New AAAHC COVID-19 Guidelines Call for Postponing Elective or Non-Essential Visits and Surgeries image

The Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) is calling for the postponement of elective or non-essential visits or surgeries in their newly released guidelines.

For patients that require an office visit, increased pre-screening measures with specific questions related to recent travel, evidence of fever and other COVID-19 symptoms will support early identification, the group adds. Suspect COVID-19 patients should be referred to designated testing.

In addition, health care organizations should review their written emergency preparedness plan to make sure that it is sufficiently comprehensive to guide actions in the event of a COVID-19 community outbreak, the guidelines state.

The group also suggests reviewing infection control risk assessment and practices to ensure alignment with the CDC recommendations and interim guidelines for the management of COVID-19 cases. Any revisions made to the emergency plan or the governing body should approve infection control processes and all staff should receive education and compliance monitored.

 Health care organizations should also assess their personal protective equipment inventory including masks, gloves and thermometers for patients and staff. Regularly monitoring inventory levels and considering possible alternatives, such as washable cloth masks, is also advised. Organizations should also consider the vendors who regularly visit their facilities and implement contactless services.

 To help stop the spread of infection, AAAHC recommends health care facilities limit the number of people allowed in a facility by exploring telehealth or utilizing patient portals. When face-to-face appointments are necessary, there should be a plan to keep the waiting room safe and not allow guests to accompany patients to the appointment.

Upon arrival, take each patient’s temperature and clean the thermometer, the group advises.  At this time, remove magazines and pamphlets from the waiting room and thoroughly and frequently clean pens, clipboards and other materials used by each patient.

“Create a waiting room with fewer items to touch as this can help stop the spread of the virus,” says Tess Poland, RN, BSN, MSN, senior vice president of accreditation services at AAAHC, in a news release.  “Staff can conduct a walk-through of the facility from a patient’s perspective. Or, have an outside source give an assessment of what may need additional sanitizing or where hand sanitizer bottles should be placed, and follow the CDC’s cleaning protocol.”

 AAAHC also stresses frequent environmental cleaning and hand hygiene to isolate COVID-19. Be sure that employees know how to thoroughly wash their hands and post additional information about hand hygiene in waiting rooms and restrooms. Educate staff on the proper surface contact time for each cleaning agent and follow manufacturers’ guidelines for use.

AAAHC also encourages facilities to keep staff informed of COVID-19 outbreak updates. Designate an employee to monitor related local and national news and develop a plan to distribute relevant updates to all employees. Allow staff to submit questions to ensure they fully understand their facility’s plan or hold regular Q&A sessions to emphasize open, transparent communication.

All organizations across all settings should remain vigilant about practices that impact employee and patient safety and the quality of care delivered,” says Poland.