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The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our population and our healthcare system. But it has led to some changes that we consider to be positives. The most obvious one is the emergence of telemedicine, which is likely to be here to stay even after the pandemic has ended (see our November 2020 What's New in the Patient Safety World column Telemedicine Here to Stay But Use It Safely). Another useful practice might be virtual medication history interviews and discharge education (see our April 7, 2020 Patient Safety Tip of the Week Patient Safety Tidbits for the COVID-19 Pandemic).
1. A centralized monitoring system
2. Daily meetings to pinpoint safety and quality concerns
3. Reducing the number of times workers enter patients' rooms
4. Guides for respiratory treatments to reduce the spread of disease
5. Safety precautions for visitors
The first item uses a central system to remotely monitor patients' vital signs and consult with other hospitals in a hospitals network, supplementing a labor shortage. Such systems can also be used to virtually supervise bedside nurses to ensure that tasks are completed correctly.
For the second item, front-line staff on each unit would meet in the morning to voice any concerns about safety and quality. Then, managers would report these concerns at a director-level meeting. Issues were handled on the spot and communicated to senior executives. To this, we might also add the mid-shift huddle (see our July 2021 What's New in the Patient Safety World column Mid-Shift Huddles).
The third item is used to reduce front-line workers' exposure to Covid-19 patients. It involves clustering of care so that certain services and actions get bundled together to minimize the number of times a nurse or other healthcare worker has to enter the room. Such systems require good IT systems to promote such clustering. And, while reducing the number of times workers enter patients rooms may help protect staff (and some patients), there may also be a downside. See our numerous columns (listed below) on the unintended consequences of contact isolation.
The fourth item includes implementing specific guides for certain respiratory procedures. At one hospital system, staff are now required to wear respirators during these procedures, and signs are posted on doors where these procedures are being done to warn others not to enter until it has been vacant for a certain amount of time.
Regarding the last item (safety precautions for visitors), Leah Binder (President and CEO of the Leapfrog Group) is quoted: "Now, visitors are just expected to wash their hands, wear a mask and they have certain responsibilities to protect against family and other patients from infection".
Interesting list. We suspect there are multiple other practices from the COVID-19 era that will be here for the long run. Let us know which ones youve identified.
See also our other columns related to COVID-19:
Some of our prior columns on the unintended consequences of contact isolation:
Gillespie L. Hospital safety practices that will outlive the pandemic. Modern Healthcare 2021; December 14, 2021
Advisory Board. Covid-19 led to new hospital safety measures. These 5 will outlast the pandemic. Advisory Board 2021; December 15, 2021
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