How have primary care doctors adapted to the pandemic?

Shifts in care delivery methods have been the main theme of primary care changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. With most of the US ordered to stay at home for several months this spring, patients and their primary care providers are adapting to new ways of conducting the typical office visit. The use of telehealth, in particular, has increased significantly in recent months.

Several studies have been conducted to determine how primary care providers are adapting during the pandemic. A professor of management, healthcare systems, and health policy at Northeastern University, Timothy Hoff, has been following doctors in New York to study how they’ve adapted to their new reality. New York has been one of the hardest-hit states, especially at the start of the pandemic.

The doctors that Hoff has been studying serve different types of communities and represent a range of experiences. Some of the providers have been practicing medicine for decades while others are relatively new to the field. The doctors work in urban as well as rural settings.

Hoff noted, “What has struck me already is just the level of resilience that all of these physicians have shown. These healthcare professionals have had to think in brand new ways, or adopt new systems and behaviors, in order to care for their patients.”

“Part of what we’re seeing here is doctors who know their patients very well, who have long-standing relationships with their patients, really stepping up to figure out how to care for them,” he says. “And so, what that means for the future of primary care is a really interesting question.”

Examples from Hoff’s study include a rural setting in upstate New York where physicians and nursing staff installed a Wi-Fi hotspot in their parking lot so their patients could use their phones and other electronic devices for virtual appointments. Many of the doctors have had to set up telehealth systems to deliver care to their patients.

Adaptation and innovation have been key to quality healthcare delivery for these providers. One physician conducted exams in the back of his patients’ pickup trucks, fully protected in personal protective equipment. Another provider in the study was able to correctly diagnose a fractured hip in an elderly patient during a virtual visit.

Elation can help your independent practice transition successfully to telehealth. Contact us to learn more.

A separate study conducted by researchers at New York University (NYU) found that many of that city’s primary care practices have been hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and they worry about their survival. Out of almost 500 primary care practices participating in the survey, 85% indicated the pandemic was having a severe impact on them. More than half of the patient visits conducted by those primary care practices that have been able to remain open were conducted by video or telephone.

Dr. Donna Shelley, professor of public health policy and management at the NYU School of Global Public Health, who is leading the research, said, “We all understand that the crisis is at the hospital level, but what’s remarkable is that in the midst of this overwhelming crisis of hospitalizations, people were forgetting there are other front line healthcare workers, and they’re called primary care doctors and nurses.”

Telehealth is becoming the norm for primary care visits. The AMA reports that physicians are now seeing 50 to 175 times the number of patients via telehealth than they did before the pandemic. 46% of patients are now using telehealth to replace the in-person visits that have been canceled because of COVID-19. In addition, 57% of providers view telehealth more favorably than before COVID-19 and 64% report that they are more comfortable using it.

With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) temporarily allowing more than 80 new services to be conducted via telehealth, consumers’ preferences for telehealth could become more deeply embedded into the care delivery system while the nation continues to social distance during this health emergency.

Justin Egkan
September 4, 2020

Read

How COVID-19 is normalizing telehealth

At one point not too long ago, telehealth was new and innovative – and rarely used. With the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has become the preferred method of healthcare among many physicians and their patients. Since primary care practices are reducing their office hours or closing altogether during the outbreak, patients are often only able to connect with them virtually. COVID-19 is normalizing the use of telehealth for the foreseeable future.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, and public health and health administration. Technologies include

  • Videoconferencing
  • The internet
  • Store-and-forward imaging
  • Streaming media
  • Landline and wireless communications.

Although primary care physicians have, for the most part, rescheduled routine visits with their patients, they are using telehealth for virtual visits with patients who have illnesses or injuries that cannot be postponed. Previous concerns about privacy and HIPAA regulations have been alleviated by relaxed restrictions and enhanced technology.

The DHHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) expects health care providers will ordinarily conduct telehealth in private settings, such as a doctor in a clinic or office connecting to a patient who is at home or at another clinic. Providers should always use private locations and patients should not receive telehealth services in public or semi-public settings, absent patient consent or exigent circumstances. If telehealth cannot be provided in a private setting, covered health care providers should continue to implement reasonable HIPAA safeguards to limit incidental uses or disclosures of protected health information (PHI). Such reasonable precautions could include:

  • Using lowered voices
  • Not using speakerphone
  • Recommending that the patient move to a reasonable distance from others when discussing PHI.

