Does it seem as though your patients have skipped or postponed care in the last few months because of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus? Your practice is not alone.
A recent survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that 48% of adults say that they or someone in their household either rescheduled or passed up medical appointments in the past three months because of the coronavirus. About one in 10 adults admitted that their condition or the condition of their family member worsened by not getting care when it was originally scheduled.
As states across the country loosen stay-at-home restrictions, many patients are expecting to return to their physicians’ offices to receive the care they delayed. In fact, of those who said they bypassed care because of the coronavirus, 68% said they expect to get their needed care within the next three months.
With more patients returning to physician offices, it is important for them to know that these practices are doing all they can to manage a safe and physically distanced environment. That is why the AMA has been working to create a variety of tools for physicians to take advantage of as they begin to reopen.
The AMA created “A Physician Practice Guide to Reopening” that includes a 12-step plan to help physicians see patients safely and comfortably. Those steps are:
- Comply with governmental guidance.
- Make a plan.
- Open incrementally.
- Institute safety measures for patients.
- Ensure workplace safety for clinicians and staff.
- Implement a tele-triage program.
- Screen patients before in-person visits.
- Coordinate testing with local hospitals and clinics.
- Limit nonpatient visitors.
- Contact your medical malpractice insurance carrier.
- Establish confidentiality, privacy.
- Consider legal implications.
The AMA also created a standard pre-appointment patient screening script for practices to use in order to understand whether a patient with an upcoming appointment has potential COVID-19 symptoms or has been exposed to someone with the symptoms.
“With some physicians beginning the process of reopening their practices, this essential resource supplies them with guidance to do so while keeping patients, staff and the general public as safe as possible from a COVID-19 resurgence,” said AMA Immediate Past President Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA. “The AMA remains focused on ensuring the viability of physicians’ practices that have been seriously impacted by this public health crisis and will continue providing support while aggressively advocating on physicians’ and patients’ behalf.”
You can stay up to speed on the fast-moving pandemic with the AMA's COVID-19 resource center, which offers a library of the most up-to-date resources from JAMA Network, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.
Essential pediatric care that can’t be put off
While many adults prepare for a return to their physician office, Dr. Harris said it is important for adults to pay particular attention to children and how they are reacting to social changes brought on by COVID-19. Dr. Harris recently co-wrote an op-ed with Sara “Sally” Goza, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, about how to keep up with children’s health amid the pandemic.
Drs. Harris and Goza said parents should make sure to schedule routine well-child visits with their child’s pediatrician. These appointments are critical in helping to assess whether a child has any signs of distress. They also provide the opportunity for doctors to ensure children are up to date on immunizations and discuss topics with older children such as mental health, sexuality and vaping.