Charting a course for infection prevention and safety

May 24, 2013
How osap plans to advance dental safety and create change in the world

How osap plans to advance dental safety and create change in the world

By lauren burns, Associate editor

On March 28, 2013, a Tulsa oral surgeon's office was investigated by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry and Tulsa Health Department, starting a media frenzy and panic among his patients. The investigation was a result of a patient of Dr. W. Scott Harrington testing positive for hepatitis C. Because the patient had no known risk factors, the dentist's office was considered a potential source.

Though it hasn't been proven – only widely speculated – that the patient contracted hepatitis from poor infection control in the office, Dr. Harrington is facing trial because of poor infection control procedures discovered by the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, including incomplete drug logs, a disorganized and unlocked drug cabinet containing expired medication, rusted equipment, and an autoclave that hadn't been certified as effective in at least six years. Around 7,000 Oklahomans were waiting on test results for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C at the time of publication.

It has not been proven that Dr. Harrington's practice is responsible for transmitting diseases to patients. He has, however, been encouraged to hand over his license to practice, and has done so without hesitation. At the time, he told Susan Rogers, the executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Dentistry, that he'd never had a problem in 36 years.

Despite the lack of proof at this point that Dr. Harrington had anything to do with disease transmission through careless infection control procedures, he could have better protected himself, his practice, and his patients through proper infection control protocol.

Fortunately, there is an annual meeting for dentists and dental professionals from all areas that focuses on safety in the dental office. The Organization for Safety, Asepsis & Prevention (OSAP) hosts an annual symposium in June. There were around 300 people registered for last year's meeting – including around 75 dentists. We wonder if their numbers will go up significantly following the Tulsa incident.

I spoke with the executive director of OSAP, as well as four board members: Tim Lorencovitz from Sultan Healthcare, Doug Braendle from SciCan, Leann Keefer from Crosstex, and Mike Smurr from Patterson about this year's meeting, which will be held June 13-15 in San Diego, California.

Lauren Burns: What makes the OSAP Symposium relevant?

Organization for Safety, Asepsis & Prevention: If there was ever a time when it was important for infection control companies and clinicians responsible for infection control to come together, it is now. The Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) is the only organization in the world that is focused solely on infection prevention and safety in dentistry. OSAP has developed a strong core community of experts who assemble every year at an infection control symposium. This year, the conference is scheduled from June 13 through 15 in San Diego. In addition to key updates from leading scientists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), OSAP has pulled together a tight program of late-breaking information on recent infection control breaches, how to deliver a safe, free dental clinic, information on patient safety, dental unit waterlines, regulatory changes from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), compliance technologies, and more – with ample time to really discuss questions to ensure participants have a clear handle on this critical information. OSAP also has integrated educational programming specifically for the sales and marketing teams. It's an incredible program.

LB: What attendance trends have you seen over the last few years? What do you attribute your numbers to?

OSAP: Attendance at the symposium has been stable. We have been working to build the OSAP brand and increase awareness of the organization and all that it can offer. As a result of our branding, we have seen an increase of members and are hoping that to translate to increased attendance in 2013. As I mentioned, the recent infection control breaches certainly make the meeting an even stronger value proposition for all those responsible for infection control. Also worthy of mention is that OSAP and the symposium attract a diverse group of clinicians, educators, researches, and consultants. In addition to the "DDS as decision maker," these other groups bring a different and important level of decision making and product recommendation.

LB: When do you start to promote the symposium, and what methods do you use?

OSAP: We engage in a year-round effort to promote symposium as part of our entire educational offering. We start to increase our promotional efforts in March. We communicate information about our educational programs to our constituency by integrating the message in regular communications, and we also promote through traditional media outlets such as press releases and journal ads. We also use email; our publications (inserts and promotional messages); website banners and content; PR; association outreach; academic, government, and corporate partnerships; and social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

LB: What are some of the best aspects of the symposium?

OSAP: We have a hybrid membership profile. The organization is comprised of clinicians, academics, policy makers, consultants and speakers, and manufacturers and distributors. The organization values each constituency's perspective, as everyone's expertise is important to consider in solving some of these complex challenges with infection control compliance. Accordingly, OSAP ensures that the symposium offers education that manufacturers and distributors value, and it does not schedule exhibit time during the educational programming. All exhibitors, manufacturers, and distributors who attend are encouraged to attend all the educational sessions. Indeed, the program committee has several representatives from the sales and marketing community on it to ensure that the program delivers value to this important constituency. Also built into the program are numerous networking opportunities where people can really get to know each other. Some of the relationships that have started at an OSAP symposium have resulted in joint ventures and even one company selling to another. And just one more thing to mention: because of the structure of the symposium, corporate representatives are able to hear all the different infection control speakers and consultants, which also has resulted in enduring linkages with key opinion leaders.

