Safely Reopening Medical Practices
Written by: Tom Pasquariello, PharmD
Many businesses are beginning to re-open after months of anticipation and uncertainty about their futures. Independent practices continued to provide high quality healthcare to their patients throughout the initial months of the COVID pandemic primarily through telehealth platforms. Practices continue to work to overcome challenges and to navigate new terrain by adapting a new standard for patients and the office staff.1 The staff is eager to get back to work with a primary focus of staying healthy themselves so that they can properly care for their patients.2
There are many approaches practices can take in varying steps to create a new, safer environment. Continue telehealth for healthier patients but decide on an individual basis which patients should be seen in office rather than virtually. Limiting the number of patients that come to office can help to maintain a safer distance between patients in the waiting room and allow them to feel more comfortable. Practices may consider separating offices into two sections, well and sick with proper pre-screening protocols or separating the workday into morning and afternoon with well and sick. Curbside appointments are a potential solution when patients are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.1
Use of advanced communication and technology tools such as secure text, video chat, and email are all great ways to stay connected with the staff and provide critical updates and reminders. Also reaching out to other medical colleagues for examples as to what they are doing to re-open and what has worked well to date. Now is a great opportunity to check on patients to see if they need anything or are experiencing any difficulties with their medical conditions or their prescription medications. Patients will appreciate the additional support, educational material, and caring behaviors making them more comfortable staying with the practice.1
Transparency of administrative actions that the practice is taking to safely re-open will go a long way in keeping patients comfortable. Offer reassurance that the practice has made positive changes such as new cleaning policies, limited appointments, reduced staff, monitoring temperatures before entry, asking CDC recommended questions to patients such as foreign travel in the past few weeks, mandatory mask for patients and staff, and many others. Office administration should also explain to its staff the reasons why they may have been furloughed and the financial impact of reduced patient volume.2 Remind your staff to be kind, friendly, and keep on a smile on their face as some patients may still feel uneasy re-visiting the office.
Practice Fusion will continue to help practices overcome barriers by identifying and successfully implementing changes that will provide longevity to practices.