COVID-19 is famous for the toll it took on healthcare facilities everywhere; a lack of available beds, limited supplies and equipment, and overwhelming patient loads can all inhibit a provider’s capacity to operate enormously. Things have quieted down since the beginning of the pandemic, but, when the next surge hits, will your team be prepared?
Surge season is nothing we’re looking forward to. As COVID-19 healthcare providers ourselves, however, we take our role very seriously when cases spike in our communities.
Here’s how we plan on tackling the next surge head-on, all while keeping our team members as safe as possible. If you’re a leader or a provider yourself, we would love to share some of our best advice for the front lines.
1. Stay organized
Is your facility optimized for surge success? Even things like the way your facility is set up spatially may help you improve your workflow. Ergonomics and efficiency will go a long way when you’re completely swamped.
Are there any minor inconveniences in your daily goings-on that can be improved? Even having immediate access to the equipment and supplies you need from a given post can facilitate a faster and more enjoyable experience during a surge—not just for you and your staff, but for your patients, too.
2. Stay up to date
During ordinary times, small things often make no difference. It’s only during periods of unusually high patient volumes that these small hiccups really add up.
Before surge season this fall, it might be advisable to ensure your COVID-19-relevant billing codes, digital instrumentation, and COVID-19 EHR packages are all completely updated before that first wave.
The reporting requirements outlined by the CDC do change marginally from time to time; it never hurts to brush up on the basics before a surge, and we suggest you ask your managerial team to do the same.
3. Stay engaged with your team
This industry is not for the faint of heart. We know that you lead a team of professionals, but the fact stands: COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on the mental health of healthcare workers globally, the U.S. included.
While the trauma of the pandemic is behind us to some extent, be cognizant of any signs of stress and anxiety that your team exhibits—when we’re overworked, we often become emotional, forgetful, and unresponsive to outreach from others.
Resiliency isn’t always easy, especially after a 24-hour shift. If you’re a leader, take the time to level with any of your employees that appear to be overwhelmed by their workload, the nature of the cases they see, or any other stressful factors that may be preventing them from performing at their peak.
You might not always be able to offer the rest of the day off, but redistributing your team’s workload might give somebody struggling the brief reprieve they need to get back on their feet. A warm cup of tea, a snack, and a moment to vent can all go a long way—offer what little you can in the present, even if the sky feels like it’s falling.
4. Implement telehealth practices
Telehealth procedures like proctored testing and other types of virtual doctor’s visits can make a huge impact on the number of patients you’ll successfully be able to help, however.
Remote patient visualization, any telemedicine app or tool that allows for a virtual visit with a doctor from the patient’s home, is one helpful telehealth tool to use—any virtual window you provide limits your clinic or health care center’s exposure to a new patient and saves room for those in more desperate need of face-to-face service.
If telemedicine and telehealth aren’t a regular part of your staff’s routine, you may need to provide some education to get them up to speed. Even non-patient-facing virtual resources can save you tons of time on the floor—any type of remote support tool that limits travel time in any capacity gives your team the access they need without pulling them away from their duties.
5. Ask that patients make an appointment
In a perfect world, your point of care would be able to handle every walk-in and drive-up without missing a beat. For some, this ideal is a reality. For the majority, however, the truth hurts: time, supplies, equipment, and manpower are finite.
Instead of taking on the world, we recommend implementing a surge season appointment system when case reports spike—that’s what we plan on doing this autumn. In your case, this may entail reviewing and adjusting the system you currently have in place, including any instructions or documentation that you make available to your patients.
Give your patients access to an online portal (preferably, one they’re able to access via mobile device). When you know exactly how many people you’ve got in front of you and a good idea of how many are just around the bend, you’re able to allocate your resources more effectively and, in theory, serve as many patients as humanly possible.
At the end of the day, all you can do is plan ahead and prepare as responsibly as you’re able to. We’re not superhumans, and few of us have unlimited funds and extra resources on standby.
The best thing you can do for the communities you serve is to take care of as many new patients as you and your team can reasonably accommodate. This is one great way to figure it all out equitably.
Is the next surge just ahead?
Statistically, November, December, and January are the most dangerous months of the year as far as new COVID case reports are concerned. This year is unlikely to be an exception, which is why we’re here to share some of our own best practices for success.
If you’re just an ordinary person who takes their health seriously, you’ll be glad to know that our doors will be open to you this fall and winter. Stay prepared with us by masking, limiting your exposure to the public, and, of course, testing often, especially if you’re symptomatic.