Managing Healthcare Facilities Operations During and Post-COVID

COVID-19 continues to create enormous changes and challenges worldwide. Coronavirus cases have continued to spike, especially here in the US, leaving numerous clinics and healthcare organizations in varying degrees of disarray. Healthcare providers continue to make significant changes in their regular operations, and medical clinics are developing new ways to manage the well-being of patients and staff, often with little time and a lack of funds and resources. 

Healthcare facilities are in need of finding balanced approaches to performing and conducting quality, efficient medical operations amidst this pandemic. 

Challenges to Healthcare Operations

Earlier with the ease of lockdowns, healthcare providers were faced with additional challenges. Regular medical check-ups were discontinued. People undergoing specific medical treatments have had to postpone their appointments due to safety issues. Routine visits to hospitals and practices were also interrupted. There were many questions in the minds of all significant healthcare service providers including:

● What do we do now to keep battling this pandemic?

● How would we guarantee the safety and health of our patients outside of COVID?

● How can we be more ready for any medical emergency and surges?

It is a consequential challenge to the health sector in managing this crisis and carrying out medical proceedings efficiently. However, there are ways in which healthcare facilities can effectively manage their operations based on organizational and patient needs. 

Implementation of Safety Measures for Reducing Exposure

Medical service administrations settle on the choice to avoid in-person care to decrease COVID exposure. As such, healthcare providers can implement greater security measures to limit patient and supplier contact.

A critical initial step for decreasing virus introduction and ensuring patients’ safety is the creation of non-COVID care zones. The care zones can screen all patients for any symptoms of COVID-19, including temperature checks. Those can be distinct from COVID-19 zones or it can be conducted in separate buildings or assigned rooms with proper sanitization. 

In addition, healthcare facilities can ensure social distancing by limiting time in waiting zones or maintaining distanced seating to meet low patient volumes. 

Medical care offices can make it mandatory for everyone visiting the premises to wear a face mask. And, the medical staff should stay well-prepared while checking or treating any patient. 

Telehealth or Virtual Healthcare

Enhancement of telehealth technology should be a primary tool for healthcare providers during COVID. They should continue offering virtual services to remove the danger of COVID spread; this should be followed particularly among patients with severe or chronic conditions. 

Healthcare organizations should incorporate a tele-triage program prior to conducting in-patient care. It will help patients seeking appointments to discuss their current health conditions, elaborate on developed symptoms, and consider the emergency treatment which may or may not require a hospital visit. Improving this facility operation will also help patients who would otherwise avoid visiting the healthcare facilities due to COVID. 

Address Backlog of Services Using Data Analytics

Healthcare services may not have the option to return to the same old routine. Offices that dropped or deferred non-COVID-19 treatments may feel the need to restore those vital options. 

Organizations will have to understand the pressing challenge of addressing this backlog of patients, and they will need to resume medical services securely and productively. 

Improve Patient Flow

COVID-19 has changed how the public perceives and accesses healthcare. Leadership must consider redesigning patient flow processes as essential in achieving value-based health and delivering safe, high-quality care. Looking at the patient flow from all aspects of the healthcare facilities’ operations–such as moving pre-appointment paperwork online, redesigning the waiting room experience, rethinking team-based care, and focusing on patient communication–can make all the difference in throughput from admissions to discharge. 

Surge Designs

Any new clinical/surgical patient units must consider utilizing “acuity-adaptable rooms” that provide future flexibility during patient surges. Acuity-adaptable rooms are the forefront of emergency clinic rooms that optimize a more elevated level of care. These adaptable units allow for greater preparedness to treat infectious patients quickly by reconfiguring to ICU-level stations. Of course, to meet the ICU-level requirements would mean providing quick access to medical gas supplies, patient monitoring equipment, power sources, ventilators, and mechanical and HEPA filtration, to start with. PPE kits would be deemed mandatory at the passageway of every unit, and a proper space provided to set up portable anterooms. 

Facilities for In-Patients

Use visual alerts, for example, signs and banners in proper dialects, at passages, and in vital places for hand cleanliness, respiratory cleanliness (importance of face masks), and manners for coughing. 

Hospitals can use video conferencing. Increase the distance between the workstation. Limit the number of people permitted to gather in meeting rooms, lunchrooms or elevators. Track the number of guests to healthcare centers. That will help in ensuring the patient’s emotional and physical wellness. However, before allowing them to any other rooms, check the patients for fever and other COVID-19 symptoms. 

Ensure that visitors perform next-hand cleanliness and confine their visit to the patient’s room or zones assigned by the facility. 

Health Care Workers and Staff Safety

This is a balancing act when it comes to maintaining proper levels of staffing while simultaneously preventing the spread of COVID-19. It is vital that Health Care Workers (HCW) are thoroughly trained in the proper utilization and disposing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Ensure that staff understand and comprehend the need for infection prevention and control conventions for COVID-19. 

Implement ways to optimize the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and expanded usage of PPE units whenever interacting with COVID-19 patients. Create protocols for HCW’s to screen themselves for temperature issues and any other symptoms of COVID-19. 

Out-Patient Care

Connect with patients who, although recovered, may be experiencing lingering symptoms ranging from mild to severe due to COVID-19. This guarantees that they are adhering to current medication and health regimens. Patients must receive support for rehabilitation self-management upon recovery.

Patients with symptoms, when needed to visit in-person, must be asked to call before heading to a healthcare facility. This helps staff to prepare with infection prevention control (IPC) procedures and ensuring PPE-readiness.

Set up sitting areas to let patients maintain 6 feet of separation. Nevertheless, if the organization doesn’t have a waiting room, you can use boards or signs to assign regions or make partitions. Instruct them to use a face mask, frequently sanitize themselves, and restrict any unnecessary movements. 

Decrease crowding in lounge areas. Request patients to stay outside. For example, they can remain in their vehicles or an assigned area until they are called into the office for treatment. Another option is to set up emergency mini-stations to screen patients securely.

Final Thought

In these challenging times, it’s best to take the utmost care of the people around us, and conquering this pandemic can help restore a much-needed humanity to the world. Healthcare organizations are vital as they focus on treating and saving the lives of patients–this can only be achieved when successfully managed healthcare operations are in place. To learn more about building a strategic plan focused on growth and result-oriented outcomes, reach out to PDV Health.