Have you ever imagined a time when we all would be living the same life situation/experience at the same time? Children at home, (constant) handwashing, home-cooked meals and pets enjoying a life in which we love on them all day long.
Amidst the tragic circumstances brought on by COVID-19, some may have found strength in special moments, such as time spent with family. The word I continue to think of during the lockdown is surreal (“marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream” - Merriam-Webster).
As many of us return to work, surreal memories easily can be swept away by the new challenges at the office. We have spent hours brainstorming what changes we will need to put in place at home and work in order to succeed. (I refuse to say survive.) After two weeks of seeing patients with these changes in place, let me share my biggest fear: We will sacrifice our standard of care as a result of the “necessary” protocols we are putting in place.
A SERIOUS FALL
Consider the following event: During the lockdown, someone close to me, who is over the age of 65, suffered a broken arm and concussion due to a fall from a ladder. No one was allowed to accompany him to the E.R. or visit him at the hospital. At discharge, he was wheeled to the car, yet no family members were given any instruction on post-discharge care. My guess is the hospital assumed he understood the discharge instructions, which he may or may not have been given. However, he had no recollection of his time in the hospital.
The result: No one knew what to do to take care of him. Several phone calls to the hospital were ineffective. A local PCP, who would not allow him to visit the practice, could advise only pain meds and rest. No one knew when the patient should wear a sling or how to put it on. As a result, three weeks later, he ended up with an entire shoulder replacement and still had significant memory loss.
THE PATIENT CARE LESSON
Such events may seem extreme, but more and more have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lesson is we cannot compromise our care because of the challenges that may surround us. Instead, we must look at how we can better care for our patients.
It is important to help patients understand that we are providing the same amazing experience that we provided pre-COVID-19, and have added protocols to make the experience even better.
- Concierge service. Every patient will have a dedicated team member to make certain they have a beautiful experience.
- Free gifts. We give an Advanced Eyecare Specialists pen, for use in the office and at home, and a lens cleaning cloth to help de-fog lenses during the evaluation of the prescription.
- Increased attention to detail. We follow CDC guidelines for disinfection of all surfaces. A “sanitized” sign in front of every room notifies us when each room is prepped. To make patients feel more comfortable, all staff and patients wear masks until the CDC notifies us otherwise. Also, UV lights in the AC ducts help keep the air fresh and clean.
- Recorded instructions. At the patient’s request, the doctor gladly voice records any instructions on the patient’s phone, so that the patient may share them with family.
TIME AND VIGILANCE
I have every confidence we will succeed in providing a great experience and wonderful outcomes, however, it will take effort. Be vigilant: Each day assess how protocols are working and where you need to make changes. Most of all, make certain your team does not inadvertently sacrifice standard of care at the expense of the practice and patients. OM