Think About Patient Safety When Reopening Your Medical Practice

As patients resume scheduling their routine medical appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic, vigilance is required to protect them from infection and to reduce the risk of potential COVID-related litigation. The following is a sample list of risk reduction strategies to ensure your patients’ safety. For more comprehensive information and risk reduction strategies on each subject, please follow the links below for resources featured on CAP’s website from the California Medical Association (CMA), the American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP), the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), and more.

 Office Visit versus Telemedicine Visit

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  • Continue telemedicine encounters for routine patient visits that do not require physical examination.
  • Prioritize and reserve office visits for high-risk patients, such as the elderly and those with chronic conditions, and those that require a physical exam. 

Learn More: CAP's COVID-19 Resource Center, MGMA Practice Reopening Checklist 

Physical Distancing

  • Provide two separate entrances: one for well patients and the other for sick patients.
  • If separate waiting rooms are not available for well and sick patients, instruct them  to call your office upon arrival, and have them wait in their car or outside until it is time for their appointment.
  • Have your patient bring one family member only, when necessary.
  • Always keep exam room doors closed during visits.

Learn More: CMA Guidelines for Reopening 

Infection Control

  • Assess your patient via telephone the day before appointment for symptoms of illness. Encourage a telehealth visit, when applicable.
  • Require patients and their family member to wear facial masks.  If they do not have one, provide them with a disposable facial mask.
  • Assess patients for illness, including temperature checks, before the patient enters the building or medical office.
  • Implement isolation precautions for those exhibiting signs of illness and disinfect exam room after each patient visit.
  • Provide appropriate personal protective equipment to staff and require its proper use. Maintain adequate inventory as much as possible should shortages continue.
  • Mandate handwashing and universal precautions.

Learn More:  AAFP Office Prep Checklist, CDC Guide to Disinfecting Your Facility

Physician/Staff

  • Establish a temperature check and symptom monitoring policy for staff.
  • If a staff person is ill, encourage him/her to stay home.  If they test positive for COVID-19, follow CDC guidelines for isolation.
  • If a provider tests positive, implement steps for a potential office closure, including patient notification, and notification among  high-risk patients for continuity of care, etc.
  • Communicate with your staff daily and make sure everyone understands procedures.
  • Call CAP’s Hotline at 800-252-0555 to speak with a Risk Manager and/or Human Resources Specialist.

Learn More: OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

Medical experts predict that COVID-19 will have a second surge as “Safe at Home” orders and other governmental restrictions are eased. CAP recommends that you stay informed by consulting local, regional, and state governmental and health agencies; and be prepared for another possible office closure.