Pandemic One Year Later: What Works for Our Practice
By Allison Cook, MD
COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the health care system since early 2020. Almost one year into the Covid-19 pandemic we still feel the stress daily.
The pandemic has changed how we interact with patients and each other, as social distancing guidelines have led to a more virtual existence at work and at home. We have staff and provider meetings via zoom instead of in the conference room. The only thing we are missing is the bagels! I have noticed that Zoom makes the meetings more efficient and not as time consuming as an actual face to face meeting. I think more and more people will continue to utilize Zoom or other virtual platforms for meetings even after the pandemic is over.
In the office, we are following all local COVID-19 regulations as well as guidelines from the CDC. All providers and other staff are using personal protective equipment (PPE). We are also making sure proper mask are being always worn by every patient. We have cleaning protocols and sanitizing measures for exam rooms, waiting areas, restrooms, elevators, and other frequently touched surfaces. We have also started using the program, Solution Reach. Solution Reach gives us the capability to text our patients to confirm appointments, refill prescriptions, and more.
When the patient arrives, we have them text us from their car. We then text them back using Solution Reach and tell them when to come in. That helps us to ensure we are allowing room for social distancing. We have designated a check point area outside of each of our offices and are still complying with current protocols for infection prevention. We start with screening each patient and checking their temperature. If the patient is not wearing a mask, we provide them one. No one may enter the office without a mask on or if they fail the COVID-19 screening questions or have a temperature over 100 degrees F. To limit exposure, we are only allowing patients to enter the office for appointments. However, one visitor is permitted in the office to accompany a patient who is scheduled for a prenatal ultrasound. After the ultrasound, the visitor is asked to wait in their car while the patient has her appointment with the Provider. We will allow Facetime or another app during their appointments if they would like to visit virtually. Most of our patients have been very understanding with these guidelines. They understand that these procedures are in place to keep them and their loved ones safe. We also continue to provide telemedicine for patients who cannot, or do not want to, come into the office.
For months we were only offering acute care visits at our practice. I believe that preventive care keeps minor health issues from becoming major problems, so I am happy that we are now seeing all patients, including preventative appointments in the office. Even though we are going to great lengths to make sure our offices are safe, we are still seeing a decline in preventive care. We have noticed that some patients simply do not want to come to a medical office during a pandemic unless they are having a problem. I encourage my patients to keep their annual well woman exam.
We deliver exclusively at Baptist Health Lexington. The Baptist Health Lexington Maternity Ward and NICU guidelines are as follows:
NICU is limited to both parents/partners. Parents should be oriented by staff before visiting. On the Labor and Delivery and Mother/Baby unit’s visitation is not permitted for anyone under 18 years old, including siblings. All visitors over 18 are health screened before entrance is permitted. Visitors are limited to 1 per patient and they are encouraged to remain for the entire stay and wear a mask in the room with mom and baby.
It has been a challenging year for everyone, and we will continue to meet these challenges and ensure that we provide safe, compassionate care for all.