Learn more about transitioning your primary care practice to telehealth.

Primary care physicians are finding additional benefits to using telehealth for patient visits. Bob Kocher, MD, a senior fellow at the USC Schaeffer Center, recently wrote that “with virtual visits, doctors can check in with sicker patients more often and can learn more about them by seeing their living environments through video.” Providers can check on the patient’s housing conditions, as well as whether they have pets that may affect their medical condition. They can also see whether patients have the proper food and social support, factors they cannot always learn about in an office visit.

Dr. Kocher adds that it’s “easier to provide more thorough and comprehensive care through telemedicine. It is better for patients to have their doctors coordinate care, and far easier to do it together with the patients in real time.” Telehealth visits enable collaboration through group chats that reduce much of the time and information that “is lost between visits from primary care doctors to specialists.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for everyone and especially for those who need healthcare from their primary care physicians that is not related to the coronavirus. As Dr. Kocher emphasizes, though, “One silver lining is that virtual care will become a much integral part of healthcare for all us, and this will lead to better care and more accessible care.”

Justin Egkan
July 14, 2020

Read

What is primary care?

The term “primary care” was first introduced in the US in 1961. Though most people have referred to their “family doctor” throughout history, in the 1960s primary care came to be known as separate care from that provided by a growing number of specialists. In fact, primary care was so named because the primary care physician is typically the first stop for a patient who may need additional services such as a visit to a specialty provider or laboratory.

In 1966, the Millis Commission defined the primary care physician as a physician who “will serve as the primary medical resource and counselor to an individual or a family. When a patient needs hospitalization, the services of other medical specialists, or other medical or paramedical assistance, the primary physician will see that the necessary arrangements are made, giving such responsibility to others as is appropriate, and retaining his own continuing and comprehensive responsibility.”

Today, the primary care physician quite often acts as the medical home for the patient, coordinating care with specialty providers, laboratories, and healthcare facilities. The primary care physician “listens to the patient, makes diagnoses, manages, and screens for other health care problems. The clinician educates and communicates with the patient and others who may be involved including other specialists when appropriate.”

Primary care is being recognized for its importance in the quality of healthcare in the US. Many states are emphasizing the need for sufficient funding and appropriate legislation to prioritize primary care.

Primary care providers can include physicians, physician assistants, and nurses. Providers get to know their patients, use technology such as electronic health records (EHRs) to track and manage their patients’ medical information, and work with the patients to ensure their healthcare plan is effective. The primary care physician can play a significant role in improved quality of care as well as reduced healthcare costs.

Justin Egkan
July 1, 2020

Read

Primary care and the COVID-19 pandemic

Primary care physicians are caught between their mission to provide quality healthcare to their patients and sustaining their practice during the extreme challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients are confused and concerned about whether they can see their primary care provider for regular, preventive care. They also need a place to go for testing when they suspect they may be infected with the virus.

Primary care physicians are adjusting, shifting to telehealth, but they and their patients are still uncertain and anxious. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the US was seeing declines in the rate of primary care visits, in the percentage of Americans who had a “usual source of primary care,” and in the level of overall trust in providers.

A number of surveys have been conducted recently to determine how primary care physicians and their patients are responding to the coronavirus restrictions and guidelines. The results of several of those surveys include:

  • A third (34%) of surveyed primary care providers recently reported they have no capacity to test patients for COVID-19 and another third (32%) said they only have limited capacity for testing.
  • Those seeking regular, routine primary care are facing new barriers from stay-at-home orders; nearly 90 percent of primary care providers recently reported they are limiting regular check-ups.
  • Five weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, 53 percent of primary care clinicians reported they are not receiving — or are unsure if they will receive — payment for the virtual care they are providing and 76 percent said the pandemic was placing severe or close-to-severe strain on their practice.
  • Less than half of recently surveyed primary care providers said they think they have enough patient volume (46%) or enough cash on hand (47%) to stay open for the next month.

Elation Health’s COVID-19 Financial Guide can help you deal with the economic effects of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is encouraging the increased use of telehealth to help ensure the health and safety of both primary care providers and patients.

