My wife and I are both delaying elective tests and procedures that we know are important for our health, because we don’t feel safe. We’re both in our mid-50’s and in good health, so we’re not in the ‘high risk’ category, but that doesn’t make us feel any safer. The thought of spending time in a small and confined waiting room makes us extremely nervous. Some clinics are spacing chairs six-feet apart and enforcing masks, but this does not address our concerns.
Like most patients seeking ambulatory care, we’re concerned about these 5 things:
1) What has your ambulatory clinic changed in order to keep us safe?
2) Are you pre-screening for COVID-19 to ensure that sick patients are identified before they arrive?
3) Have you eliminated arrival registration/intake line-ups?
4) How are you ensuring social distancing as I transition between treatment areas in your clinic?
5) How is your clinic managing facility capacity and treatment area capacity to enforce social distancing?
We know that receiving our elective care is important, but until your clinic can convince us that you’ve made significant changes to keep us safe, we’re not going to respond to your appointment reminders and if we do show up and feel unsafe, then we’re going to leave.
Virtual care might help for some consultations, but we need in-person visits for my echocardiogram and my wife’s arthroscopic procedure.
To keep us safe, you could hire additional administrators to reduce lines and better coordinate care, or reduce the number of patients in your building. Despite these changes, my wife and I are not convinced that receiving elective care is worth the risk.
So what fundamental changes could your clinic implement to make us feel confident that our safety is your top priority?
1) Patient Communication: Our appointment reminders should include an outline of the significant changes you’ve made describing what our ‘safe’ patient journey looks like. If you want us to come back to your clinic, we need to be informed of what we should expect during our visits.
2) Pre-Screening: By texting or emailing us a COVID-19 pre-screening survey, you’re signaling to us that you’re pre-screening patients in order to keep everyone safe.
3) Registration – Intake: Once we’ve arrived at your clinic, we want the ability to text or email you and to register using our phones. Give us the option to wait in our car until someone texts or emails that you’re ready to see us, and that your waiting area is clear. We certainly don’t want to stand in a socially distanced line or waiting room.
4) Patient Flow: Describe how you’ll move us from registration to the examination room or to other treatment areas. We want to know how your practice is coordinating our visit with other patient and staff movement. If there’s a treatment bottleneck, tell us how your clinic will manage patient wait times so we’re not stuck in a waiting area where we don’t feel safe.
5) Patient Capacity Management: Tell us how you’re keeping track of the number of patients in your building and in the different treatment areas. Some clinics are doing this manually, but it’s just a matter of time before patient exceptions and rerouting make those numbers inaccurate.
It’s important to me and my wife that you’ve addressed these five issues, and are able to explain your approach in a way that makes sense to us. This will change the way we perceive our risk in visiting your clinic, and our willingness to book our appointments.
We’re both very conscientious regarding our health, and we know our tests and procedures need to get done. Reassure us that you’ve made significant changes to reduce our risk of contracting COVID-19, then you’ve convinced us that it’s worth the risk.
If you’d like more information about these five COVID-19 Patient Flow problems and some strategies for how to address them, download our COVID-19 Safe Patient Flow Readiness Checklist below.