COVID-19 has presented a lot of challenges for businesses and individuals all over the world. As the pandemic continues to spread in many areas of the U.S., physicians and clinical staff are grappling with new challenges as clinics try to reopen and continue providing care for patients. Here are some tips for tackling some of the most common—and most difficult—challenges for small and independent clinics.
Address Patient, Physician, and Staff Safety
One of the biggest concerns for everyone is the safety of in-person clinical care. The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has presented some significant challenges, particularly as evidence has emerged that asymptomatic carriers can spread it, and small virus particles may remain in the air for a period of time and infect people.
At the same time, many patients are suffering because they cannot access the in-person care they need to manage chronic disease or address acute conditions. There are important measures that every clinic can and must take to ensure everyone’s safety and still provide some continuity of care:
- Disinfect surfaces regularly, especially high-touch surfaces
- Equip all staff and providers with proper PPE, including masks, gloves, and face shields
- Require that all patients wear masks while inside your clinic and provide sanitizer
- Limit the number of people who can come with a patient for a clinic visit to only essential caregivers
Extend Care Outside Your Clinic
For patients who are at high risk or concerned to come to your clinic in person, it’s important to have other options for them to seek necessary care. Telehealth and telemedicine software and patient portals allow you to see your patients (virtually) and check in on them regularly without risking infection by coming to your clinic. These services are essential for patients managing chronic conditions or who have been discharged from the hospital recently and need follow-up care. If your clinic doesn’t have telemedicine available, now is the time to implement it (AdvancedMD can help with our simple telemedicine software solutions).
Address Heightened Stress
Healthcare professionals have been under an enormous amount of stress. Even those not on the “front lines” of care in the ICU or emergency departments have likely seen significant changes to their own clinics and may be suffering from lost revenue and financial difficulties that could last for months or even years. Staff may be furloughed and concerned about whether they will face layoffs in the near future. For those who can return to work, there is heightened concern about the risks of being exposed to coronavirus.
Addressing stress right now is essential for office managers and physician clinic owners. You can find online resources through the American Medical Association (AMA), and also talk to your benefits provider or HR rep about adding things like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). You may also consider partnering with local mental health providers to offer counseling for employees (many have online counseling resources available). Finally, provide information about signs of chronic and acute stress so clinicians and staff can monitor their own mental health.
Be Flexible and Understanding
If you have staff members who don’t feel like they can come back to work yet because of fears of contracting the virus or spreading it to vulnerable family members, try to be flexible and understanding. You may need to address some of your employment policies to try and accommodate work-from-home when possible or find other creative solutions to keep your clinic running.