The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused many patients to avoid visiting their doctor in-person when necessary. Ann M. Nguyen, assistant research professor and implementation scientist at Rutgers Center for State Health Policy, discussed why doing this could cause more health issues, according to an article on Rutgers Today.
Nguyen said that each doctor’s office should be operating on an appointment-only basis and must have safety protocols available for patients to view, such as online, outside their office or over the phone, according to the article.
"While making an appointment, the office staff should walk patients through those safety protocols, such as asking them to wear a mask to the in-person visit and to come alone unless a companion is necessary for their physical or emotional health,” she said, according to the article.
Nguyen said those protocols include offering early-morning appointments for high-risk patients, stopping walk-in visits and staggering in-person visits to allow for rooms and equipment to be sanitized, according to the article.
Additionally, patients must wait outside or in their vehicle until their appointment time, she said, according to the article. Office staff must also ask patients screen-in questions and take their temperature prior to entering the building.
“The office staff member also offers to do part of the visit at the curbside or in the parking lot if possible, such (as) taking blood pressure. If patients must go into a waiting room, the offices limit the number of people to allow for social distancing,” Nguyen said, according to the article. “During the visit, office staff and the doctor maintain a 6-foot distance when possible. Equipment and rooms are marked as sanitized. Hand sanitizer is available. Everyone in the office is wearing personal protective equipment, including other patients.”
She said office staff must also conduct COVID-19 screenings over the phone in addition to collecting any necessary information, such as insurance, over the phone prior to the appointment, according to the article.
“To reduce contact, offices have set up patient portals for questions. Doctor’s office staff who can perform their jobs at home are not in the office,” Nguyen said, according to the article. “Also, since primary care clinics need to have a close pulse on their community, they can keep in direct communication with local and state health agencies to monitor evolving conditions.”