At U.S. Dermatology Partners, we have always been committed to creating safe, healthy spaces for our patients and our physicians and staff, and that is not changing. To address the risk associated with coronavirus (COVID-19), our teams have been actively preparing in the past weeks to identify areas of concern, address the needs of our patients, and prevent transmission of COVID-19. In this blog, you can learn more about how our Clinical Research Team is working to avoid risks and respond to this evolving situation.
We know that the current situation is highly stressful, but we want to make sure that we offer continuous service to our clients. For this reason, in light of the Shelter in Place orders in many of the communities we serve, if your scheduled appointment is considered elective, we encourage our patients with upcoming appointments to visit us from the comfort of home using one of our telehealth (online or virtual) session options. If you need to be seen in the office for an essential treatment, know that every precaution will be taken to ensure your health and safety while you’re here.
The rapidly changing dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic are a concern to us all and to our patients. As the environment has evolved, we are closely following the situation and are making the most informed decisions that we can with current information. In response to the situation we have done the following to protect our patients, physicians, and staff:
- Implemented a COVID-19 Clinical Response Team comprised of clinical and administrative leaders to respond to issues as they arise
- Implemented screening questions in all offices to allow proactive rescheduling of any patient who may be displaying symptoms or fall into the risk group of those potentially having COVID-19
- Rescheduling patients in high-risk groups for non-emergent conditions
- Created an Alternative Waiting Room Policy in adherence with federal social distancing directives. This policy enables patients to wait in their cars until we text them to let them know their room is ready.
- Launched Telehealth for all locations on Monday, March 23rd
For the safety of our patients and dermatology providers, we are limiting interaction by allowing only the patient and one caregiver (if needed) to visit our offices. If you have traveled internationally, been on a cruise ship, or been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last two weeks, we ask that you reschedule your appointment or use one of our telehealth options for a virtual office visit. Additionally, anyone experiencing the following symptoms or situations MUST reschedule their visit:
- Those who have traveled domestically or internationally by airplane or those who have traveled by cruise ship in the last 14 days.
- Those who have been in contact with someone who is suspected of having, being tested, or has tested positive for the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
- Those who have been experiencing fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other respiratory symptoms.
- Those who have experienced GI symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, or stomach pains in the last week.
In an increased effort to flatten the curve and keep both the patients and health care workers safe, our offices are now offering telehealth options, which will allow patients to be seen while maintaining safe social distancing. For this, we are utilizing the latest video-conferencing technology to connect you with our Dermatologists from the comfort of your home. Telehealth options available include three videoconferencing applications – FaceTime, Google Duo, and Zoom. In many cases, you can begin seeing a Dermatologist in less than 24 hours, allowing you to get a diagnosis and treatment plan quickly and easily. A visit only takes a few minutes to complete. If you need a prescription, your dermatologist can send it to your local pharmacy electronically.
We know that many of our patients are not familiar with using telehealth services for virtual, online appointments. For this reason, we have team members available to help you get ready for these appointments, including discussing whether your treatment needs can be met with a virtual visit, explaining the process, and helping you with any of the technical aspects of telehealth visits. If you have an upcoming visit, please consider calling your local office to schedule a telehealth appointment instead.
Potential Scheduling Changes
We will do our utmost to remain available to our patients during this time, but we urge patients to check back regularly for potential changes. We remind our patients that, while we’re doing our best to offer uninterrupted services, we encourage patients to keep the following things in mind:
- Depending on community trends surrounding COVID-19, our offices have reduced patient load or and may potentially close with short notice.
- We will notify you if it is necessary to temporarily close an office.
- Visit our website for regular updates about scheduling and office closures.
A Note for Higher Risk Patients
Those individuals who are at increased risk to contract COVID-19 and those who are likely to experience more severe reactions should be staying home to protect their health and limit exposure. At this time, we highly recommend that anyone considered high risk should schedule a virtual appointment or reschedule their visit to a later date.
According to the CDC’s recommendations as of March 18th, the following individuals are considered at a higher risk for complications associated with COVID-19:
- People who are pregnant
- People 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- People of any age with the following underlying medical conditions, particularly those that are not well controlled:
- Chronic lung disease or asthma
- Congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease
- Neurologic conditions that weaken the ability to cough
- Weakened immune systems
- Chemotherapy or radiation for cancer (currently or in the recent past)
- Sickle cell anemia
- Chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Lack of spleen or a spleen that doesn’t function correctly
- Extreme obesity
Keeping the Office Clean, Sanitary & Safe
We always hold our practices to the highest sanitation standards in keeping with state and federal regulations for healthcare facilities. As we respond to concerns surrounding COVID-19, you can expect our facilities to incorporate even more stringent standards of cleanliness. We’ll be frequently sanitizing all communal areas. Treatment rooms will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized between patients, and we’ll be monitoring all caregivers and clients for warning signs associated with COVID-19 to prevent unnecessary exposure.
For your safety, our staff members have all been trained in infection control practices, standard disease control precautions, and hand hygiene best practices. Additionally, we are keeping each of our team members up to date on the latest information about COVID-19 symptoms, safety standards, and recommendations from recognized and authoritative resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization. Our Clinical Research team is staying on top of all the new statistics and data to ensure we are all aware of the latest information surrounding COVID-19 as the situation continues to evolve in the coming weeks. In short, we have committed to going above and beyond to keep our patients. their families, and our employees and loved ones safe and healthy.
Keeping Yourself Safe At-Home & When You Need to go Out
Remember, staying healthy during COVID-19 starts just like staying healthy at any other time. Wash hands frequently, eat healthy and nutrient-rich meals, drink plenty of water, sleep 7 to 9 hours a day, exercise, and avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms like excessive alcohol consumption. If you need to go out, remember the following:
- Avoid any contact with individuals who are sick
- Maintain distance (3 to 6 feet) from all people
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home if you are sick
- Cover your sneeze or cough with a tissue and throw it away immediately
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces regularly (counters, handrails, doorknobs, etc.)
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time
- Don’t share personal items (glasses, dishes, bedding, etc.)
Learn More from the U.S. Dermatology Partners
We know that this situation can be very frightening for many of our patients, and we want to do everything in our power to spread positive, factual information about how people can stay safe and healthy at this time. If you have questions about an upcoming appointment or U.S. Dermatology Partners’ approach to handling COVID-19, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to support you.
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