As healthcare practices across the country review their options to reopen their doors for elective or non-urgent medical procedures, while keeping a close watch on COVID-19 concerns, the American Medical Association has created a guide to help physicians and other healthcare providers who plan to start seeing patients in person again.
Safety is continuously emphasized in the guide, with recommendations that protect the health of patients, providers, practice staff, and the public.
Several checklists, supplemental information, and important links to COVID-19 resources from the AMA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other federal agencies, are included in the guidance.
Here are the key points for practices considering getting back to some level of business ‘as usual’:
Comply with state and federal regulations and guidelines. States and municipalities are modifying COVID-19-related executive orders that address the types of medical services allowed, as practices begin more in-person visits. The AMA gives recommendations for practices to help them review and comply with federal, state, and local mandates. The AMA also includes a chart and fact sheet pointing to state-specific re-opening procedures.
Have a plan in place to re-open your practice. The AMA provides a step-by-step process for practices to incrementally (and safely) re-open an office. This includes preparation to supply the practice with personal protective equipment, ongoing disinfection routines, and modified staff schedules. The AMA also points out that practices should consider a tele-triage program, in which some patients looking for an in-office visit may be better directed to a hospital or COVID-19 testing site if virus exposure or symptoms are identified.
Practice new safety measures for patients, providers, and staff. Patient, staff, and visitor safety protocols and screening processes are outlined in the guide, noting that physical distancing, minimal interactions, and a low volume of people in a practice office at any given time will be important. The AMA provides a pre-appointment patient screening script template (for practices to inquire about COVID-19 exposure or symptoms), information about protective face coverings, and details about monitoring and restricting non-patient visitors. Staggered appointment scheduling, waiting room procedures, and recommendations for dedicated workstation areas are also addressed.
Review practice liability, privacy, and confidentiality policies. COVID-19 has created a new legal landscape for which practices need to stay up to date. This is especially important when related to screening patients, visitors, and staff for the virus. Practices must maintain health-related privacy, confidentiality, and data security, and follow HIPAA compliance guidelines. To support providers during the pandemic, the AMA provides links and resources for practices related to current coverage and medical liability insurance.
For full information, practices can download a PDF version of the AMA COVID-19 Physician Practice Guide to Reopening.