It’s week four of the Getting Back Better series on Spine IQ’s Back Blog. Last week we focused on a recent study evaluating the transition of low back pain from acute to chronic. Earlier in the month we discussed the virtual spine exam. This week, we’re addressing ways to help patients feel safer in your clinic during COVID while also optimizing care. Every office will encounter a variety of patient attitudes relative to the restrictions and other measures.  Regardless of your personal feelings toward any and all of the measures, your position should and must be neutral to make every patient feel heard and respected. Patients may not tell you what they are feeling pro or con and by your inclusive attitude you will not inadvertently offend any patient. We’re also one week closer to our webinar on April 6th at 6pm EST, see the link below to sign up!

During the past year, health care clinicians of all types have had to address ways to adjust their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Adopting telehealth is a part of this, but it is also important to align safety measures for providing in-person care in accordance with advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and local government advice/restrictions. As an example, the WHO advises avoidance of the Three C’s: spaces that are Closed, Crowded or involve Close contact.

What does this mean for YOU as a clinician?

One step is to consider educating your patients, before they even walk in the front door. The CDC recommends placing flyers at clinical care entrances and locations that outline succinct and easy-to-read information for patients regarding topics such as like hand washing and cough etiquette. Educating patients with visual reminders, and in person, on proper mask use, selection, storage, cleaning and disposal is also suggested by many organizations. Including all of this information on your clinic’s social media pages or website is also a great way to let your patients know that their safety is your top priority. Clinicians will be able to determine the level of fear factor in their parents and proceed accordingly.

Creating a safe environment for your patients means setting an example with your own masking habits and following the most current protocols. For those offering clinical care, the WHO endorses targeted continuous medical masking’. When looking more broadly at the treatment room, guidelines recommend sanitizing office equipment after patient contact, washing hands thoroughly, and changing into a clean mask. Maintaining punctuality with patient appointments can help ensure time for proper disinfection of treatment spaces. If you are part of a multi-provider practice, try staggering appointment times so that treatment room doors can be kept open without compromising patient privacy. Additional strategies include 1) reducing the likelihood of patients gathering in common areas like the reception room or front desk by establishing a remote check-in process via cell-phone when possible and 2) designating spaces using floor markings throughout the office to safeguard for physical distancing.

Educating staff on your COVID safety measures is also important. This may include determining a standard office language or preparing a script they can use when speaking with patients about COVID office policies and procedures. If possible, the CDC recommends the use of pre-recorded messages which contain information about self-screening and any up-to-date local travel guidelines. Staff should also be trained on proper usage of personal protective equipment. The WHO offers many resources for training including an easy-to-use app. Lastly, stay current! Regulations change often (such as the 6 foot to 3 foot social distancing), and in-office services may require gradual expansion to accommodate patients and adhere to local guidelines.

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