As a manufacturer, the best aspect of the meeting is the ability to network with infection prevention leaders such as educators, opinion leaders, dental schools, regulators, and others, in addition to our competitors. This is a key reason many continue to participate year after year. The course content is valuable as well. There are always tidbits that they take back to their sales and marketing teams to foster their infection prevention knowledge and help them drive product sales.

The symposium is different than other trade shows, as it connects the sales and marketing teams to the education. OSAP advancement in the field means bringing the science to the practice.

LB: What changes have you seen in in the annual OSAP gathering?

OSAP: We continue to listen to all of our constituencies and innovate based off of their feedback. For example, the organization has expanded its Super Sponsor corporate partnership program to better amplify its mission. Additionally, there has been more concerted attention to providing specific educational programming for corporate members. This year, OSAP will have a program on dental standards to ensure that manufacturers are aware of some of the changes happening. There will be session on more than 50 tools and apps to make the work lives of infection control professionals, including sales representatives, easier. We have a session on product labeling that addresses some of the "conundrums" that the Veterans Administration is having as a result of the labeling, and how companies and the dental/medical community might be able to resolve these issues. Corporate sales and marketing attendees are also encouraged to be a part of a new corporate forum to better communicate the corporate "voice" on some burning issues and contribute their most recently launched products in a new products showcase.

Two other new additions this year include a scholarship program that OSAP is piloting with the University of Louisville and the publication of "Proceedings." The scholarship program is a direct response to an extensive membership survey OSAP recently conducted, which strongly validated one of the organization's strategic goals: to identify, foster and develop the infection control leaders of the future. OSAP will sponsor the participation of a dental and dental hygiene student in the symposium. The students will be responsible for sharing what they learned and who they met at the symposium to their fellow students. Presuming this is successful, OSAP may expand it nationally in 2014.

The other addition is a new "executive briefing" on the symposium proceedings. This valuable new tool will summarize the key educational objectives and pearls in each session. We are excited about this publication, as it will help convey the scope of the education to those who haven't yet attended the symposium and hopefully incent them to attend next year.

The symposium course content continues to change and be relevant to the concerns of dental practitioners today.

LB: What are some changes you are making for the future? What should visitors look forward to from OSAP that they haven't seen before?

OSAP: We cover the most relevant topics concern practitioners. I'd expect to have discussions on recent cases, such as the case regarding the oral surgeon in Tulsa and how we can help prevent instances like that in the future. We also encourage increased knowledge share and networking and provide help on how to be a successful infection control speaker.

LB: How do you keep your exhibitors happy so that they come back again?

OSAP: Manufacturers who exhibit are part of the organization. They participate in the learning sessions and get involved in the organization. Keeping them included and engaged is a critical component. The networking is invaluable. I would not expect to be closing sales at this event. However, an exhibitor can gain valuable contacts with the right people from schools and universities, group practices, and the government – and that can eventually lead to a bigger sale.

We also provide the best infection control speakers in the world for them to interface and network with. Most importantly, we proactively ask for feedback, listen to their needs, and respond.

LB: How do you generate traffic in your exhibit hall?

OSAP: The exhibit tables are positioned outside the main meeting rooms. Attendees can visit the tables in between sessions throughout the symposium. A welcome reception is scheduled on opening night of the symposium in the area of the exhibit tables. There's usually plenty of traffic at the tables, and attendees do make the time to visit throughout the symposium. The exhibit hall is directly outside the classrooms so attendees have an ample opportunity to interface with vendors.

For doctors and staff who wish to have the best infection control training in the shortest amount of time, there is not a better educational opportunity in the world.

LB: More people may be looking at shows like yours to avoid a devastating situation like the one in Tulsa. Can you provide a synopsis of what your meeting aims to do, and how?

OSAP: The intent of the symposium is to provide the most up-to-date information regarding the latest trends in infection prevention through prominent speakers and workshops. It is also intended to continue to foster the OSAP community that brings together academics, clinicians, and the rest of the trade all for a common cause: safe oral health.

We are an educational forum for advancing the current and future practice of dental safety by reinforcing patient safety for dental practices everywhere and connecting the community of leaders to create real change in the field.

Thank you to these contributors: Therese Long, MBA, CAE, executive director; Tim Lorencovitz, MBA, vice chairman of OSAP (Sultan Healthcare); and board members of OSAP, Doug Braendle (SciCan), Leann Keefer, RDH, MSM, (Crosstex), and Mike Smurr (Patterson).