Physicians, dentists, optometrists and other specialists are planning to resume outpatient, non-emergent services this month. As part of re-opening the office or re-establishing a more standard schedule, the team must revise almost every aspect of the traditional day-to-day operations. This should include revising scheduling practices, policies and procedures, and external communications content for patients, visitors and others.
Many, many hours have been spent ordering PPE and other supplies and cleaning the actual office space and patient rooms. It is as important for the practice to revise the documentation that dictates the daily work and be able to clearly communicate its ‘new’ or updated processes for cleaning, staffing, visitors, employees, delivery personnel and other business practices.
It is not enough to implement social distancing procedures in the waiting room and remove all magazines and toys. The practice should be updating its policies and procedures applicable to patients, employees and others.
For illustration purposes, consider these checklist questions for each of the stakeholder categories:
- Are you scheduling the same number of patients each day?
- Are you going to consider opening the office after business hours or on weekends to accommodate the new guidelines and processes?
- Are new and recurring patient visits expected to take longer?
- What is the new arrival process?
- Will patients be required to answer questions prior to entering a certain part of the office?
- Will temperatures be taken upon arrival? Will you ask patients to wait in the car if possible?
- Are pediatric and geriatric patients permitted to bring a family member to the visit?
- Will both parents be permitted? Siblings?
- Are face masks or coverings required just like some of the big retail chains and airlines?
- What if you arrive without one?
- What are your practice guidelines for employees who interact with a patient or family member who has had COVID-19?
- How are your guidelines different from CDC guidance?
- Are you screening team members?
- Are the screening results kept confidential?
- How are staff to communicate revised practices to patients and visitors before arrival at the office?
- How do you communicate the limit on visitors?
- Are certain patients prioritized?
- Are you cross-training to plan for absences or slimmed teams?
- Are you considering staggered shifts or longer work schedules?
- Have you prohibited workers from sharing phones, desks, or other work equipment?
- How will you socially distance and use workplace breakrooms and kitchens?
- Do you expect deliveries at the curb only?
- Do you have alternate suppliers?
- Do you have no-touch doors and other no-touch mechanisms?
- What are the new sanitization expectations?
- Can spouses, friends and others who accompany a patient to the office but remain outside expect a text for pick-up?
- Will you take cash for co-pays and other charges?
- Will non-essential workplace items like photos, awards, and other memorabilia be permitted in the office?
- Will you limit the use of or riders on elevators?
- Will you pre-screen international or traveling patients or vendors?
- Do you offer shuttles from remote parking?
These are sample questions and just touch the surface (pun intended) of the myriad of changes that an outpatient clinic must make to its processes and documentation of such processes. Your policies must match your practice for several reasons and some malpractice carriers may even ask about these kinds of updates. Just as important, your internal and external communications must match these revised policies.
If your practice has employees who must work at home, perhaps they can work toward updating these items as well as the communication materials provided to patients and staff (posters, screen savers, patient hand-outs, consent forms, websites, appointment reminders, and other patient care forms). If you need assistance with these revisions, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org