Five ways to address patient concerns as your facility resumes surgeries

As outpatient surgery facilities resume surgeries after postponements due to COVID-19,1 contamination concerns may cause anxiety for otherwise healthy patients.

To ensure that your patients are comfortable and aware of the extra measures your facility is taking to maintain staff and patient safety, clear communication is key. Marvella Thomas, RN, senior consultant of Clinical Operations at Cardinal Health, shares five ways that your facility can help put patients at ease.

  1. Keep up to date on the latest safety regulations and share the measures your facility is taking

    At a foundational level, staff members should be well-informed of the latest COVID-19 developments and practice the proper preventative steps to limit the spread of the disease. Thomas says this can include monitoring the principles suggested by ASCA, AAAHC, AORN, CMS, The Joint Commission, and local and state authorities. Then, be sure to share the specific measures your facility is taking and inform patients that you will keep them updated on any changes that may impact them directly.

  2. Educate patients on the inherent benefits of the outpatient space

    Due to the nature of the outpatient space, there are already some aspects of your facility that minimize risks compared with the in-patient space, which should be made clear to patients. Lower foot traffic from patients, visitors, vendors, and delivery personnel results in less opportunity for exposure based on the volume of people present. Outpatient surgery facilities, like ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) typically treat healthier patients with fewer comorbidities, and the ASC setting is potentially safer and cleaner for patients than hospitals.2

    However, some ASCs are cramped with little free space, so Thomas notes that enforcing social distancing may be difficult. Ensure that your ASC has considered ways to safely distance patients and visitors before resuming surgeries. This may require adjusting the timing of surgeries so patients are sufficiently spaced out in pre- and post-op areas or reducing the number of chairs in waiting areas. If your facility is taking these steps, share that information with patients.

  3. Leverage multiple channels of communication

    You should contact your patients about COVID-19 safety measures even before they set foot in your facility. The best method of communication depends on the demographics that your facility services, Thomas advises. Some patients may only be moderately comfortable with technology, so mailings should be sent to their home addresses in addition to any emails or digital communications you share. Using thorough communication outreach will help ensure that your entire patient base is informed.

    The communications you share (either by mail or digitally) should stress the importance of safety and address the steps that you are taking to protect patients and staff, as well as ways that patients themselves can help ensure the safety of others. If your facility is affiliated with any other facilities, like a post-surgery care facility, communicate the preventative measures your affiliates are taking as well. 

  4. Post updated signage throughout your facility

    Signage is extremely important as patients enter your facility. At your main entrance, Thomas recommends posting large signs indicating that visitors should wear masks or protective face coverings (dependent on your local or state requirements). Including a photo of a mask on signage is essential, as patients with visual impairments may have difficulty reading text alone. If your facility is located within a larger medical building or complex, consult facility management about posting additional signage at the building entrance and throughout hallways.

    You should also place signage throughout the interior of your facility. This can include clear, concise lists of steps you are taking to protect patients and staff or suggestions for patients about how they can protect themselves. In waiting rooms, place table tents or placards with relevant information in areas where they are clearly visible. Ensure that any notices sitting on tables or other surfaces are laminated, as you must be able to properly disinfect them. 

  5. Inform patients how a post COVID-19 experience may be different 

    If patients have had a procedure performed at your facility in the past, they may be surprised to find that the experience is different after COVID-19, Thomas notes. Even for new patients, it is important to communicate how updated infection control measures will affect them directly. Examples include:

  • Visitors will be prohibited or limited. If limited, patients should bring only one person to accompany them (or even encourage visitors to wait in the car outside).
  • Family members may be prohibited from entering the pre- and post-operative areas, but staff will ensure that they are kept well-informed of the patient’s condition.
  • Patients should bring as few items with them as possible to prevent contamination. 
  • Procedures may take longer than in the past due to stricter procedure requirements and the fact that staff must regularly disinfect public spaces in addition to their usual duties.
  • Patients and visitors must wear face coverings (depending on local and state regulations).
  • All staff, patients, and visitors will be screened for symptoms upon entering the facility, so patients may need to arrive earlier than usual to allow time for screenings.

Patients may understandably have concerns as they re-engage with your facility for surgeries. However, taking these five measures can help put patients at ease and set them up for better care.

For more information on how Cardinal Health is addressing COVID-19, and additional resources and tools, visit cardinalhealth.com/covid19

 

1https://www.beckersasc.com/leadership/asca-issues-guidance-for-surgery-centers-amid-covid-19-spread.html

2https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/facilities-management/advantages-of-asc-vs-hospital-based-procedures.html

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