While many medical services can now be provided via telehealth, treating a patient in person remains superior—or essential—in many cases.  As clinics across America move to reopen their doors or resume offering elective services, it’s important to reconsider patient communication, staff schedules, and other critical aspects of safe operation.

Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to ensure the highest level of safety and patient experience.

1. Make a Plan

A plan should include dates to chart out a gradual reopening and a strategy for scheduling needed staff.  As a first step, ensure that your clinic is following guidelines from the federal government. CMS has published a guide for reopening healthcare facilities to deliver non-COVID care, which cautions against resuming traditional care for all patients.

“Maximum use of all telehealth modalities is strongly encouraged,” according to the CMS guidelines. So, continue to provide telehealth to eligible patients, and start scheduling an appropriate number of in-person visits each day.

2. Prepare the Office

The magazines, coffee machine, water dispenser, and newspapers should be eliminated from waiting areas. These amenities helped pass the time before appointments in a pre-COVID-19 era, but now they may help spread the virus. Leaving certain doors open, therefore preventing unneeded touching, and increasing the availability of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer throughout the office can also help lower transmission in the clinical setting.

The CDC says that routine cleaning procedures are appropriate for care at this time. Just make sure that environmental services staff are using the right products in a consistent and correct way, as well as paying special attention to “high touch” areas (e.g., door handles).

3. Ask About Symptoms Beforehand

For in-person care, help reduce transmission from employees by providing frequent screenings and/or testing. For patients, implement a non-touch temperature check prior to the appointment starting.

In addition, ask patients to answer pre-screening questions remotely. Communicate with patients and staff members, prior to their arrival, about their experience of any COVID-19 symptoms—such as a fever, cough, or loss of taste or smell. Individuals with such symptoms should receive advice on extra precautions to avoid exposure to the staff, facilities, and other patients.

4. Help Patients Protect Each Other

Pre-COVID-19 waiting rooms often had a row of chairs next to each other. To ensure a safe distance is kept, consider removing every other chair or blocking certain seats. To the degree possible, revise your schedule to avoid a large volume of patients at any given time. Other vendors, service providers, and non-clinical staff should also be timed in a way that they visit when patient volume is low, as well as limited to special entrances and zones in the facility.

Prior to a patient’s visit, obtain verbal or written confirmation of compliance with your office policies. For example, in compliance with CDC guidelines, individuals who visit the office should wear a face covering, even if a PPE shortage at your facility means you can’t provide them.

5. Communicate Clearly

Open communication with patients is vital to a safe reopening. Update your website and social media platforms with reopening details, and consider using any other mass communication tools at your disposal—such as robocalls, email, or SMS.These communications will help alert all your patients that you are open for business, encouraging them to initiate the steps to seek care they had delayed since the pandemic started. Patients who have under-utilized services in recent months want to hear from their doctors. They are eager to know what steps you’re taking to ensure safety so they can return.

6. Listen to Patient Feedback

A pandemic is, by definition, a dynamic situation. You may have to evolve your protocols further as transmission rates rise or decline in coming months. To ensure that these changes aren’t disruptive for patients, it’s critical to monitor your quality of care.If you don’t want to administer a lengthy survey to patients, a simple one-question Net Promoter Score check can serve as a stand-in. If your patients leave a pandemic-era appointment saying they’d recommend your center to friends and family, you’re probably managing to provide a great patient experience while also earning their trust.

Virtual communication is one of the best options to limit spread and exposure of COVID-19. Calibrater Health’s text-based surveys and other tools can help. To provide the best patient care in the “new normal,” schedule a demo with us today!

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