DSO Begins Administering COVID-19 Diagnostic & Antibody Tests to Patients at Affiliated Dental Offices

North American Dental Group (NADG) is now administering COVID-19 tests to patients at its affiliated practice in New Castle, Pa. Dentists at the Refresh Dental practice in New Castle are the first in Pennsylvania to administer COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody tests to patients.

Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the DSO was cofounded by Ken Cooper and Dr. Andrew Matta in 2008. It consists of a network of over 230 dental practices in 15 states and 29 regional markets. While COVID-19 tests are only being administered in the New Castle practice, NADG plans to integrate the testing process into all its 230 affiliated dental practices.

The dental group, which says it is ‘pioneering a new culture in dentistry’, was one of the first organizations to jump in to help the dental industry at the beginning of the pandemic by creating COVID-19 Resources for Dental Professionals. Developed by the Dental Advisory Board of the Professional Dental Alliance, these guides and tools are available for free to the entire dental industry. The organization also conducted briefings for other DSO and dental industry leaders in the United States and across the globe to share its perspective on how to operate responsibly in this unprecedented environment – including relevant regulatory/legislative information, employee relations strategies, patient engagement approaches, office operational plans and more.

The Dental Advisory Board (DAB*), led by Dr. Andrew Matta, is NADG’s internal board of dentists charged with guiding clinical activities and responsibilities associated with ensuring best-in-class dental care for patients. This includes establishment and integration of best clinical practices, standards of care, quality supplies selection, doctor training and development, and culture; and a hospital approach to dentistry with a focus on collaboration.

“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. 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.” -Dr. Andrew Matta, Chief Medical Officer at NADG and a practicing dentist

How Will Patients Be Tested?

NADG 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 Dr. 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 the Refresh Dental New Castle practice 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 48-72 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, who has been working with federal and state authorities, health officials and other key constituencies to make testing available to patients across the country. Results will be available in 24-48 hours.

A representative from Integrated Health 21 will inform all patients of their test results. In addition, they 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.

Integrated Health 21 will also inform NADG of the test results. 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. In addition, patients that test positive for having the antibodies, which means they had the virus at some point in the past, will also be able to proceed with their appointments.

As required by law, all diagnostic test results are also 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. 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.” -Liz Sullivan, President, Integrated Health 21.

Dentists Taking on Larger Role in Healthcare

As healthcare providers trained in infectious disease control, dentists are uniquely positioned to offer COVID-19 testing to the public. In May, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order expanding the scope of practice for dentists so that they could assist in the state’s effort to expand COVID-19 testing capacity.

“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 Dr. 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.”

*The DAB executive committee:

  • Dr. Andrew Matta
  • Dr. Sadeer Daood
  • Dr. Alap Choksey
  • Dr. Alex Toub
  • Dr. Frank Nia
  • Dr. Robert Doyle
  • Dr. Ed Eaves
  • Dr. Scott Westermeier
  • Dr. Jerimiah Long
  • Dr. Anthony Corral
  • Dr. Moshood Martins
  • Dr. Farah Kar
  • Dr. Sechin Hampton
  • Dr. Mina Chung
  • Dr. Carerro
  • Dr. Kaye
  • Dr. McGuire

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