New Protocols to See Patients in Medical Practices

New Protocols to See Patients in Medical Practices

COVID-19 is changing how medical practices provide care to patients, with providers implementing new safety protocols to keep patients safe. By implementing new protocols, providers can reduce the spread of COVID, safely interact with patients, and ensure social distancing practices.

Here are some new protocols medical practices are implementing during COVID-19.

Office Screening Protocols

As part of the new guidelines, medical practices should ensure bed capacity, alternative office visits, and sitting plans. Developing a designated sitting area that adheres to distance guidelines, allows patients to practice social distancing. Practices should implement simple screening questions to evaluate patients before and after a visit.

Pre-appointment screening

  • Change triage questions when treating patients by asking about their status, symptoms, and their need for a visit; clinicians can evaluate how better assist patients.
  • Train certain staff members to care with potential COVID-19 or symptoms; includes having a separate area for those patients to be treated.

In office Screening

  • Practice should implement waste management, staff-patient flow system, and provide care materials i.e hand sanitizers.
  • Checking staff temperature, ask about potential symptoms, and require staff members to wear appropriate PPE i.e gloves, face mask.
  •  For patients, temperature checks, and requiring surgical masks when entering office—reducing spread, especially in an isolated room. 

Practices should coordinate with public health officials and local hospitals to ensure test availability and for high-risk patient assistance.

Protocol for walk-ins: It may happen that a patient walks into medical practice without screening. Have visual advertisements in front of the facility to inform of new protocols i.e calling, scheduling, answering a questionnaire. Please note on advertisement if same-day appointments are possible. 

Clinicians should become familiar with the infection prevention and control guidance

Promoting Telehealth: Virtual Protocols

As the pandemic continues, medical practices are finding alternative ways to connect with their patients. Practices should create a transition plan to prepare patients for care through virtual means. Developing a telehealth plan with patients and staff allows providers to communicate with patients and minimize spread. Telehealth plans should include meeting patients online via telehealth platforms to discuss non-surgical or in person issues. By using platforms virtual platforms, like Google Hangout providers can assess patient needs and meet where they’re at.  

Protocols to Implement

  • Identify and train staff to conduct telehealth interactions; includes assessing patients and managing emergency care
  • Instructing patients on patient portals, online self-assessments, how to schedule online appointments, and speaking with trained staff about symptoms.
    • Having visual alerts on the official website that instruct patients on what to do in case they have respiratory symptoms.

Ensure patients that telehealth can update their health status and care without office visits, limiting spread. Medical practices should connect with public health officials, health plans, and insurers to promote coverage of telehealth, medicine, or advice line services. This will help patients feel at ease as they navigate through coverage and payment issues during this time.

Caring for Staff 

Medical practices should include staffing care policies in their plan. Facilities should monitor staff health, through daily temperature, questionnaire screening, and symptoms checks before work.

  •  Train designated staff members when working with patients with COVID-19 or suspected; these staff members must have full coverage PPE again, to limit exposure. 
  • Practices should ensure staff is aware of the sick leave policies and encourage them to stay home.

Practices should assess staff health and limit staff exposure to suspected patients. This includes connecting with health and government officials to ensure PPE availability, to limit staff exposure. Medical practice protocols should include plans for absentee or short staff days, this could include cross-training or hiring temporary staff.

It is important for medical practices to implement new protocols as practices open. Medical practices can adequately care for patients and staff by implementing new protocols such as, pre-screening, telecommunication, and developing a staffing plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Looking for Resources on how to get COVID-19 Ready or Prepping your Medical Practice?

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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