As the flu continues to sweep the nation, hitting earlier and harder compared to last year, more doctors’ offices are advising their patients to describe their symptoms over the phone or Internet, instead of coming in for an exam.
The reason? Too many patients are arriving at the doctor’s office at their most contagious state, putting other patients in the waiting room, and the healthcare workers who care for them, at greater risk of infection.
The approach, a healthcare trend called telemedicine, is typically used by some doctors to help treat patients no matter their location – abroad, out-of-state, or just unavailable for an in-person appointment. But with so many patients wanting to see the doctor this flu season, physician offices have been slammed, making telemedicine a next best, and cautious, option for some.
With the flu now widespread in 46 states, and the peak still expected to hit in February, it’s time for healthcare workers to fight this year’s feisty flu from all angles, including right in the waiting room. One study sites that Americans wait an average of 24 minutes to see their physicians nationwide. So what steps can healthcare providers take to ensure an excellent patient care experience right in the waiting room?
“While telemedicine may be an option for some doctor’s offices, it is critical that all clinics, including urgent care settings across the country, create safer waiting rooms to help protect against the spread of the influenza virus,” says Martie Moore, chief nursing officer for leading healthcare supplier Medline Industries, Inc. “Healthcare workers need a strategic action plan that addresses the tension and balance many clinicians are faced with between patients coming in for treatment or staying home.”
Clinics and doctor’s offices can follow simple steps to make sure those coming into their waiting rooms are protected so they can continue to provide excellent, in-person patient care. Moore advises healthcare workers follow these precautions to help keep waiting rooms germ-free:
1. Make hand sanitizer, such as Sterillium Comfort Gel, accessible in several high-traffic spots. The product kills 99.999 percent of germs in 15 seconds without water, and is effective against a broad range of pathogens.
2. Offer Biomask, an antiviral face mask to patients, in addition to healthcare workers. The mask, also available to consumers at many retailers as the CURAD antiviral face mask, is the industry’s first antiviral face mask. It uses three powerful yet safe active ingredients – zinc, copper and citric acid – to inactivate 99.99 percent of 15 different laboratory-tested subtypes of Influenza A and B, including both seasonal H3N2 and pandemic H1N1. It is the first-ever face mask that actually inactivates flu viruses upon five minutes of contact, helping protect the wearer against flu viruses.
3. Wipe down all high-contact surfaces. Help reduce the spread of germs with products like Micro-Kill One wipes, which can be used on countertops and tables. These wipes can kill certain infectious microorganisms including Influenza A2, within one minute.
4. As much as possible, review containment plans and distance patients with symptoms from others to help mitigate exposure potential. People with the flu can spread it to others, up to six feet away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
5. Remember to always follow hand hygiene compliance standards.
For more practical tips to prepare healthcare workers for this year’s influenza season, read this blog post from Moore at http://mkt.medline.com/clinical-blog/acute-care/dont-forget-the-flu/.
Learn more about Medline’s infection protection products at http://www.medline.com/category/Infection-Control/cat1470085.