“The New Normal”
With states at various stages of opening up, doctors are also beginning to reopen their offices and see patients. Due to COVID-19, many glaucoma patients have missed their regular appointments to test for progression. And, as anyone who has recently made an office visit knows, it’s a “new normal”.
New protocols are in place to limit exposure. Everything has had to be considered, from pre-appointment contacts and check-in procedures to screen for potential COVID-19 symptoms (e.g. taking the patient’s temperature before entry), to interaction between patients and staff. Patients wear masks; doctors are wearing masks, breath shields and more.
Doctors are reconfiguring their waiting rooms and testing areas in order to accommodate social distancing. There is also a focus on properly ventilating office areas to provide clean, healthy air. In some suburban locations, patients are being asked to wait in their cars and then receive texts telling them that it’s time to come in.
Extensive cleaning procedures have been developed and put in place to enhance safety and protect patients, staff as well as the equipment. Surfaces touched by a patient are wiped down. Equipment – from the slit-lamp, to diagnostic and imaging devices and other instruments — are sanitized immediately after each use. Practices are continuing to update their protocols to protect staff and patients alike.
What will tomorrow look like? In some practices, hybrid diagnostic visits – a cross between telemedicine and office visits — have already been implemented. For example, a patient might go into the office for a visual field, OCT or another diagnostic test conducted by one technician, and then leave. Those pictures would then be examined and followed up by the doctor with a telemedicine visit or a phone call with the patient. Some believe this scenario will grow more popular.
“We are working hard to safely care for our patients and our staff during this challenging time,” says Gregory K. Harmon, MD, Chairman of The Glaucoma Foundation. “As physicians, our primary responsibility is to our patients’ safety and health and we are following strict hygiene and disinfection guidelines to keep you safe. If you have questions or concerns about coming into the office, give your eye care practitioner a call.”