Covid-19 Advice for Medical Practices During Phased Reopening

COVID-19 continues to change the face of healthcare.

Emma Cubellis

COVID-19 continues to change the face of healthcare. So, what can you do to ensure that your practice is ready for our "new normal?" With business in a state of pause, now is the perfect time to begin prepping. Reopening for elective and routine procedures is a multi-step process, but there is a plethora of Covid-19 advice for medical practices that can help the reopening of your office(s) to go as smoothly as possible. Firstly, it is imperative that your practice understand that there will be novel challenges arising before, during, and after.  Communication will be a key factor in overcoming these challenges.

Covid-19 Advice for Medical Practices as It Relates to Referring Physicians, Hospitals, and Patients

Right now, all practices can benefit from proactive communication with their referring physicians and hospitals in order to assess the potential influx of patients post-Covid-19. For example, it is likely that various modalities may see an exponential increase in patient services. Radiology practices will need to be prepared for an increase in screening appointments coupled with the nearly 90% of non-emergent appointments which have been either canceled or postponed.  Your office may need to change your hours of operation, and modify your schedule to accommodate social distancing, and/or increase your workforce in order to meet demand. You can assess whether you will need to enact all or some of these  changes by communicating with patients in the interim.

The benefits of communication with patients are twofold. Not only will you be able to preemptively calculate the number of appointments your practice will be receiving, but you will also be able to gauge apprehension levels.  It is likely that patients will have a level of fear entering into a healthcare setting following the peak of this pandemic. It is thus important that both now and upon reopening you take the necessary measures to assuage these fears.  Right now you can communicate to patients the steps you are taking at this very moment to assure their safety. For example, have you been doing routine cleaning?  Are you prepared with the necessary PPE, both for your staff and your patients? Have you been screening your employees for symptoms of Covid-19 through measures such as daily temperature checks? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you should be communicating that to your patients right now, whether it be via phone call, email, of post.

Covid-19 Advice for Medical Practices as It Relates to Safety Precautions

There will also be precautions you will have to take upon resuming elective and non-emergent appointments. It is likely in the first two phases of opening, as outlined by the US Government, that your practice will have to limit the number of patients in the waiting room and office at any given time. It is in the best interest of  your doctors, staff, and patients to set up a system in which you may call patients in from their care when they are ready to be seen. It will be imperative in these times that your practice run as efficiently and timely as possible. Healthcare practitioners should also show visible signs that they are concerned and looking out for the safely of their patients. After all, seeing is believing. You may want to hang posters in your office detailing cleaning procedures. You may also want to show these sanitation measures by cleaning screening equipment in the presence of  patients, even if it has previously been sanitized. All doctors and their staff should also make it a point to wash and/or sanitize their hands while in contact with their patient. These simple steps can go a long way in assuring your clients that their safety is, and always has been, your top priority.

Preparedness goes beyond patients, though In order for your office to run as smoothly as possible, it will be in your best interest to communicate and coordinate your plan of opening with your partners. Some questions to consider may include: Will your partners be on the same trajectory as you? Will they have adequate supplies and staffing to reopen? The quicker practices are able to optimally function, the quicker finances will begin to recoup.  However, this will not be a one step process, and there will be many moving parts for all parties to consider. We all benefit when we work together. There has never been a greater need to take care of one another.

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