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(COVID-19) Precautionary Measures for the Patient Community

Over the past few weeks our collective fears and anxiety have been rising fed by the around-the-clock news cycles with minute to minute updates regarding the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our anxiety is being fueled mostly by the unknown, yet new developments are making risks and mitigation strategies clearer. Unfortunately, despite COVID-19 establishing a foothold in the US and the likelihood that it will be with us for the next several months, we are getting clear direction from the CDC. So, as a society we are rapidly adjusting our activity and habits to reduce the overall impact.

It is important that we remind ourselves to not panic and let fear dictate our behavior. We must remain calm and think logically through our strategy and activity. This virus, while carrying a higher morbidity, particularly among the elderly and medically compromised individuals, is not nearly as lethal in the young and otherwise healthy population. As I mentioned yesterday, the overall morbidity to date from the influenza virus is still much greater than COVID-19. This is not to say that we should take the spread lightly, but it is a reminder that fear does not make us safer. I prefer we choose to be cautiously deliberate in our action.

As a country, while we implementing travel bans to certain regions, we are now shifting our focus from containment to mitigation. National Spine & Pain Centers has established a COVID-19 Task Force that has established a solid multi-faceted plan that is intended to reduce exposure to patients, and provide guidance should exposure occur. We are rapidly deploying resources and direction to address the activity we can control:

  1. Every office and practitioner will have access to telemedicine/telehealth. Since 67% of our visits are follow up visits, it is our hope that we can reduce office traffic by shifting as many of our established patients to virtual visits without the risk of direct contact. We are working by payer to secure reimbursement appropriately
  1. Pre-op visit calls and texts will communicate overtures for patients to be seen via telehealth, and caution those who have had known exposure, or those who are febrile or feeling ill to avoid the office.
  1. With less office crowding, we are going to block every other chair in the waiting room farther apart, so patients don’t unwittingly have direct exposure to other patients
  1. All offices will be provided with infrared (non-touch) thermometers. Patients with even low grade fevers will be asked to vacate the office-setting immediately.
  1. Non-touch disinfectant will be installed in convenient locations throughout the offices.

As always, your safety remains our highest priority and we will continue to work with you to mitigate risks during these difficult times.

Very Best,

Peter Staats, M.D.

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