As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spreads across the globe, we recognize the importance of our roles as healthcare providers. The true impact of a COVID-19 outbreak in a U.S. community cannot be predicted. However, all healthcare facilities can take steps now to prepare for such an outbreak and protect both their patients and staff.
Managing Your Practice Through the COVID-19 Outbreak
The CDC has issued recommendations for health care facilities.
- Preparation. The CDC recommends staying up-to-date on the local COVID-19 situation, reviewing your practice’s emergency plans, and making sure you know how to reach your local or state health department in an emergency.
- Communication. The CDC recommends letting staff knowing about your plans, and letting patients know of any changes to your appointment policies, particularly around providing non-urgent care by telephone.
- Protection of your workforce. The CDC recommends screening all patients and victims for symptoms of acute respiratory illness, including fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Sick employees should stay home; this should be made clear to all employees. Anyone who comes in contact with a possible COVID-19 patient should wear personal protective equipment, including gloves, gowns, respiratory protection, and eye protection, all of which should be properly put on before making contact and removed and discarded or cleaned and disinfected afterward. (The CDC provides extensive detail and frequently updated guidance on the proper equipment to use and how to use it.)
- Protection of your patients. The CDC recommends separating any patients with respiratory symptoms from others and identifying ways to keep patients who can be cared for at home from coming to your practice, including “leveraging telemedicine technologies and self-assessment tools.”
Communication with patients is key during this time. Use your practice website, practice portal and established social media channels to communicate information regularly.
- Keep them informed of any potential changes to your policies on appointments, providing non urgent care, your availability via telemedicine platforms, etc.
- Provide links to high quality information from CDC, WHO, and other trusted local health resources
- The AMA's physician guide to COVID-19 provides a wealth of links and resources, including:
- facility preparedness guidelines
- patient handouts
- how to proceed if you have been exposed to patients with COVID-19.
- The CDC's coronavirus disease hub includes:
- situation updates
- information from the White House Coronavirus Task Force
- information for health care professionals and patients
- Visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for official Coronavirus (COVID-19) health information.
- The FDA has issued guidance for conducting clinical trials during the pandemic
- The AAD has assembled resources on COVID-19, including guidance on how to adjust to the outbreak in your clinic, legislative and regulatory updates that may impact you and your practice, information about the business implications of the outbreak, and the latest information on how to use teledermatology to provide care during the outbreak.