Contamination, disease, and infection: these are chronic concerns in any healthcare-related setting. Unfortunately for everyone, the COVID-19 outbreak has led to an exponential rise of infections and safety concerns in medical settings. This is challenging the limits of what healthcare staff can reasonably do while treating patients effectively.
Nevertheless, smaller medical operations – such as medical clinics – can take appropriate, precautionary actions that reduce risk and protect staff from infection. After all, healthy staff members free from infection help keep patients free from infection as well.
Below are a few basic recommendations that all medical clinics should embrace immediately.
Adequate PPE Gear
In the opening weeks of the most recent pandemic, a plethora of stories emerged about healthcare facilities lacking proper access to PPE gear. Whether it is in the midst of a viral outbreak or just another normal day in the clinic, it is inexcusable for facilities to not be properly stocked.
The type of patient, his or her specific condition, and/or whether a larger infectious disease is present among the general population will impact which items are used, but all of the following should be in stock:
- Respirators. These devices help shield staff from inhaling potentially toxic or infectious particles. Both N95 respirators and elastomeric respirators are recommended options by the CDC.
- Face shields. Infectious liquids such as saliva and blood can easily pass through the air during medical procedures or operations. As such, having portable face shields is absolutely necessary.
- Sneeze guards. In common areas of the clinic, protecting staff such as receptionists is just as important. The use of plexiglass panels is increasingly common as one way to prevent the accidental spread of infectious particles between patients and staff.
- Eye protection. Infectious materials can just as easily be absorbed through the eyes as they can be through the nose or mouth in some cases. Protecting staff with proper eye protection when interacting with patients will further reduce the chance of transmission.
- Gowns and gloves. Last but not least, sufficient stockpiles of gowns and gloves are an absolute necessity. This ensures not only that staff are protected from potentially infectious patients, but that staff aren’t transmitting diseases from one patient to the next.
Note: The use of PPEs is highly recommended at all times, even with minor assessments, in compliance with CDC and WHO guidelines to ensure public health and safety. Only obtain PPEs from certified and trusted suppliers, such as Primo Dental Products.
Consider Facility Preparedness
It’s crucial to prepare your medical facility to rapidly detect an increase of COVID-19 cases locally. Also, it’s a preventive infection control measure and promotes prompt response to rapidly increasing local cases.
Check the following facility preparedness tips:
- Follow CDC guidelines in reopening healthcare facilities during the new normal. Make sure your staff is fully equipped with the right information and skills in infection control, such as facility disinfection, social distancing, and correct wearing of PPEs.
- Find alternative patient care options to deliver minor medical services the safest way possible, such as optimizing telehealth services (will be discussed below).
- Gradually increase in-person clinical care services. Prioritize at-risk populations, including the most at risk for complications, patients experiencing delayed care, and patients without any access to telehealth services.
Provide Telehealth Services
Because of COVID-19, telehealth services have become more in-demand across the country. Telemedicine or telehealth services involve the utilization of Internet and Internet-capable devices, allowing patients and doctors to communicate. Healthcare businesses are embracing this innovative technology to increase patient reach and improve quality of care.
Here are the benefits of offering telehealth services:
- Provide patients alternative access to medical care via online consultation services, particularly to those who prefer to stay at home and are busy to set face-to-face medical appointments
- Doctors can provide digital prescriptions, particularly repeated prescriptions, such as maintenance medicines and refills
- Healthcare professionals can easily and quickly provide patient care education, such as rehabilitative and surgical aftercare tips
- Help patients in remote areas or those who can’t travel due to debilitating conditions
To ensure optimal conditions that minimize the spread of infection to staff, it is vital to consider elements such as conventional, contingency, and crisis capacities. Following these approaches can ensure that medical clinics are embracing the right procedures based on how many patients they are seeing in a given period of time.
Likewise, verifying that all disposal areas for bio-hazardous and potentially infectious materials are functional is non-negotiable. Inspecting each container or unit to ensure no leaks or other dangers are present can keep staff safe.
It’s also worthwhile to periodically inspect the ventilation systems and air filters in a medical clinic. Opting for the most efficient filtration solutions and ensuring air-flow is optimized for minimizing infection spread guarantees a lower risk of transmission to and from staff.
While there can never be an absolute zero risk of infection spread in medical settings, clinics can take a variety of actions to reduce the chances to near-zero. Basic precautions that protect staff from fluids, touch, and airborne particles are at the core of any infection-reducing strategy.
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