In 2017 the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF) first began exploring an accreditation program specifically designed to meet the needs of pediatric dentists. Three years later and amid a global health pandemic, accreditation has become an even more important concept. What does accreditation have to do with coronavirus? Simply put, accreditation is a commitment to a culture of patient safety that requires diligence and protects not just the patient receiving care but the staff and entire community. Such a cultural commitment can help wage the wars against this and future pandemics.
When AAPD and AAAASF began collaborating about a pediatric dentistry accreditation program, the primary objective was to ensure the safest possible delivery of anesthesia, patient monitoring, and ability to respond to emergencies for children. The program was intended to differentiate facilities that demonstrate compliance with global standards from those that do not. Recently, additional benefits of accreditation have become salient as a result of the global pandemic.
The last few months have clearly demonstrated that we continue to live in uncertain times. Despite the rise of advanced technologies and next generation medical treatments, the interconnected world remains susceptible to contagion, a timeless enemy.
As it turns out, the battle against viruses such as COVID-19 relies on both modern technology, such as rapidly developed ventilators and experimental vaccines, and long-established practices like conscientious hand hygiene, proper use of protective equipment, and clear communication. A comprehensive infection control program is vital to preventing the transmission and proliferation of viruses like COVID-19. Additionally, emergency preparedness that integrates every facility and critical piece of equipment as part of the national response, is essential to combatting the crisis and reducing the duration of the national emergency.
At a time when many of your practices are likely having limited availability to perform cases, you may be reflecting on your organizations and evaluating your strategic choices. Once this pandemic subsides and life begins to resemble normalcy, consider that accreditation and a commitment to safety and protecting the community from infection have become even more important than they previously were. They are now a moral imperative.
We are witness to unprecedented measures employed on a global scale to combat COVID-19. Approximately 1/3 of the global population is or was very recently under lockdown orders. When people once again leave their homes and elective cases resume, COVID-19 will not have been eradicated, and those people are likely to be very focused on precautions for the foreseeable future. They will want assurances that they, and more importantly their children, are afforded every protection against the transmission of COVID-19 and whatever disease may emerge over time. They will likely be interested in facilities’ aseptic techniques and hygienic practices in ways that patients have not been in the past.
As you return to your normal practices, consider that accreditation is an important endeavor for the original objectives we established, as well as to engender patient confidence in infection control and emergency preparedness for the reasons that have come to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic. AAPD and AAAASF wants this valued accreditation process to be obtainable for you practice and have developed a dental-specific checklist that focuses on the needed conditions. Accreditation will demonstrate your practices significant commitment to safety of your patients and staff.