As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued its spread across the United States, businesses across the nation have been forced to close or drastically change their standard operations. While this is true of restaurants, retailers, and other businesses, many people fail to realize numerous changes have also come to local optometry practices. Since it is imperative for doctors, staff, and patients to be in close proximity to one another, some offices have closed their doors. However, for those that have remained open, there are now many changes in place designed to focus on patient care as well as the health and safety of everyone. As for how the pandemic has affected the eye industry, here are a few of the most important ways.
First and foremost, optometry practices are making sure they have healthy staff members who are coming to work each day. To meet this goal, most optometry practices are now checking staff temperatures when they arrive at work. If a staff member’s temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees, they are usually sent home. Along with this, doctors are also asking staff members if they are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, such as shortness of breath or coughing.
Along with making sure staff are healthy enough to care for patients, optometrists and other eye care professionals are also making sure patients who do come to the office are symptom-free. As a result, staff members are now conducting pre-appointment screenings over the phone to determine if the patient is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, has been exposed to someone who is ill, or has possibly traveled to a COVID-19 country in recent months.
Limiting Number of People in Office
In many states, no more than 10 people are allowed to be in a business at any one time. This also applies to eye care offices, so changes have had to be made. To begin with, most offices have now rearranged seating so that all patients can stay six feet apart from one another in waiting rooms. Along with this, offices are also instructing patients to use hand sanitizer upon entering the office or to step into a bathroom and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.
Rescheduling High-Risk Patients
Since many patients of optometrists and other eye care professionals are older, many offices have now been forced to reschedule or postpone appointments for older patients or other patients who fall into high-risk COVID-19 categories, such as those who have compromised immune systems. Because of this, many offices are experiencing a steep drop in revenue, which sometimes results in limiting office hours or only having essential staff on duty in the office.
To ensure a safe office environment, most optometrists are now having to spend far more time cleaning and disinfecting their offices. In fact, many are now having to close early so that extra time can be taken to do so. From doorknobs and phones to examination equipment and computer keyboards, these and other aspects of the office must be disinfected using alcohol wipes or sprays. In most cases, these and other items must be disinfected multiple times per day.
Limiting Physical Contact
Whereas before doctors and staff thought little of touching a patient when positioning them at diagnostic equipment or when fitting them for glasses, this has now changed thanks to COVID-19. Based on new CDC recommendations, staff and doctors now are urged to use as little physical contact as possible with patients, even if they are exhibiting no signs of COVID-19.
While records have always been part of medical offices, they are even more important now in the COVID-19 era. Therefore, eye care professionals are now keeping extensive patient logs in the event it is determined someone tests positive for COVID-19. By having these records, contact tracing can be conducted much quicker, allowing others to begin self-quarantine and hopefully limit the spread of COVID-19.