Office Visits and Orthopaedic Care After COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed healthcare as we know it. But change is not always a bad thing. As the former UK Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once said, “There is no education like adversity,” and healthcare workers around the world are learning new ways to best care for patients as they continue to be tested by this virus. We will emerge with new best practices and innovative ways to care for our patients.
Visits to your orthopaedic surgeon have become different. Universal masking is expected to be part of an ongoing routine. Masking not only protects patients, it decreases the exposure risks of physicians and others on the healthcare team, as well as the dozens of other people in a healthcare office. While this will sound disconcerting, after the expected waves of COVID-19, there will be other infectious diseases and implementation of this universal precaution will save lives.
Office visits as we know them will be different. There will be fewer people permitted in waiting and clinic rooms, forcing a much more rapid introduction. Many patients prefer friends and family members to attend visits with them for advice and questions. Some patients require translators or insurance-mandated qualified rehabilitation consultants. Going forward, these people will most likely be present in the room virtually through smartphone or similar communicative technology. It is almost a certainty that technology will become even more commonplace for patients to assist with office visits. As patients often forget key parts of what is discussed during a typical visit, recordings and a second set of eyes and ears can only help with compliance and outcomes.
This pandemic has made the previously rare telemedicine consultation commonplace. Patients can now see their physicians and providers in real time from the comfort of home and most acknowledge how incredibly convenient it is. Telemedicine visits also help patients from distant locations see a specialist or get a second opinion for their conditions. Rural patients should not be forced to drive hours in one direction for higher-level care. Many people plan their retirement around major cities with healthcare infrastructure; telemedicine changes this calculation and provides more options. Hopefully, the availability of telemedicine does not change after the pandemic, as insurance companies, physicians, and providers should embrace it.
While always important, cleanliness and room sterilization have also increased. Surfaces will be wiped down more frequently, handwashing and sanitation stations will be more available and there will be less physical contact.
Some patients develop a strong attachment to their doctor and the doctor's staff, so the need for social distancing may be disappointing for some as we merge into our “next normal.” The delivery of healthcare is complicated. Changes brought about by COVID-19 have added to this complexity but have also provided more opportunities and options.
Read more: Questions and Answers for Patients Regarding Elective Surgery and COVID-19
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AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.