Amid a national effort aimed at social distancing, one orthodontist went out of his way to make sure patients still received treatment.
By Lori Sichtermann
On Monday, March 16,, 2020, Aaron Gilman, DDS, of Dental Associates of Connecticut made the decision: Both of his offices would close early—and remain closed—for potentially 2 weeks, possibly longer. The executive decision was made in response to safety precautions regarding the nationwide—and global—spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
The offices planned to close at 2 pm that afternoon, 6 hours sooner than scheduled. While preparing to close both the Newton and New Milford, Conn, offices, Gilman and his staff worked to accommodate the schedules for that day the best they could.
“Patients started to cancel so we were trying to move others up before we closed,” Gilman explains. “That’s when our treatment coordinator and I recognized that a few patients were supposed to get additional aligners that day. Thankfully, the UPS shipment had just arrived at the time we decided to close.”
Gilman asked his assistants to go through the newly delivered shipment of aligners, identify the recipients, bag them up, and place them in the hallway leading out to the parking lot. “I told them I would figure it out later. Somehow I’d get these aligners to the patients.”
Gilman’s solution: Curbside pickup.
Even though the office was officially closed, Gilman reached out to nearly 20 patients who were supposed to receive their new aligners. On Wednesday, March 18, Gilman parked his car outside his office and handed out the aligners to each designated patient between 10 am and noon.
While the curbside pickup was a success, there soon became another issue with regard to making sure patients received their orthodontic equipment. “We had patients that we knew their aligners were on the way, but because our office was officially closed, we weren’t able to receive UPS deliveries on Tuesday or Wednesday,” Gilman explains.
“I spoke to a manager at UPS that re-directed the delivery route to my house. My home is not far from the office, and since I knew the driver, he helped to make the change in the delivery scheduling.”
Soon, Gilman’s garage was full of UPS boxes containing patient aligners.
Working alone from home, Gilman went through each box, accessed his office records remotely, and checked to see if the patient could safely resume treatment with the new device.
A Change in Plans
As concerns regarding COVID-19 increased, Gilman chose to put an end to curbside pickup. “I didn’t want to draw too much attention from the town,” he says. “Instead, I wanted to adhere to the recommendations that were put in place of staying home and staying safe.”
With a garage full of aligners and patients still in need, Gilman took to the streets. “It’s no longer a drive-through pick-up, it’s a home delivery,” he notes.
Since Thursday, March 19, Gilman has been hand-delivering aligners to patients at their homes. Leaving aligners in mailboxes, he’s been focused on “simple” cases that were expecting to have upcoming appointments.
“When we get back into the office, there is going to be an element of disorganization. It’s unavoidable,” he explains. “If I can get patients what they need now, it won’t be a deluge of cases on that first day back, whenever that day is.”
While Gilman is making house calls to patients at the Newton office, he has a staff member helping out 20 miles away at the New Milford office. “It’s a mixed-use building, and our associate lives in an apartment several floors up from the office,” Gilman says. “She and I have worked out a system where I separate the cases in reusable bags and she places them in the common lobby of the building for patients to pick up. The caveat is that we require patients to pick them up one at a time to respect social distancing.”
Meanwhile, Gilman says he’s still receiving UPS packages at his home, and will continue to do what he can to accommodate those in need. He even went as far as to Facetime with a patient regarding a concern about a loose tooth.
“It’s difficult to have a patient put a phone up to their teeth to take a look, since there’s nothing like an in-person reading,” Gilman explains. “But I love my patients. I love what I do, and I want to help anyway I can to minimize the number of patients inconvenienced by this unfortunate virus.” OP
Lori Sichtermann is a freelance writer for Orthodontic Products.