Last time, we talked about incorporating the right social distancing methods into your practice as we continue to live with COVID-19. But there are also other important steps to take when re-opening to ensure the safety of your patients coming for in-office visits.
Here are some COVID-19 protocols to follow when re-opening, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD):
Make sure your practice is cleaned and disinfected using World Health Organization standards.
- Disinfect areas, equipment and surfaces between uses. Use 70% ethyl alcohol, sodium hypochlorite at 0.5% or any other disinfectant that meets the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.
- If your practice has been closed for more than seven days, you can do your normal routine cleaning. According to the CDC, COVID-19 doesn’t survive on surfaces longer than that.
Take steps to minimize patient contact and increase sterilization.
- Place signs in visible locations that explain COVID-related precautions and mark off social distance points as needed. A sign template can be downloaded on the AAD website.
- Remove some chairs from your waiting room to space apart as needed, and remove magazines and other reading materials. Place additional hand sanitizer and wipes in the area too.
- Have hand sanitizer and/or a place to wash hands with soap and water in all exam rooms. Consider keeping all doors patients use open (entrance, through the practice and exit).
- Review OSHA’s personal protective equipment (PPE) standards and make sure there’s enough equipment (masks, gloves, etc.) for your staff.
- In addition to temperature screenings, screen patients for flu-like symptoms, loss of taste or smell and history of COVID-19 exposure. You can consider using non-contact temperature screenings too. If a patient is suspected of having COVID-19, refer them to their primary care physician and reschedule their appointment. Consult your malpractice carrier for COVID-19-related care, including expectations on patient pre-screening.
- See patients alone unless they need a caregiver (or parent for children) with them during the visit. Other individuals should wait in their car or outside the practice.
- Masks and eye protection should be worn by staff and patients should wear masks when in the practice.
- Limit other visitors to the practice, including suppliers and vendors.
Like we discussed in our last post, using digital tools and telehealth are still great options to decrease face-to-face time when appropriate.
- Make sure digital connections are compliant with HIPAA and use web browsers with encryption ability, such as Safari, Chrome or Firefox.
- If you have an electronic health record (EHR), speak with your vendor to see if they have any digital applications available, like patient portals, online bill pay, electronic ordering for staff, electronic prescriptions and electronic lab orders.
- Visit the AAD’s Health IT Resource Center for more information on digital tools for your practice.
- Continue using telehealth when appropriate, but realize that the relaxed regulations may revert to pre-national health emergency rules once the emergency is over. Consider priority scheduling for patients that required the most urgency when your practice was closed and couldn’t be seen in person. Minimize in-person follow-up visits by using absorbable or buried sutures for surgical procedures. Consider doing telehealth follow-up visits whenever practical.
- Consider enrolling in an online platform that supports telehealth if you don’t currently offer online appointments.
Follow staff guidelines and depending on how big your staff is, follow CDC updates regarding group gatherings.
- Educate your staff on social distancing in break rooms and lunch areas. They should also wear PPE for any staff meetings and maintain a six foot social distance.
- Staff with flu-like symptoms and those who’ve been in close contact with them shouldn’t go to work and should self-isolate following CDC and local guidelines. If staff wear PPE throughout the work day and socially distance at other times, they’re not considered at high risk of exposing their co-workers/patients or being exposed to COVID-19 by them.
- Each day prior to seeing patients, ask staff if they have any flu-like symptoms or have come into contact with possible COVID-19 patients. Follow HIPAA protocols if any staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19, but you can’t identify the staff without their consent.
- Be flexible with staff when possible, as childcare options may be limited.
To view the full list of AAD re-opening protocols, visit the AAD website here.
Need help adjusting to this new reality of practicing? Our practice management experts are here to support you. Schedule a consultation today!