While COVID-19 has been making headlines, people are now heading back to the doctor for elective appointments and procedures. Knowing that patients are concerned about safety, medical facilities have adapted to ensure patient safety in a variety of clinical settings, including the ER.
Your medical appointments may look and feel different now. “We’ve put the safety of our patients at the forefront in all our actions,” says Dipen Parekh, M.D., Chief Clinical Officer and Interim Chief Operating Officer of the University of Miami Health System. “Our experts are here and ready to provide the same great care, just with enhanced safety measures in place.”
In many cases, the waiting room is rearranged to limit the number of people onsite and to promote physical distancing, and there is enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of clinical areas on a regular basis. Your doctor may not be wearing a tie and lab coat, but that's so they can wear clothes that can be washed daily.
Those are some of the many steps that medical centers like the University of Miami Health System are taking to provide patients with enhanced safety features as they receive their health care. Here are a few more:
In order to limit the number of people in an area, visitors cannot join appointments in person, but the UHealth staff can help you stay connected with loved ones using a tablet or smartphone. One adult may accompany pediatric patients.
UHealth screens patients for COVID-19 prior to each appointment. The screening includes questions about your potential exposure to COVID-19, and current symptoms, and may involve a temperature reading. Any patients suspected of having coronavirus are immediately separated from other patients and treated in an isolated area.
All patients will be provided a mask upon arrival. Children under two years of age should not wear a mask. That same protection is applied to our staff and providers who you will see wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, or PPE.
You’ll also see reminders to physically distance on floors and in elevators, and there are new safety shields at all registration areas, further increasing your safety upon entry.
Extra safety measures for surgeries and ER visits
Many people need to have surgery or other elective procedures that may have been postponed.
"At the time of the COVID crisis, we only took care of the emergent surgeries, but now I think it's very important to take care of anyone with health concerns," says Dr. Parekh. "Care may have been delayed or put on hold and it is critical that these patients receive timely treatment to ensure good outcomes for their health."
When you do arrive for any surgery or procedure, there will be even more precautions. Every UHealth patient is tested for COVID-19 before a surgery or procedure.
When it comes to the emergency room, don’t delay. If you or a loved one experience a medical emergency, you should go the hospital. Facilities are adjusting how ERs operate to keep their patients safe.
For instance, there is a mobile unit outside of the UHealth emergency room, specifically for patients who may have coronavirus. These patients have a separate "transport flow" using dedicated elevators that go to the top floor of the hospital that is completely isolated.
"We have initiated and implemented all necessary steps to make sure that there's absolutely no intermingling or interaction between the COVID positive and the non-COVID patients seeking healthcare," says Dr. Parekh. “Patients should know that we are taking every precaution to keep them safe when coming to UHealth for their care.”
Many medical appointments can take place on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
"One of the most unintended but welcome consequences of the pandemic is a pivot to virtual care," says Dr. Parekh. "Typically, as a health care system, we take care of about 6,000 patients on any given day on an outpatient basis. At this point in time, we are doing 2,000 of these 6,000 patients through virtual care, and moving forward, we expect this number to increase."
Having a doctor's appointment from home provides convenience and peace of mind.
Natasha Bright is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.
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