How to Manage Patient Workflow During COVID-19
Not only are you working to serve the usual case load of patients in your community, you and your team are also contending with individuals who now present with possible symptoms of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19.
Making efforts more difficult is the need to triage patients showing up with symptoms such as coughs and fever from other ailments.
As practices begin opening up, it will be crucial that offices are prepared to manage the influx of patients through their patient workflows.
In this article, we will share the main considerations you need to take when it comes to patient workflow in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What to Consider When Managing Patient Workflow in the Time of Coronavirus
We’re all in this together, coping with the new reality of treating patients while COVID-19 cases mount in the United States, with much work still needing to be done with therapeutics and vaccine development. Chances are that you and fellow stakeholders are now giving greater attention to patient workflow.
The term “workflow” refers to the various activities (both physical and mental tasks) that occur in your facility, from interactions between staff and patients to practitioners’ thought processes to filling out patient records or writing new prescriptions.
As noted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it’s crucial to assess your workflow. “Anytime you make a change to your practice, especially when implementing health IT, the workflow associated with clinical and practice management processes will change.”
HSS notes that your facility will need to identify at least one point person to be in charge of workflow assessment. It’s best to start collecting data about your patient workflow for analysis before you actually implement or upgrade your organization’s health information technology and software setup.
An organization that fails to collect workflow data, assess it and take it into account can expect to see delays in communication and patient care as well as in billing, all of which put unnecessary burdens on a practice that is already stretching thin to deal with extra healthcare needs of COVID-19 patients.
Automation of routine processes is key to boosting efficiency in your office, which is especially critical as we treat patients in a pandemic. Kissflow suggests that you identify workflows that are readily automated, including how you allocate medications, conduct patient surveys, set up coordinated care plans and update the patients’ records.
Rely on your nurses to evaluate each patient using triage protocols to see if they truly need an appointment or if, for example, a patient with very mild symptoms of a respiratory infection might be managed at home (while severe cases are advised to visit an emergency center without delay. That’s the recommendation of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Adapting your triage protocols to account for increased patient volume amid coronavirus and other respiratory illnesses will be crucial for treating the most people the most effectively with your already limited resources.
If your organization has not yet implemented telehealth options, now would be an ideal time to start, given the growing amount of patients that will need to be triaged, tested and treated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Practices should be aware that CMS is adjusting guidelines established to ensure patient privacy according to HIPAA protection, allowing for communication between healthcare professionals and patients using commonly available technology. Your patients could use their smartphone and its included video chat software to hold a virtual visit. This is especially useful because the doctor can communicate with the patient from any location as long as there is internet access or a cell signal.
Improved Check-in Procedures
In instances when telehealth is not practical and the patient needs to come into your office, it’s useful to establish better check-in protocols. The AAFP advises that you eliminate the traditional patient check-in desk. “A designated nurse or other clinical staff member should meet the patient at the entrance (or a separate side entrance if possible), mask the patient, and escort the patient to a designated exam room.”
Make sure that you provide plenty of ventilation in your waiting spaces to help cut down the possible transmission of COVID-19 virus particles. Ideally, you will reduce the number of patients in the waiting room, with everyone wearing masks and following the usual hygiene protocols.
Your office might want to let patients remain in their cars in the parking lot while waiting for their appointment. When it’s time for them to come in, a quick automated text message or voice call alerts them to come inside.
Ensure Your Patient Workflows are Safe and Efficient
Ensuring that patient workflow goes as smoothly as possible should be a high priority in your office, especially in the face of the spreading pandemic. As you and the rest of your team adjust to the new realities of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, it makes sense to take advantage of software tools to help you all work more efficiently.
To that end, our electronic health record (EHR) and practice management (PM) applications are available to use individually, but are designed to work together, serving as a unified solution. For details, click here for a free and informative demo today.
About Christina Rosario
Christina Rosario is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Advanced Data Systems Corporation, a leading provider of healthcare IT solutions for medical practices and billing companies. When she's not helping ADS clients boost productivity and profitability, she can be found browsing travel websites, shopping in NYC, and spending time with her family.