AAHCM Leadership Communication re: COVID-19
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Communication 3/9/2020

Guidance for 2019-nCOV (COVID-19; Novel coronavirus) Preparedness

As you may be aware, the outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus was first detected in China and has now been diagnosed in almost 90 locations internationally, including several states across the United States. “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). At the end of January 2020, COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency across the globe and in the US, necessitating all healthcare provider groups and venues to prepare policies to protect employees and patients. As part of our mission to advance and represent quality and safety in home care medicine, AAHCM wants our membership to be aware and responsible as your practices protect your providers and your patients from exposure to COVID-19.

 

Firstly, because regional incidence and recommendations are changing rapidly, please make sure you are following updated guidance on the CDC website, as well as your local state’s and/or city’s departments of health.

 

For home care medicine providers, our patients are likely at less risk being a source of COVID-19 infection. However, since it is also cold and flu season and family members or caregivers may have traveled or been exposed, we should still take standard precautions to screen for respiratory symptoms in patients who may be calling or scheduled for home visits, and consider this when deciding how and whether to make the visit. If your organization already has general infection prevention procedures, make sure your home-based practice is observing these and adapting for COVID-19 as per local or CDC guidelines.

 

For home-based practice, consider the following in addition to your general references and policies:

  • Consider incorporating recommended screening questions when confirming home visits, and consider postponing non-urgent home visits if a patient is exhibiting flu-like symptoms until resolved
  • Utilize clinical staff to triage incoming calls and advise as per guidelines
  • Encourage work-from-home activities for employees who are ill
  • If a visit is performed, minimize the number of staff entering the home, maintain standard precautions, including offering a mask to symptomatic people in the household to minimize potential exposure to those without symptoms
  • Consider having providers carry personal protective equipment (PPE) in their bags if a visit must be done with a potentially infected person
  • If appropriate, engage in televisits or video visits in lieu of in-person visits for patients who have symptoms
  • Encourage patients and caregivers (both formal and informal) to get the flu shot if they haven’t yet. It is still more common, in peak season, and not too late to be protected!

 

Lastly, remember that standard steps to protect yourself or your patients and families from COVID-19 have not changed, and are the mainstay of the recommended guidelines for infection prevention during cold/flu season. Here’s a reminder of what that entails:

 

  • Stay home if you are not feeling well
  • Wash your hands regularly, and/or use alcohol-based hand-sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Wipe down surfaces with disinfectant
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick (keep 6 ft distance), avoid crowds
  • Get your flu shot – it’s still peak flu season, and it’s not too late
  • Contact your care provider immediately if you have respiratory symptoms and have had contact with a suspected or known case
  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from any respiratory illnesses, including 2019-nCOV. Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of these diseases to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.

 

Remember, always contact your local Department of Health for detailed instructions if your practice encounters a situation in which a staff member or patient may be exposed or infected.

 

We will also be posting this on the Member Forum and we encourage our members to share your best practices with your colleagues.

 

The AAHCM is committed to keeping our colleagues and our communities safe, healthy and informed. Thank you for the important work you do.

 

Sincerely,

 

Theresa A. Soriano, MD MPH

President

 

Brent T. Feorene, MBA

Executive Director

 

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