Resuming Patient Care During COVID

Our healthcare system has changed dramatically over the last 8 – 10 weeks. This week has seen the country hit the sobering milestone we’d hoped to prevent – over 100,000 dead from the virus. That impact weighs heavily on the families and friends of lost ones, as well as those who continue to see the threat this pandemic continues to present. As most communities have opened back up to personal care needs like hair stylists, barbers, nail shops, massage parlors, restaurants and even major retailers, many of the community at large will be ready to resume patient care including regular physician visits, from primary care to specialist checkups.

Most practices saw a dramatic reduction in volume during the pandemic. Now that the country is beginning to re-open, providers will need to continue the practices they did during the pandemic. Each practice handled this a little differently. Some had a greeter at the door to take temperature and provide masks and gloves even before check-in, others had patients wait in their cars rather than a waiting room to ensure social distancing. Practices were creative at doing what they could to make their patients feel safe.

The coming weeks will show hardship for certain. There are patients that may refuse to wear a face mask. Or to have their temperature taken. Each provider should reach out to their legal counsel to ensure they have the proper guidance on how to handle common situations that may arise. Have an in-house training program for all employees – from front desk staff to providers, on the best way for your practice to handle these situations.

If your practice is going to require all patients wear face masks, add that to the confirmation call voice mail message or texts you send your patients. This could help prevent issues at the time of the appointment.

Your schedule may require more staggering to prevent the number of people in the waiting room at one or even being taken back for triage and to their exam room. This varies by state, so be certain you have researched your state’s guidelines for re-opening. Also, if your state has not lifted the stay home orders for those medically fragile, follow your state’s guidance unless it is an emergency.

It may be helpful as well to send an e-mail or postcard (depending on your patient base) on what new measures your practice is taking to keep them safe. That extra little step may help patients on the fence about making an appointment pick up the phone and make the call.

COVID is here and not going away. While some may try to resume life as normal, you have many that are still wary about venturing out for anything less than essential needs or emergencies. Trying to find that balance is how your practice can begin to adjust to the new normal that will be necessary for the coming months.

Donna White

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