Reopening Medical Offices

Gina C. Pervall M.D.

Preparing the Clinic

Reopening medical offices requires planning and preparation to ensure ongoing practices of social distancing as well as attention to hygiene to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Preparation includes restocking personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory as needed; stocking waiting and exam rooms with tissues, hand sanitizer, and trash cans; establishing safety measures for patients and staff; determining services that can be provided by telehealth; and frequent cleaning and disinfecting. Give consideration to opening incrementally, adding screen barriers, and removing communal objects, such as magazines.

Safety Measures for Patients

Implement a telephone triage program that allows for screening patients by phone twenty-four hours before in-person visits. This phone encounter should include screening for COVID-19 symptoms and review the logistics of the reopening practice protocol. Clinic visits should be limited to companions whose participation in the appointment is necessary based on the patient’s situation. If patients must be accompanied, those individuals should be screened in the same manner. Require all individuals who visit the clinic to wear a cloth face covering. Patients or visitors who arrive to the practice without a cloth face covering should be provided with one. If separate waiting areas are not available for sick patients, immediately place sick patients in an exam room. After patients leave, clean all frequently touched surfaces using EPA-registered disinfectants.

Safety Measures for Clinicians and Staff

Personal health requirements should be clearly communicated to staff. Staff should be advised to not present to work if they have a fever, symptoms of COVID-19, or have recently been in direct contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Consider screening staff for fever and other symptoms of COVID-19. Staff that are symptomatic should be sent home. Rearrange open work areas to increase the distance between staff and advise minimize contact as much as possible. Consider assigning dedicated workstations and patient rooms to minimize the number of people touching the same equipment.

Useful Links

CDC: Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes

CDC: Get Your Clinic Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

AMA: COVID-19: A physician practice guide to reopening