There are many steps an office can take to ensure safe operations during COVID-19. Along with social distancing and infection control measures, you can utilize scheduling software to reduce the risk of exposure to staff and providers. By using telemedicine and planning for staffing shortages and patient surges, you can reduce the pandemic’s impact on operations.
For providers working in person at healthcare facilities, there are some precautions that have become standard over the past few months. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend the following measures:
- Conduct daily health screenings of staff, including temperature checks and health screening questions.
- Keep a six-foot distance between staff when possible.
- Frequently wash your hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content.
- Utilize masks and appropriate PPE.
- Advise workers to stay home if they are sick, and follow accepted guidelines for their return to work.
- Routinely clean surfaces and high-touch areas with soap and water, followed by a household disinfectant approved for use for the coronavirus.
- Follow instructions on the label of disinfectants to ensure appropriate virucidal activity.
Telemedicine tips and scheduling resources for success
Appropriate staff scheduling is important to keep the office running smoothly. COVID-19 has brought telemedicine to the forefront of healthcare, and it offers a way to keep staff working from the safety of their own home. Telemedicine is also a great way to control traffic through your office while still serving the needs of your patients. To enable success with telemedicine initiatives:
- Schedule support staff so they can contact patients prior to their telemedicine appointment.
- Ensure patients are directed to the correct platform.
- Make sure your patients understand how to access and use telemedicine technology.
Telemedicine can help protect your at-risk patients from exposure to COVID-19, and it can help your COVID-19 positive patients who need care at home. By keeping these patients separate, you are also reducing exposure risk for your staff. If patients must come in for a visit:
- Utilize your staff to screen patients prior to arrival. Calling patients prior to their appointment and asking screening questions over the phone can reduce congestion in office waiting areas.
- Schedule MAs, LPNs and RNs in order to keep your office running smoothly since these types of screening and triage processes require ancillary staff.
Planning for staffing shortages and patient surges
Staffing shortages are one of the recent challenges facing healthcare facilities as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses. These shortages occur due to office staff being exposed to the virus, becoming symptomatic, or needing time off to care for ill family members at home. Appropriate staffing provides a safe environment for your staff and for your patients. The CDC recommends the following contingency plans for staffing:
- Adjust existing staff schedules.
- Hire additional office staff.
- Rotate staff from low-demand sites and roles to high-demand areas and roles.
- Shift staff from in-office work to remote work.
Offices should also have a plan in place for supplemental staff if a provider tests positive. When this happens, a 10-20-day absence is necessary. Having efficient scheduling software in place for support staff can greatly reduce the time you have to spend manipulating the schedule. With Intrigma, you can post last-minute open shifts, allow staff to trade or swap shifts, and post surge staffing needs quickly and easily.
Another way to utilize staff and protect employees in the office is through contact tracing. Contact tracing should be done within the office to determine whether other staff will require quarantine and whether patients will need to be notified. Generally, state and local health departments assist with contact tracing and determining who needs to be quarantined and/or tested. However, having contact numbers for all of your staff in one centralized location will help make your communication smooth. Intrigma offers Efficient Communications software that can integrate seamlessly with your existing paging and texting systems.
The CDC also has recommendations for return-to-work criteria for healthcare personnel. It is important to ensure staff do not return too early and risk the further spread of illness throughout the office or to patients. Currently, a test-based strategy for allowing a return to work is notrecommended. In fact, it has been determined that many people continue to shed a small amount of virus for weeks following infection, but it is not at a level that is infectious to others.
Currently, the following are acceptable return-to-work criteria for healthcare personnel:
- A minimum of 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms, and
- A minimum of 24 hours have passed since the last documented fever (without the use of medication that lowers a fever), and
- There has been an improvement in symptoms.
COVID-19 offers unique challenges to healthcare facilities. Guidelines are evolving and frequent changes in protocols can be challenging to monitor. Keeping your office open and safe during this time is essential to protecting your staff and providing high-quality care to your patients. Having scheduling software that can accommodate last-minute changes in staffing is essential to keeping your office running smoothly during COVID-19. Intrigma Efficient Works offers the first vital resource coordination platform and will make a difference in how easy it is to strategize last-minute changes to your workforce.
To learn more, contact Intrigma today.