Public Health Recommendations to Prevent COVID-19 Spread From Community to Healthcare Facilities

What strategies should organizations use to minimize spread of Covid-19 from the community into healthcare facilities?

Any examples are for illustrative purposes only.

Explore alternatives to face-to-face triage and visits. The following options can reduce unnecessary healthcare visits and prevent transmission of respiratory viruses in your facility:
  •  Instruct patients to use available advice lines, patient portals, on-line self-assessment tools, or call and speak to an office/clinic staff if they become ill with symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
  • Identify staff to conduct telephonic and telehealth interactions with patients. Develop protocols so that staff can triage and assess patients quickly.
  • Determine algorithms to identify which patients can be managed by telephone and advised to stay home, and which patients will need to be sent for emergency care or come to your facility.
  • Instruct patients that if they have respiratory symptoms they should call before they leave home, so staff can be prepared to care for them when they arrive.
  • Using your telephone system to deliver messages to incoming callers about when to seek medical care at your facility, when to seek emergency care, and where to go for information about caring for a person with COVID at home
  • Work with department of public health to notify community providers and the public of the above strategies so those individuals who can be managed in the community do not seek care at a healthcare facility thus limiting exposure and conserving resources. 

Advice and leading practices from Customers
Providence Health System has set up an online coronavirus assessment tool that advises low risk patients to care for themselves at home or automatically links them to a nurse hotline. While only available for full use by Providence customers, it may be a helpful example.
Providence: Helpful information about the novel coronavirus , COVID-19

Many organizations have established drive-through facilities to test patients. This has the advantage of decreasing the use of personal protective equipment.
The New York Times:  Coronavirus Testing Goes Mobile in Seattle. 
Stanford Medicine:  Drive-through coronavirus testing available by appointment at Stanford Health Care

The CDC recommends that a patient’s car can be a useful way to isolate patients who come to an emergency department if an Airborne Infection Isolation Room is not immediately available. While waiting for further evaluation, a system can be provided that allows them to wait in a personal vehicle or outside the facility (if medically appropriate) and be notified by phone or other remote methods when it is their turn to be evaluated.
CDC: Interim Guidance for Healthcare Facilities: Preparing for Community Transmission of COVID-19 in the United States

References: 
CDC: Interim Guidance for Healthcare Facilities: Preparing for Community Transmission of COVID-19 in the United States

Hollander, JE, Carr BG; Virtually Perfect? Telemedicine for Covid-19 NEJM March 11, 2020, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2003539

NOTE:  Links to website(s) included in this FAQ may be helpful in the development of emergency plans, however, organizations should ensure they are accessing the most recent publication prior to implementing. 
Last updated on September 10, 2020
Manual: Behavioral Health
Chapter: Infection Prevention and Control IC

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