One of the next challenges we will face — how to return to our practices. Some of you may not be ready to think about the future, however, I will tell you from experience that planning for recovery is healing. You may find calm and even relief in thinking about what that day of reopening looks like.
I have read many articles and talked to several doctors about some of the issues we will need to tackle at that time. Consider a few:
- The virus will still be a virus. So, there will be a need for social distancing in your practice for a time.
- Patient-friendly office hours will be important, as patients may not have time off from work for a while.
- Many patients have been and will continue to be working from home (including children). What new challenges does that bring to their lives that we can assist with? For example, patients who are experiencing tired, dry, red eyes from being on the computer all day, not having the right vision correction for sitting at a computer eight to 10 hours a day and reflections patients see in their lenses on conference calls.
- Create a triage method. A set of questions should be asked when making appointments to identify possible disease; make your policies clear to your patients; and ensure the protection of your staff.
- Hand sanitizer at the entrance of the office. Prompt people to use it as soon as they walk in.
- Disposable masks at the front door. Encourage patients to wear one during their exam (provided there are those to buy at that time).
- Give each patient their own, clean pen to use at your office. Ask them to keep it.
- Share your efforts. Be ready with signage, email and website post that explain your disinfection process.
- Rearrange the office waiting room, so seating is not back to back. Patients are likely going to expect 6 ft of separation, so outfitting your waiting room to provide this and training your team to help guide patients to provide this.
- Introduce a system in which every frame a patient tries on is cleaned before being put back on display.
- Designate a red eye room, as it can be a warning of systemic disease or a more serious condition.
- Consider keeping employees who are older than age 65 to work remotely indefinitely. For example, both phones can be set up to be answered, and computers can be accessed remotely.
- Update HIPAA policies with staff members due to changes in remote activity and telemedicine.
- Reconfigure the schedule to accommodate smaller crowds in the office, which equates to better patient flow throughout the office.
- Educate your team regarding LASIK discussion for patients that are “done with” contacts and glasses after COVID-19.
— April Jasper, O.D., F.A.A.O., chief optometric editor
Find more COVID-19 coverage here.