The Coronavirus/COVID-19 global pandemic has been a wild ride, that’s for sure. From what began as an outbreak in Wuhan, China, the disease has now spread across the globe. It has caused chaos and crisis across most nations. Some countries were particularly hard hit, such as the UK and Italy. The US is still grappling with hundreds of thousands of cases and an overwhelmed health system in some states. Only now are some nation-states beginning to get back to “business as usual”.
But how have family medical practices, usually the first point of call for primary healthcare, fared during the pandemic? Let’s take a look at how medical practices have adapted during this unprecedented time of upheaval.
They Have Utilised Technology
Any decent practice has relied heavily upon their practice management software during the Coronavirus pandemic. These software platforms are fantastic for managing a practice, even during “normal” life. They manage appointment bookings, reminders, integrate with doctors’ other software and make reception’s life much easier.
Most practices have continued to use this technology to help them keep up with increased demand and a shift to telehealth, which we’ll look at now.
Moving to Telehealth
Telehealth is a term for any medical or healthcare practices that are offered remotely. There are a variety of different software platforms used to this end. Usually, these platforms would be utilised by people living in remote or inaccessible regions.
With COVID-19, the majority of governments instigated lockdown orders, whereby people were forced to remain at home. Some countries are still in lockdown. Yet people still needed prescriptions, referrals, and to talk to their doctor.
So, a vast majority of medical practices have pivoted and began offering telehealth sessions. These sessions range from phone calls to video chats, while still being referred to by the blanket term telehealth. They all have the same end – allowing a patient to see their doctor while remaining safe at home. This has been particularly beneficial for those who are immunocompromised, or who have elderly relatives at home or people who have had to stay home to care for young children as schools were shut.
With the uptake of telehealth, some practices’ haven’t had to stay open for as long. This reduced demand for in-person care has meant that some reduced their operating hours. This allowed them to reduce the costs associated with keeping the doors open. By reducing their hours, some practices’ have managed to stay afloat, instead of standing down staff or even going out of business.
They Implemented Physical Distancing Measures
For those clinics that have continued seeing patients in person, they have introduced some strict physical distancing measures to help stop the spread of the virus. This means renovating or changing waiting areas to allow people to sit and wait while remaining at a safe distance from each other. Even staff in reception have had to sit apart or stagger shifts to maintain the appropriate amount of distance from each other.
Also, clinics have implemented other physical changes to waiting areas, including sneeze guards for staff to keep them safe.
The way family medical centres operate has changed vastly due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen medical practices make use of their technology to continue to offer appointments, including using telehealth platforms. This has meant that at-risk patients can still receive care. Some medical practices have also reduced their hours to stay afloat and continue to offer their valuable services. Finally, they have also introduced physical distancing measures to keep patients and staff safe.
We’re a long way from returning to normal, but it’s a positive that you can still speak to your doctor if you need to.