A survey conducted by the Primary Care Collaborative and The Larry A. Green Center found that:

  • Telehealth capacity is increasing, with 33% of respondents reporting that their practice had no video visits (down from 60% the week before), while half report no e-visits at their practice (down from 70% the week before).
  • More than half (54%) of primary care practices are conducting the majority of their visits by telephone.
  • Nearly a third of respondents work at practices that offer some visits in the parking lot.
  • Only 33% of clinicians say they have enough cash on hand to function for four weeks.  Half answered either “no” (13%) or “unsure” (37%).
  • More than 20% of respondents said their practice may temporarily close, owing to either “clinician or staff illness,” (20% maybe); “lack of PPE/supplies (21% maybe); and “lack of revenue” (16% maybe).

To assist primary care physicians who may need further guidance on continuing to operate during the crisis, the American Medical Association (AMA) has compiled a list of resources, including information on elective procedures, diagnosing patients, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, and protecting the practice and the patients during COVID-19.

Elation Health supports the work of primary care physicians as well, and has launched the COVID-19 Resource Center for independent physicians, providing the latest updates and guidelines and enabling providers to focus on their patients.

Justin Egkan
June 30, 2020

Read

Addressing primary care payment

While many hospitals are overwhelmed caring for COVID-19 patients, many primary care practices are reducing services as well as staff during the pandemic. Some are even having to close due to the lack of funds to keep their practice going through the outbreak. Industry experts are urging healthcare payers, including government entities, to take significant steps toward addressing primary care payment now and for the longer term.

In an April 2020 letter to House and Senate leaders, AAFP Board Chair John Cullen, M.D., of Valdez, Alaska, wrote that “This public health crisis has identified significant cracks in our country’s primary care infrastructure. Population health will only be achieved when we identify and remove the barriers that exist.” The letter added that Congress now has “the opportunity to address systemic issues that have been plaguing primary care and the health care system more broadly.”

AAFP emphasizes that “as primary care goes, so goes the health of Americans, including millions with chronic health conditions.” When primary care practices face financial difficulties, it sends “a disruptive ripple across the entire US health care system, affecting countless patients.” In fact, AAFP says, “if Congress fails to address the sudden financial stress on primary care, the closure of more practices will disrupt the entire health care system.”

Elation Health is committed to help primary care practices throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check out our COVID-19 Financial Guide, designed to help you succeed in dealing with the economic effects of COVID-19.

Joshua M. Liao, MD, MSc, medical director of payment strategy at UW Medicine in Seattle and an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, writes recently in MedPage Today that “Primary care is central to all phases of our pandemic response.” He notes that “in the longer term, the COVID-19 battlefront may shift almost entirely to primary care.”

Dr. Liao goes on to emphasize that:

COVID-19 provides an urgent rationale for leaders to prioritize policies that increase primary care reimbursement. These efforts were already underway many months ago, with public payers such as Medicare setting policy in motion to increase reimbursement for office visits. Such changes should go into effect as planned in January 2021, and ideally alongside newer accommodations such as reimbursement for telehealth visits.

The challenge with this timeline, Dr. Liao clarifies, is that the primary care practices that are currently struggling will have to survive through the end of the fiscal year. He adds that, because of this, “policymakers should also provide primary care providers more immediate financial support.”

He writes also that “solving the primary healthcare crisis will require more than payment changes.” The definition of primary care that currently differs among various stakeholders should be consistent and the issue of coordination must be resolved, as “payment changes enacted by insurers will be useful only if practices implement processes that improve outcomes.”

An article published by the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc., highlights the fact that federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), “the first line of defense in underserved communities, serving primarily Medicaid patients and the uninsured” are also facing dire financial situations. In fact, many FQHCs may also be forced to close because of the coronavirus outbreak, either temporarily or permanently.

The solution for primary care may lie in prospective payment models, such as capitation or global payments, which “pay providers, teams, or organizations a predictable, upfront per-member-per-month (PMPM) payment to take care of a patient. Providers receive these payments whether they perform services for the patient or not. They are intended to:

  • Incentivize the provider to keep the patient well
  • Only give the patient the services they need to be healthy
  • Give providers greater flexibility to deliver services in a variety of ways.”

The writers suggest that “such models could be deployed quickly – with health plans or government payers providing PMPMs based on last year’s utilization, offering a short-term solution for provider cash flow problems.”

