Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Dear GOA Colleague,

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a unique challenge that none of us could have foreseen nor prepared for. The GOA staff and I are monitoring information as it becomes available on both a national and state level. We will be sharing optometry-related developments as we receive them and maintain transparency in a time of uncertainty.

I would urge us all to do our best to remain calm, but also realize this is a dire situation. As health care providers, we should continue to care for our patients, remain vigilant with our disinfection and contagious disease protocols and maintain as much social distance as possible.

If you have not done so already, we recommend developing office policies to help your employees understand the situation and what the beginning steps may be for your office. As the federal government decides if there will be any aid for small businesses in the coming weeks, continue practicing to your comfort level and keep your employees as informed as possible.

Here are some recommendations to consider for your practice:
  • Pre-screen patients as they call for an appointment.
  • Screen patients for exposure to COVID-19 at presentation to the clinic.
  • Screen patients for acute respiratory illness (shortness of breath, fever and cough).
  • Make non-contact temperature readings part of the evaluation during patient screening. (note: non medical laser thermometers do not have a bolometer and are not accurate enough)
  • Recommend patients wash their own hands prior to pre-testing
  • Recommend not using a cover paddle, but rather the patients own hand for acuity testing
  • Separate the waiting room patients from those entering the office in case anyone comes with a cough and possible fever.
  • Limit the number of patients back to the screening, examination, and contact lens area.
  • Designate a staffer to dispense in the optical at the entrance rather than have patients come into the office.
  • Mail materials to patients (contacts and/or glasses)
  • Limit the patient interaction for employees at higher risk for the COVID-19.
  • Stagger work schedules and offer paid time off to care for children whose schools have closed.
  • Communicate with your patients via phone, email or your social media channels if your practice will be closed for an extended period of time.
  • Remember to use proper sterilization for instruments such as tonometers, autorefractors, etc.
  • Employees should wash hands immediately after coming in from outdoors, as well as between each patient interaction if possible as well as check their own temperature regularly.
GOA public relations consultant, Dan Curran, and the GOA staff have created email templates for you to send out to your patients should you feel the need to close your practice or ask patients to consider rescheduling their appointments. Please reach out to our communications and advocacy coordinator, Madison French, at   madison@goaeyes.com if you have any questions regarding the templates which have been linked here.

The AOA is hosting a webinar tonight (March 17, 2020 at 9:00 PM EST) on billing and coding specifics for the recently expanded physician telehealth services under Medicare. You can register for the webinar here:  https://aoa.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_vaXA4EpMRSeSFSM93XP4ZQ

Providing you with the education, information and resources you need to serve your patients well remains our number one priority. The GOA staff joins me in our commitment to providing you with vital information during this time of uncertainty.

Thank you for all that you are doing for your patients, for your community, and for our profession during this public health emergency. If you have any questions or concerns, we are here for you anytime.

Sincerely,

Mehrdad E. Saadat, O.D.
President - Georgia Optometric Association