COVID-19 Practice Exposure - Communicating With Your Patients
Monday, April 6, 2020
As the COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, some practices are still seeing patients in person. Most offices that remain open have made adjustments to how they see patients, such as requiring them to meet specific criteria, adjusting hours and limiting the number of people allowed in the space. Even with extra precautions, however, there is still the risk that your staff or patients could contract the virus or bring it in from outside. Should this happen, it's essential that you're prepared to take action quickly and efficiently. These are steps you should consider taking should a staff member test positive for this virus (or, for that matter, any other contagion).
We are going to assume that your practice is taking all the required precautions recommended by the CDC and your local health departments. Under normal circumstances (usual contagions) you would institute your infectious disease protocol of evaluating employees prior to and throughout their employment.
With the COVID-19 virus, consider augmenting your standard protocol to include:
- Create a list of patients who were seen in the practice within a specific time period.
- Disclose the potential exposure to those patients.
- Call each one, using a prepared script which explains that they may have been exposed to someone who is being tested for COVID-19.
- Do not disclose any identities, only that there is a potential exposure.
- Reinforce the symptoms (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath)
- Advise them to contact their PCP should they exhibit any symptoms
- Reinforce social distancing
- After test results are received:
- Call each patient back to advise them of the results, whether negative or positive.
- If negative: reinforce the original instructions of social distancing, etc.
- If test is positive (whether patient is either asymptomatic or symptomatic) arrange for testing of the patient
- If patient is asymptomatic: Ask patient to continue to self-monitor
- Recommend quarantine (separation from other household members and restriction of movement)
- If symptomatic, assess whether the patient should be hospitalized.
- Separation should include:
- Staying away from other household members for at least 7 days after symptoms first appeared
- Patient should be fever-free for 72 hours without using medication
- Other symptoms have improved (cough, shortness of breath)
Note: There may be other protocols to follow within your office as the CDC recommends, such as sanitizing surfaces — this checklist serves as a good foundation for your COVID-19 exposure communications.