The coronavirus pandemic has majorly changed the way the world functions. Most importantly, it has changed how healthcare services are delivered; consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted healthcare facilities’ operations worldwide.
The virus has increased the number of patients seeking care for respiratory illness (cough, cold, etc.). This has led to delaying and deferring non-COVID-19 care, disruptions in supply chains, absenteeism among staff because of illness or caregiving responsibilities, fluctuations in facilities’ occupancy, and an increase in mental health concerns.
There are no FDA-approved medications or vaccines that can be administered to treat or prevent COVID-19.
How Can the Healthcare Industry Adapt to the COVID-19 Scenario?
Healthcare and Hospitals management systems need to provide all forms of healthcare facilities and services to the patients during the coronavirus pandemic. The most commonly sought facilities include:
- Home-based care
- Outpatient care
- Urgent care
- Emergency room care
- Inpatient care
- Intensive care
In this blog, we’ve outlined goals, strategies, and guidelines to help U.S. healthcare facilities operate safely and effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve also provided information about the CDC guidelines that can help provide care in different situations and settings amid the virus breakout.
The CDC guidance provides recommendations to healthcare facilities for the following:
- Effectively operating during COVID-19
- Adjusting to different ways of delivering healthcare services for reducing in-person care services
- Following control recommendations and infection prevention mechanism specifically crafted to their setting
- Facilitating necessary in-person clinical services for conditions that are not COVID-19 safely, and reducing disease transmission to patients, HCP (Health Care Professionals), and others
How Are the Healthcare Services Adjusting During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
It is mandatory for healthcare systems to adjust their standard approaches of delivering healthcare services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This can help them reduce services for in-person care as well as minimize risk to patients and HCP.
How Can Healthcare Facilities Optimally UseTelehealth?
Healthcare facilities must optimize their telehealth services. The U.S. federal government has made telehealth services easier to implement and access. You can check their guidance for planning, preparing patients, and billing and reimbursement for telehealth services. As per the CDC guidelines, hospitals can use telehealth to deliver the following services:
- They can screen patients with symptoms of COVID-19 and refer as appropriate.
- Hospitals can provide urgent care for non-COVID-19 conditions, identify higher acuity care needs, and refer patients appropriately.
- They can monitor clinical signs to manage certain medical conditions remotely, such as blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
- Hospitals can enjoy easy engagement for managing patients who have difficulty accessing care. This may include those who live in rural settings, older adults, or those constrained with limited mobility.
- Management in hospital administration systems can help access primary care providers and specialists, including behavioral and mental health care providers, for medication management and chronic health conditions.
- A hospital quality management system can help participate in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and other modalities. Such hybrid approaches account for optimal health for in-person care patients.
- A hospital and healthcare management system can help follow-up with patients even after they’ve been discharged.
- Hospitals can deliver advanced care planning and counseling to patients and seamlessly document preferences in life-threatening events or serious medical crises.
- The system can help provide non-emergent care to patients in long-term care wards.
- Having a systematic management in hospital administration in place can provide education and training for HCP by using peer-to-peer professional medical consultations. Such training (including inpatient or outpatient) is often not locally available, especially in rural areas.
How to Use Telehealth Services for Screening and Caring for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 Patients?
- Start by instructing patients who think they have the virus to use available patient portals, advice lines, on-line self-assessment tools. They can also call and speak to an office/clinic staff instead of physically visiting a person.
- Have a team of expert staff conduct telephonic and telehealth interactions with patients. You need to have protocols for staff to triage and assess patients quickly.
- Having proper algorithms in place will help you identify which patients to manage by telephone and be advised to stay home. Also, determine which patients will be sent for emergency care, require coming for in-person visits, or follow up with a lab for COVID-19 diagnostic testing.
- You can also instruct patients who’ve tested COVID-19 positive to call before they leave home so that the hospital staff can stay prepared for them when they arrive.
Encouraging and Facilitating Home-care for Mildly Ill Patients
Whenever possible, always manage mildly ill patients with COVID-19 at home.
- You can start by assessing the patient’s ability to safely self-isolate. You can then monitor their symptoms at home and examine the risk of spreading the virus to others at home.
- Don’t forget to give clear instructions regarding home care to people who are sick. Mention when and how the hospital staff seamlessly examine the healthcare system for in-person care or urgent/emergent conditions.
- Have the hospital staff monitor patients at home by daily checking in using texts, patient portals, telephone calls, texts, or other means.
- It is best to engage local public health resources, community organizations, and home health services that can help you assist with support services (like delivery of food, medication, and other goods) for home-care patients isolating.
Additional Recommendations for Specific Healthcare Settings
- You can place visual alerts including posters and signs, at entrances and strategic places for respiratory hygiene, hand hygiene and cough etiquette. (Stop the Spread of Germs).
- Always maintain social distancing at all costs:
- You can use video conferencing to increase workstation spacing.
- Limit the number of individuals in common areas like cafeteria, seating room, elevators, etc.
- Reduce the number of visitors to the facility to only those required for the patient’s physical or emotional care and well-being.
- Examine visitors for fever and other symptoms before allowing them into the facility.
- Make it compulsory for all visitors to wear a facemask in the facility. Ensure to conduct frequent hand hygiene and restrict visits to the patient’s room.
- Don’t forget to report hospital capacity data to HHS Protect by using essential mechanisms described in the HHS COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs .
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the healthcare industry’s landscape. The ‘virtual vendor’ working entirely from home has become the new norm during the pandemic, and hospitals can expect this trend to continue in the post-pandemic era as well.