The COVID-19’s outbreak all over the country has created unusual interruption to the profession and enforced optometrists to impose rapid practice management and clinical decisions. Number of ODs closed their practices for a short period of time owing to COVID-19, on the other hand, other practitioners’ makeshift with very urgent appointments and Telehealth optometry. Now, the national sanction of CDC to delay regular eye care is ineffective, new challenges have been faced by ODs: how we move forward amidst the COVID-19 outbreak?
Steps to resume optometry practice
The pandemic has transformed the healthcare industry completely. In the beginning, it was rapidly noticed that incorporating Telehealth optometry into optometrists’ regular practice was necessary. Let us understand the step-by-step process to resume optometry practice during COVID-19.
Design a patients group and divide them into different categories
In order to ease your daily practice, study your patient base. For example distribute your patients in three different categories like A, B, and C. Type A patients are those patients who need urgent care and in-office visit because of the complex nature of their present condition. Segregation of category B and category C patients is totally depending on your professional expertise. You can categories them such as more urgent but not emergent, type B-C may contain patients who usually need follow-up every three to five months, but their visits could be delayed. Finally, Type C patients are those patients who require routine checkups once a year.
Categorization of patients will enable you to effectively paying attention to the urgency of your patients’ requirements. Allocate dedicated staff members who can understand patients better. Moreover, each patient who calls and speaks to you about his/her medical condition should be categorized.
Monitor the above plan of action for the next four to seven months
Ambiguity is the correct word to brief this whole scenario, and even the time period for reopening, based on state recommendations. Your correct plan of action is to strategize the upcoming four to six months and recognize the proper timeline for different patients in different categories.
Utilize and manage your office space and patients visit smartly
Each office layout is different; therefore, following the social-distancing norms could be difficult. Begin with observing your office space so that you can understand space availability and the number of people to be accommodated. By doing space study you will get a clear picture of how many providers can be operating at the same time. For an individual practitioner, this could only need diminishing patient numbers.
This initiative will require more planning for multiple doctor practice, hospital or academic setting, and MD/OD. Technically, there should not be two practitioners in the same hall. This will restrain interaction between staff and patients as well as patient-to-patient contact. Areas such as dilating areas, waiting rooms, and testing spaces require to be rearranged to have proper distancing.
Decrease exposure and in-office chair time
Rising telemedicine technology and the exceptional, although temporary, lift on HIPAA restrictions permit you to merge in-office visits and optometry telemedicine. The diagnostic day model could perform a major role in your hospital. After a short interaction with your patient for diagnosis, on the next day patient will receive a call or audiovisual visit to discuss further procedures and results.
Strategize to enforce telemedicine optometry in standard office care
As you are moving towards normalizing your practice, triage telemedicine optometry will still be vital. Because of space limitations and social distancing, not every doctor will be capable to practice in the hospitals every day of the week. This is where telemedicine optometry comes into a picture, which will stay forever into your practice. Moreover, study different aspects of telemedicine optometry to be implemented in daily practice in the long run. Safety and security of staff as well as patients will be on top of the list in every healthcare setting in the COVID-19 scenario. In order to stay each and everyone safe, optometrists should welcome change.
These are some of the important steps that every health care practitioner should keep in mind while getting back to in-office practice.