Justin Egkan
June 16, 2020

Read

Physician burnout survey highlights burnout rate

Your job as a primary care physician is stressful. You are charged with providing high quality, value-based healthcare to your patients and with running a successful business in your practice. Regulations, paperwork, and patient and staff needs can pile up, causing more stress and, eventually, burnout. While the rate of burnout continues to be high, there are a number of physicians fighting burnout in unique ways.

A whopping 92% of physicians participating in the Medical Economics 2019 Physician Burnout Survey said they felt burned out from practicing medicine at some point in their career. The survey also found that:

  • 68% indicated they felt burned out “right now,” while they were completing the survey
  • 37% said their burnout was a result of “too much paperwork and government/payer regulations”
  • 80% had not sought and were not planning to seek professional help to cope with their burnout
  • 74% said their feelings of burnout had, at some point in their career, made them want to quit medicine.

There are physicians fighting burnout, some in very creative ways. Gabe Charbonneau, MD, a family physician in Stevensville, Montana, has developed a “Fight Burnout” logo and slogan which he has printed on t-shirts. He then sends those t-shirts to other physicians and people who are doing something meaningful to fight burnout, along with a note of thanks.

Dr. Charbonneau’s shirt features a phoenix rising above the ashes with the Rod of Asclepius and “We rise above” written in Latin, “Nos ortum superare.” He knows first-hand the effects of burnout, as his wife had to leave their family practice because of her own burnout symptoms. Dr. Charbonneau is focused on spreading the word that “burnout doesn’t have to be the accepted norm.”

Other physicians fighting burnout include Daisy Smith, MD, FACP, American College Of Physicians (ACP) vice president for clinical education, Philadelphia. Dr. Smith is leading ACP’s efforts to build awareness about burnout among physicians, including educating them as to how they can identify the warning signs. She says, “We need to fix the water clinicians are swimming in,” adding that “The overall causes of burnout are a workload where people keep adding more and more things to front-line clinicians, but nothing gets taken away.”

Marie Brown, MD, Internist and AMA practice transformation officer, Oak Park, IL, is focused on developing ways to streamline her daily activities to reduce her stress. When using electronic health records (EHRs), she suggests reviewing the types of notifications selected. For example, she says that she has turned off notifications about discharge summaries and tests that did not include results, as those are not useful to her in her daily work. Dr. Brown also suggests that physicians should be properly trained on using their EHRs more efficiently.

At Elation Health, we designed our clinical first, cloud-based EHR to take less than an hour to learn! 

In an effort to fight burnout and its potentially devastating effects, many physicians and organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA), are studying and addressing the issues fueling physician burnout. As Dr. Charbonneau emphasizes, everyone can “make a difference” in the fight to combat physician burnout.

Justin Egkan
June 12, 2020

Read

What to do when COVID-19 enters your physician practice

The possibility that one of your patients or one of your staff could test positive for COVID-19 is very real. Depending on your location, the probability increases if you are caring for patients in vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and those with chronic conditions.

While providing care using telehealth options is preferred during the coronavirus outbreak, you may need to see certain patients face-to-face. Taking appropriate precautions can help you reduce the potential for infection in the office as well as when you return to your home:

  • Provide everyone in your practice with adequate personal protective equipment, including gowns, gloves, masks, and respirators
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before leaving the office and on arriving at home
  • Change out of your work clothes immediately when you get home
  • Use separate utensils, plates, and cups both in your practice and at home.

Check out Elation Health’s COVID-19 resources, full of helpful information for your independent practice during the pandemic.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has some additional guidance on what to do when COVID-19 enters your practice, based on the experience of a medical practice in Houston that has treated three patients with the coronavirus:

  • Proactively contact at-risk patients. Make sure these patients have the prescriptions they need and arrange home delivery of their medications, if necessary.
  • Help non-COVID-19 patients avoid the emergency department. Reach out to patients with chronic conditions to ensure they are getting the care they need to keep them out of the emergency department for something that could have been avoided.
  • Commit to telehealth services. Eliminating nonessential health care visits protects both patients and health care professionals.
  • Prepare to deliver difficult information. You may find during COVID-19 that you will need to “deliver sometimes difficult information to patients about the critical need for them to follow recommendations around social distancing to slow the spread of disease, isolation if they have tested positive and quarantine for a minimum of 14 days if they have been exposed.”
  • Pay attention to patient fears. Your patients may want more information but too many details could actually increase their anxiety. Keep them informed but don’t overload them.
  • Provide updated COVID-19 information. Use social media and your website to provide guidance, particularly regarding symptoms and prevention strategies.
  • Protect the health care team. Take precautions when interacting with patients. Assign one or two staff members to be responsible for testing or evaluation of patients who may be at high risk for COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided print resources that can be used in your practice, to advise your patients on what they need to do before entering your practice and if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Use these resources to keep your patients and your staff informed, safe, and healthy.

