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New Normal in Medicine

Cities and states across America are taking steps for reopening after the coronavirus pandemic swept through homes, businesses, the economy, and our healthcare system.

A common topic of conversation is when and how will we ever go “back to normal.” As months pass and the country is still very much impacted by COVID-19, it is becoming clear that life as we know it will change.

Thanks to the coronavirus the healthcare industry was hit extremely hard on a variety of levels. Hospital administration and clinical leadership have revised protocols in order to account for slowing down the spread of COVID-19. 

Here are three key areas where the healthcare industry will navigate a new normal, for both patients and providers.

1. Elective vs. Non-Elective Surgeries

In order to prepare for an influx of coronavirus patients, some hospitals revamped entire floors, while others created makeshift treatment facilities. Non-emergent and elective cases were put on hold and created a significant toll on hospital bank accounts. 

The University of Michigan’s health system reopened their elective surgeries, but are uncertain when the hospital will resume to its former capactiy. UM officials say that physicians are measuring the advantages of indivudal surgeries versus the uncertainty of COVID-19. 

2. Keeping Up with PPE

Coronavirus patients and their caretakers don’t automatically have the same PPE needs as other patients. Healthcare officials told ABC News that there is enough of an overlap in basic protective equipment and they are “taking careful note when considering the amount of PPE that would be expended for a particular operation and how much they might need if a resurgence of COVID-19 strikes.”

The president and Chief Executive Officer at the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Helath Systems, Jeffrey Tieman, pointed out that if hospitals aren’t confident in their PPE reserve, they need to consider if they can continue to provide elective surgeries.

Dr. Kat McGraw, CMO at Vermon’t Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, stated that since outpatient surgeries were approved to resume at a state level the hospitals have to “self supply” with PPE.

According to McGraw, the hospital has grown its own PPE arsenal for emergency measures. McGraw reports “We have been purchasing, not through our usual streams, but trying to find creative ways to get an augmented amount of PPE, but its not necessarily sustainable.”

3. Telemedicine & Pre-op Testing

Telemedicine is certainly not a new concept to healthcare, but because of the rapid coronavirus surge using pre-op virtual appointments will likely become another ‘new normal.’

CareMore Health’s Dr. Aleaf Worku states that pre-op meetings will serve as an assessment, i.e. determining what kind of care a patient needs. Doing so would save patients a trip to the facility, and avoid medical personnel from having physical contact with patients. Aleaf explained, “This is why telemedicine may be the way we do pre-op screening in the new normal.”

Virtually monitoring patients with chronic diseases and offering telemedicine will enable improved management, as well as avoiding potential exposure to the virus.

COVID-19 testing before operations take place will also become standard protocol for the indefinite future. Patients who are scheduled for surgery will likely be tested 4-5 days before the operation, and agree to self-isolate during that period. Before the pandemic, most patients are accustomed to a variety of pre-op steps, such as fasting from food and drinking 12 hours before a procedure. COVID-19 testing will be just another step.

With that said, there have been numerous reports that people are cancelling their in-person appointments out of COVID-19 related fears.

An official from Providence Health told ABC News that they completed a 12,000 patient sample survey, and the largest roadblock appears to be a fear of getting COVID in their healthcare facilities. A mere 18% indicated that they “feel safe” going back to the ER, health clinics, or hospitals.

Moving Forward

With heightened safety standards in place, providers and health care facilities are working to improve.

Former president of the American College of Physicians, Robert McLean shared with ABC News, “This is an opportunity to ask, what do we really need to do and what do we need to not do. The pandemic has gotten us back to doctoring. We need to take advantage of that and critically look at the utilization of a lot of things we have done.”

To learn about how COVID-19 is impacting the way in which employees are returning to the workplace, be sure to check out our blog post.