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What to do when COVID-19 enters your physician practice

empty waiting room

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.