If you want to regain your patient population, you need to make sure you’re providing patients with a sense of security. Part of it is putting in place these security protocols of temperature checks, masking, and social distancing. And don’t just talk the talk—walk the walk. —Robert A. Glazer
Explore This IssueAugust 2020
The clinic includes 25 otolaryngologists who, pre-pandemic, had full workdays. Dr. Sale said they cut back to essential visits only when the pandemic hit Kansas City in March and are now seeing a gradual increase in volume. As of June, the clinic was at about 80% of pre-pandemic levels. To promote physical distancing, shifts are staggered to reduce patient and provider overlap, and staff often see fewer total patients over the course of a longer workday. Otolaryngologists also conduct follow ups via telehealth rather than in person. “Our in-person safety approach has been to treat all patient encounters as potentially [SARS-Cov-2] positive,” he said.
As an academic provider who also works in a practice one day a week, Richard Orlandi, MD, shared perspectives gleaned from two settings. The problem in both locations isn’t that patients are afraid to come in, he said, but limited capacity because exam rooms need to be aired out between visits.
At the University of Utah Health in Salt Lake City where Dr. Orlandi serves as chief medical officer of ambulatory health, rooms that aren’t equipped with HEPA filters remain vacant for 45 minutes between appointments; with a HEPA filter, that time is reduced to 20 minutes. As of June, outpatient volume was down about a quarter from pre-pandemic levels, but rising, he said. At the practice where he works one day a week with similar room-turnover protocols, he was seeing about three quarters of his usual patient caseload.
“I haven’t had anyone outright refuse to come in,” he said. “We have had people hesitate and ask, ‘It is safe to come in?’ I’ve had patients hesitate around surgery, asking, ‘Is it safe for me to have surgery right now? I can put this off for a few months, if necessary.’ And I’ve had patients ask me, ‘Are you OK if I come in?’ In other words, they’re concerned about my safety, which is very nice of them.”
Similarly, Randall Ow, MD, of Sacramento ENT in Roseville, Calif., said appointments at his three-person practice are all booked. They’re operating at about 75% of their typical volume, however, because of the need to avoid having too many patients in the office at the same time.