Justin Egkan
June 2, 2020

Read

How to help your patients cope with anxiety from coronavirus

May is Mental Health Month. The coronavirus outbreak has made many people feel worried, depressed, and concerned about the current situation as well as about what the future holds. In addition to caring for your patients’ physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may also need to help them cope with anxiety, so this is a good time to review ways to do just that.

Psychiatrist Dimitrios Tsatiris, MD, offers these tips for you as a primary care physician to guide your patients through the anxiety of this crisis:

  • Validate their anxiety. Reassure your patients that their feelings are a natural reaction to the stress of the situation. Validating their emotions tells them that “You are not alone. It is OK to have a spike in anxiety.”
  • Employ empathy. Communicate with your patients and let them know you understand their concerns from their point of view. As Dr. Tsatiris explains, “Feeling understood is therapeutic. It allows people to open up, be authentic, and trust you with their concerns.” Ask questions to learn more about the source of your patients’ anxiety.
  • Reduce uncertainty. Fear of the unknown can be distressing. Sharing facts with your patients can help them better cope with their anxiety. As Dr. Tsatiris states, your patients “experience spikes in anxiety when they are uncertain about the likelihood of a potential outcome. Anxiety can be reduced if they understand the odds that their fear will become reality.”
  • Focus within their sphere of control. Help your patients understand what they can control to make their situation less stressful. They can take preventive steps to stay safe and healthy, as suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Increase “the dose” of their coping skills. As a primary care physician, you typically prescribe certain doses of medication to treat an illness or injury. You can do the same with your patients who are feeling anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prescribe an activity such as physical exercise or deep breathing exercises that will help them cope.
  • Limit media consumption. Encourage your patients to limit their exposure to news and social media sites. They should ensure that the information they are accessing is verifiable and from a trusted source.

Elation Health supports you and your practice throughout the pandemic.
Check out our COVID-19 Resources here.

The CDC also offers a list of tips for coping with stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, that can be helpful to share with your patients:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body.
    • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
    • Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Justin Egkan
May 26, 2020

Read

What is happening with primary care?

Primary care practices are small businesses and, as such, are challenged with remaining financially viable during COVID-19. Primary care physicians and their staff are also struggling with their main goal of providing appropriate and quality healthcare to their patients. Many have shifted to telehealth services but are finding that patients may not have the resources to access the proper technology. Several recent surveys and research studies show what is happening with primary care during the coronavirus outbreak.

In attempt to keep everyone safe and healthy, primary care practices are actively discouraging patients from visiting their office for routine care. In fact, fewer than 20% of the usual visits are now held in person. Insurers are paying for telemedicine visits in an effort to accommodate the situation, but Medicare is currently reimbursing virtual visits at approximately half the fee of in-person visits.

A weekly survey conducted jointly by the Larry Green Center and the Primary Care Collaborative sheds light on what is happening with primary care during COVID-19. The survey conducted of 1,000 primary care clinicians during the week of April 3-6, 2020, revealed that:

  • Patient mental health is being recognized as a critical need. 54% report that COVID-19 has led to increased numbers of patients with mental or emotional health needs. The vast majority of surveyed clinicians report that evaluating patients’ psychological/emotional concerns as either a high (30%) or moderate (50%) priority for patient care.
  • Despite increasing billing flexibilities, primary care is facing payment challenges. Only 54% of respondents say that the majority (>50%) of their office contacts last week were reimbursable.
  • 90% of those surveyed report limited well and chronic visits as a stress on their practice; 58% report that they have too few sick visits available for patients. Only 7% report “scheduling preventive visits” as a high priority in the past week.
  • Adequate personal protective equipment remains a critical obstacle for primary care staff. 58% report the use of used and homemade PPE at their practice.
  • The pandemic continues to place high levels of strain on primary care practices. Just under half (49%) of respondents report that the current status of COVID-19 is having a “severe” impact on their practice. This is up from 44% the week before.

