The New Protocols for Non-Urgent Healthcare

Abigail Sabido
April 3, 2020

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare clinics remain operational to support and ensure patients’ well-being. To maintain the safety of the patients, staff, and medical professionals, new protocols have been enacted but are constantly evolving according to new developments and directives from the WHO, CDC, and local authorities. These are a few examples of how medical practitioners are keeping up with the changes brought about by the crisis.

Telehealth Expansion

COVID-19 is forcing many doctors to shift to telehealth overnight but sifting through HIPAA-compliant tools and determining the best application poses a large challenge. Their staff must also be well versed and confident using new technology and alternative methods to guide patients and troubleshoot technical issues. Our VMAs have undergone specific IT training, equipping them with these necessary skills for remote work, and it has proven invaluable while assisting clients transition to telemedicine.

New consultation arrangements have been approved by many insurance companies, and a large number of psychiatric sessions are now accomplished online using technologies like Zoom, Facetime, Skype, and phone calls. Other practices, including dermatology clinics, now encourage telemedicine for consultation as well.

COVID-19 Testing

The number of COVID-19 positive cases in the UShas surged to 216,357 with New York alone reaching 84,025, followed closely by New Jersey, California, and the state of Michigan. Almost 300 million people in 37 states across the country, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are mandated to stay at home and an increasing number of areas are expected to follow suit as more laboratories begin testing for COVID-19.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has made the push for massive testing of high-risk symptomatic individuals, enabling private and public labs and drive-through testing sites, but despite the widespread testing, protocols for COVID-19 evaluation and testing prioritizes

  • those within proximate contact to a positive patient,
  • symptomatic individuals with travel histories to infected areas,
  • hospitalized patients,
  • symptomatic healthcare workers,
  • and the vulnerable population (old age and with underlying conditions)

Those who want to get tested may call their local health authorities or go online for a virtual visit with their medical provider.

Appointment Screening

Face to face consultations are limited to urgent cases and healthcare practices now require patients to call in before an appointment. To ensure patients don’t exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and potentially spread the virus, they are phoned prior to their scheduled visit and are advised to reschedule appointments if unwell. If a client is suspected to have COVID-19, they are advised to call their insurance providers and health authorities for the appropriate actions to take.

Emergency Treatments

Many surgery clinics are now conducting check-ups online or through the phone to give priority space to IMEs and emergency surgeries. Elective surgeries have been postponed and patients are advised to stay at home, practice social distancing, and maintain their optimal health.

Other practices, like dermatology clinics, also prepare isolation rooms for any sick patients needing urgent care. However, strict guidelines are implemented and practitioners and staff wear personal protective equipment before performing procedures.

Home Health Care

Home health care services like speech, occupational, and physical therapy and skilled nursing follow the same protocols. Clinicians make appointment calls and ask patients about any COVID-19 risk, current health conditions, and their companions at home.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, many patients and clinicians agree to end the term plan earlier than scheduled. The reduced physical contact and outdoor exposure lessens the risk of contracting the virus.

Walk-In Appointments

While most clinics no longer accept walk-in appointments, some patients may be unaware of the new policy. Signages are placed at entrances and previously scheduled clients are immediately provided a mask and evaluated for possible sickness or infection. Once cleared of any possible risk, patients proceed to check-in or are rescheduled to keep the number of people in the clinic at a minimum.

Employee Exposure

Staff who may have been exposed to positive or suspected COVID-19 patients or are sick are not allowed to appear at work. Employees are briefed on the WHO and CDC guidelines for managing clients inside the clinic, including zero-contact measures and frequent handwashing.

Social Distancing in Clinic Set-Ups

Bringing companions to appointments is discouraged, and patients are requested to check-in alone. Waiting rooms are cleared from magazines, pamphlets, trial-size samples, and treats. High-touch surfaces are routinely sanitized and examination rooms are immediately disinfected by trained staff after each patient.


Abigail is a senior writer in Xilium. Before joining the company, she worked as a content creator for online startups and has written about current events, health, lifestyle, and entertainment for US-based online news portals and lifestyle blog sites.