointment as scheduled. Also, patients who test positive for having the antibodies, which means they had the virus at some point in the past, will be able to proceed with their appointments as well.
As required by law, all diagnostic test results also are reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Integrated Health 21 and NADG have collaborated as medical practitioners, clinical staff, and dental professionals to ensure we are following best practices for this testing process and not only meeting but exceeding all guidelines,” said Liz Sullivan, president of Integrated Health 21.
“We’ve ensured the workflow and process is efficient and effective and trained our teams to deliver the best experience and highest level of care to patients,” said Sullivan.
While COVID-19 tests are only being administered in the New Castle practice, NADG plans to integrate the testing process into all of its 230 affiliated dental practices. In May, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order allowing dental practices to provide COVID-19 testing.
“Dentists are experts in both healthcare and infectious disease. We do much more than just clean teeth and fix broken crowns. Oral health is the gateway to our respiratory and digestive systems and our patient’s overall health,” said Matta.
“The dental setting is an ideal access point for testing COVID-19 and other diagnostic tests, especially since patients often visit their dentist more than their primary care doctor. Dentists already have the expertise and equipment necessary to administer diagnostic tests and routinely communicate with other healthcare providers,” Matta said.