In the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals are struggling to keep up with changing protocols for screening patients. From the E.R. to outpatients, it’s critical to avoid exposing staff and visitors to the virus.
The Hospital Crisis
It’s no secret that hospitals across America are challenged to respond to a pandemic of this size. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of beds available dropped to 2.8 per 1,000 people, according to an analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. With the situation causing an overburdened healthcare system in most states, the Department of Public Health and the CDC have called for hospitals to find ways to accommodate a surge in patient screening.
Innovative Screening Methods
To prepare for the influx of patients, hospitals across the nation are following the CDC’s requirements for COVID-19 screening. Many are managing potential coronavirus patients by implementing several innovative protocols, including:
#1: Digital Interactions
Hospitals are increasingly making use of patient portals, online self-assessment tools, advice hotlines and telehealth interactions to replace in-person consultations wherever possible.
#2: Restricted Access
By posting security guards outside hospital entrances, staff can screen everyone before allowing them entry. Restricting access this way means they allow only patients to enter, while their companions must wait elsewhere. Hospitals are integrating new visitor management systems, such as expiring visitor badges, to support their new restrictions. The installation of plexiglass screens between staff and patients also helps to protect both parties from contact.
#3: Drive-Through Screening
Some hospitals have set up drive-through screening operations outdoors to distinguish potential coronavirus patients from others. These mobile screening stations use new technologies, such as Precision Mobile ID, that allow healthcare providers to quickly scan a patient’s ID, ask them a series of questions aimed at determining their risk of exposure to COVID-19, then print the appropriate Patient ID wristbands or labels needed.
- Do you have a fever or worsening cough or flu-like symptoms?
- Have you traveled to China, Japan, Italy, Iran or South Korea in the last 14 days?
- Have you been in close contact with someone, including health care workers, confirmed to have the coronavirus disease?
After the questions are answered satisfactorily, the healthcare provider can use the mobile system to print a barcoded patient ID wristband and matching specimen label. They also might use brightly-colored wristbands to identify a particular status. This helps hospital staff to keep track of who should be where at all times.
#4: Triage Tactics in Hospitals
In some states, hospitals have erected triage tents in front of their entrances, which are being used as an evaluation point for all patients. E.R. COVID-19 patients are separated from traditional patients and housed in a separate area during triage. Healthcare workers triage patients with coronavirus symptoms and group them into categories for “treat and release” or admission to hospital. Smaller numbers of people are allowed to occupy particular areas at any given time, to ensure that those present can practice social distancing.
Changing Healthcare in the Future
As the pandemic continues to surge, many hospitals are looking for empty lots they can use for triage tents. New York City is considering converting hotels into temporary medical facilities. Connecticut has plans to recall retired staff, reassign existing employees, or bring staff in from other states in the coming weeks. Getting through this isn’t going to be easy, but one thing is for certain: the pandemic will change many of the ways we approach healthcare in the future.