It’s that time of year again: FLU SEASON.
They are everywhere. You see and hear them all over. People complaining of chills, aches and pains, fever, runny nose and congestion. As a medical group providing treatment to well and sick populations how do you do so without making the situation worse? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Guidelines posted on the US Department of Labor website regarding flu in the healthcare workplace, it is easy to see how a telemedicine platform would solve a lot of problems.
The guidelines suggestions include these three key points:
Limit the transportation of patients who are infectious (especially within the healthcare facility)
Limit the number of staff who come in contact with infected individuals
Install physical barriers to isolate known or suspected flu patients
If You Are Sick, Stay Home.
As you know, there is usually very little that can be done for a flu patient at a provider’s office. According to Up To Date, “although acutely debilitating, influenza is usually a self-limited infection. However, it is associated with increased morbidity and mortality in certain high-risk populations.” Antivirals, if the infection is caught early enough, may be called into the patient’s pharmacy without risking well-patients coming into contact with infectious ones. A telemedicine platform like eVisit allows a provider to see and talk to the patient, check symptoms, and prescribe medicine all from one HIPAA compliant platform. All the notes and prescriptions are documented and the provider will be confident in their treatment protocol because they are seeing the patient in real-time via high-definition video.
It’s The Law Of Averages
Healthcare workers are at an increased risk of contracting the flu themselves when they come in contact with a higher number of infectious patients. A sick healthcare worker ending up at home adds to their already thin numbers. Who will treat and care for patients when the providers and support staff are home sick? Also, most medical assistants, nurses and front-office staff are hourly workers. If they are home, they are not making a paycheck, and if they come to work sick, they become part of the problem by potentially infecting other healthy colleagues and/or patients.
None Shall Pass!
Keeping sick and well patients separated has been shown to lower infection rates. But, how many healthcare provider’s offices have physical barriers, other than those pediatric offices with designated areas for sick and well patients? Most healthcare offices have one main waiting room for everyone. This type of waiting room would need to be built out to provide a new entrance for sick patients, a divider to separate the two groups of patients, another entrance into the exam areas, and then new signage and patient training to incorporate the division policy. By seeing flu patients in their own homes with a telemedicine platform, patients and staff who are well are not put at risk. Using telemedicine as a triage platform the office easily will be able to identify those patients who should be seen, and those who would do well to stay at home.
These three guidelines are easily implementable if a healthcare office has a telemedicine platform. Not only will it offer protections from and convenience for infectious patients, but it offers the ability to follow-up with recently seen patients, discharged patients, behavioral health patients, and patients with chronic conditions that benefit from real-time monitoring.