In the follow-up survey, conducted April 10-13, 2020, findings regarding frontline primary care clinicians’ experience with COVID-19 included:

Specific Main Findings

  • 34% of clinicians report no capacity for COVID-19 testing and 32% have only limited capacity
  • Outages due to illness/quarantine reported for clinicians (36%), nursing staff (35%), and front desk (31%)
  • 41% of clinicians rate the COVID-related stress on their practice as severe; 34% rate it close to severe
  • 53% lack PPE; 58% rely on used and homemade PPE
  • 12% of clinicians see disparities among racial minorities; 27% among low income patients; 20% among those lacking computer/internet access; 29% among those with mental health conditions; 33% among the elderly

Virtual Health Findings

  • 65% of clinicians report they have patients who can’t use virtual health (no computer/internet)
  • Full scale use of virtual platforms is limited: 34% rely on majority use of video, 15% on e-visits, and 19% on patient portal, compared with 48% conducting the majority of visits by phone
  • 22% of practices report no use of video visits, 42% no use of e-visits, and 28% are not using patient portals

Survey respondents also indicated that financial vulnerabilities are high. Over the next 4 weeks:

  • 3% predict closure due to low staffing; 14% unsure if they will have enough staff to stay open
  • 12% predict closure due to low patient volume; 43% unsure if they will have enough patient volume
  • 6% predict closure due to lack of cash on hand; 47% unsure if they will have enough cash to stay open
  • 10% have not received payment for video/e-based care; 16% have not received payment for phone-based care

Primary care physicians writing in a recent issue of StatNews emphasized that “The Covid-19 crisis is revealing the financial peril of relying on billable, in-person visits as the main way to pay for primary care, which provides little backstop in times of crisis.” They encourage heeding “the lesson of the Covid-19 crisis to protect primary care in a foundational way that will matter even more once the pandemic is over.”

Justin Egkan
May 19, 2020

Read

COVID-19 grocery shopping tips for patients

Even as we are following social distancing guidelines and orders to stay at home, it still becomes necessary occasionally to make a trip to the grocery store. Many people have questions about what to do while shopping and after arriving home with the groceries to make sure they stay safe and healthy. COVID-19 grocery shopping tips for patients can alleviate some concerns during these challenging times.

Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, an independent family medicine physician in Michigan, has offered some very important tips on applying medical sterilization techniques to grocery and takeout food via an informational video. Dr. VanWingen advises his viewers to think of their groceries as being covered with glitter. The goal when you arrive home is to not have any glitter on your groceries, your hands, or especially your face. Then imagine that disinfectants and soaps have the power to get rid of all the glitter.

Dr. VanWingen offers the following tips for grocery shopping:

  • Wipe down the cart
  • Commit to buying items before picking them up
  • Don’t go to the store if you have respiratory problems
  • Don’t go to the store if you have been exposed to the coronavirus
  • Make a plan ahead of time and buy enough to last for two weeks

When you bring your groceries home:

  • Sanitize the table or counter where you will place them
  • Place your groceries on half the counter or table, keeping the other half clean and sanitized
  • As you clean each item, place it on the sanitized side of the table
  • Wipe down the outside of plastic and glass items
  • Discard any unnecessary cardboard packaging
  • Move items such as bread, wrapped in plastic, to appropriate and clean storage containers
  • Wash fruit thoroughly
  • Take cloth, reusable grocery bags outside after unloading
  • Discard plastic bags that you brought home from the store.

If you decide to use a shopping service, don’t let them come into your home when they deliver. Have them leave the groceries outside instead so you can bring them and follow the sanitizing guidelines. As Dr. VanWingen emphasizes, “safety out in the marketplace can literally save lives.”

These tips are important for your safety while you are shopping and when you bring your groceries home, since you can acquire the coronavirus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. Researchers have found that COVID-19 can remain on surfaces for several hours to several days, depending on the type. The virus is detectable up to:

  • Three hours in aerosols
  • Four hours on copper
  • 24 hours on cardboard
  • Two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Following Dr. VanWingen’s sterilization techniques can be a significant factor in your health and safety. As James Lloyd-Smith, co-author of the study that supports guidance from public health professionals to slow the spread of COVID-19, and a UCLA professor of ecology and evolutionary biology stated, “If you’re touching items that someone else has recently handled, be aware they could be contaminated and wash your hands.”

Justin Egkan
May 12, 2020

Read