Bringing Employees and Patients Back to Your Healthcare Facility, Practice or Medical Office

Bringing Employees and Patients Back to Your Healthcare Facility, Practice or Medical Office
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RCM&D has designed a comprehensive Back to Business Playbook for healthcare facilities of all types and sizes. This playbook aims to assist in developing a tailored plan for bringing back your full workforce and patient population. If you would like to receive a copy of this report, please complete the form at the bottom of this page and an RCM&D advisor will contact you. The RCM&D team is available to help review your existing plan, offer enhancement and verification, or even to help you build a customized plan tailored to your operations.

For the past several months, healthcare facilities have been forced to postpone a number of outpatient services because of the anticipated need for increased inpatient care due to COVID-19. Despite the phased reopening for many states, telehealth should be continued for most patient care. For services that cannot be accomplished virtually, RCM&D has compiled specific considerations and recommendations to assist you in getting back to business safely and effectively.

Below, we offer a concise but effective overview of necessary considerations to ensure the safe return to your facility, practice or office. A more comprehensive guide is available through an RCM&D representative once you complete the form below. Although the content doesn’t address every unique industry issue, RCM&D Risk Consulting staff are available to help you meet your individual needs.

Key Considerations

Key considerations should be discussed before the reopening of a healthcare facility. These considerations include issues such as prioritization of care, non COVID-19 care (NCC) zones, isolation areas, social distancing protocols, cleaning and sanitization changes, and more.

Buildings & Infrastructure

During the COVID-19 pandemic, buildings or parts of buildings may have been completely vacant, operating at a reduced capacity or operating with a skeleton crew. It is recommended that thorough inspections or assessments are performed before allowing employees, patients and visitors to return to your facilities.

  • Inspections & Maintenance of all major systems including mechanical and HVAC, Water systems, fire and life safety, and medical equipment and devices.
  • Establishing designated Non COVID-19 Care (NCC) or isolation zones is necessary to reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19
  • Communicating existing and planned cleaning protocols, including those of high-touch surfaces, high-traffic areas, and the expectations of employee cleaning standards.
  • Strict social distancing and circulation practices should continue to be implemented and enforced.

Preparing the Workforce

As you begin to implement a return to work plan, the health, safety and wellbeing of your staff should be at the forefront of any plan.

It is important to consider the following factors:

  • Who should return to work?
  • Who can accomplish their work from home?
  • How can you establish a socially-distant workplace?
  • How should  effectively communicate our strategy?
  • What is the timeline for return?
  • How do we develop and share guidelines for both patients and staff to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

It’s prudent to communicate to staff that plans are being put in place to safely begin bringing employees back to work when it’s safe to do so. Communication will come in many forms before, during and after the return of employees. If you’re unsure of where to start, consider performing a stakeholder analysis to determine communications. Also ensure that you craft employee communication plans and timelines for staffing levels, the use of temp agencies and any rotating unit protocols.

Preparing Operations

A return to work plan should be designed addressing how your facility, practice or office will handle all of the following considerations:

  • Visitor management and restrictions, especially in areas exposure to immunocompromised patients
  • Employee travel restrictions, especially between offices
  • Meetings with vendors such as pharmaceutical representatives
  • Proper elevator capacity based on size
  • Employee break areas, especially for clinical staff without dedicated offices
  • Protocols for employees who may be sick, include mandatory temperature checks
  • Employee training on proper PPE use, hazardous waste disposal and more.
  • Delivery and receiving protocols
  • New or augmented human resources or employee policies

Preparing For Patients

When reopening a facility, communication with patients to provide reassurance that your facility has taken the proper precautions for reopening is necessary.

The most essential component to bringing patients back to your facility, practice or office is effective communication. Patients should be aware of all the changes in policies, procedures and expectations including those for:

  • Visitor and Non-Patient Policies
  • Social Distancing
  • New Check-In Procedures
  • The Use of Face Coverings
  • Entrance and Exit Changes

These changes should be communicated to the patient via email or patient portal as well as posted onsite at the facility, practice or office. Additionally, employees should remind the patients during appointment reminder calls. There may be an increased need for patient advocacy and relations resources to help address any complaints.

Considerations for Physician Practices

The following section provides guidance and considerations for specific areas of physician and medical offices. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to reopen your facility or practice in a safe manner, the following are best practices to facilitate your decision-making.

Reception Areas

  • Maintain low patient volumes. This may require allowing for extra time between scheduled appointments to reduce the number of individuals waiting at once.
  • Disable and remove registration kiosks/touchscreen sign-ins and move to touchless sign-in via mobile phone and patient portals.
  • Determine strategic placement of physical barriers (i.e., Plexiglas®) and hand sanitizer dispensers.

Waiting and Treatment Rooms

  • Rearrange chairs so that they are spaced six feet apart. Extra chairs should be stacked/removed.
  • Remove unnecessary, high-touch items from waiting areas and treatment rooms, such as magazines, books and toys.
  • Sanitize and clean treatment rooms between patients.
  • Encourage patients to wait in their cars and alert them to when they are ready to be seen via phone call.

Additional Considerations

Food Services - Cafes, cafeterias or other food service operations require a unique set of guidelines as they often serve as meeting hubs for employees and visitors.

Environmental Services – It is important to set strict protocols for cleaning, housekeeping and custodial staff regarding cleaning surfaces, taking out trash, laundry services and more.

Shuttle, Valet and Transportation Services – Consider what protocols will be put in place for transporting patients and visitors to, from or around your facility.

Gift and Retail Shops – Determine options for turning your gift and retail shops into a phone-order only operation with “curbside” pick-up options. Allow only prepaid purchases and do not accept cash payments.

Chapels and Meditation Rooms – Eliminate common-use items and arrange seating to promote social distancing. Consider signage to limit capacity.

Community Education, Classes and Support Groups - It’s prudent to consider suspending all location-based events through the early phases of reopening. Consider continuing (or commencing) online virtual events such as support groups, meetings, etc.

We’re Here To Help

RCM&D’s Risk Consulting team is highly experienced in developing back-to-business plans for the healthcare industry. Whether you are a fully operational facility bringing back ancillary services or a fully remote workforce returning to onsite operations, we’re here to help you identify your route to reopening by:

Developing Internal Programs

We can develop or review custom internal programs targeted for your specific facilities, employees and operations.

Implementing Infection Control Protocols

Ensure that you are able to not only prevent exposure but also identify, isolate and sanitize in the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case.

Social Distance Heat Mapping

Identify areas within your facility that may be a concern for effective social distancing measures. Using those insights, we can help you mitigate concerns through appropriate intervention techniques.

Learn more about the services our Risk Consulting team can provide to help your organization get Back To Business.