It is important to minimize chance for exposures before, during and after COVID-19 patient's visit.
- Before Arrival
- When scheduling appointments for routine medical care (e.g., annual physical, elective surgery), instruct patients to call ahead and discuss the need to reschedule their appointment if they develop symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g., cough, sore throat, fever) on the day they are scheduled to be seen.
- When scheduling appointments for patients requesting evaluation for a respiratory infection, use nurse-directed triage protocols to determine if an appointment is necessary or if the patient can be managed from home.
- If the patient must come in for an appointment, instruct them to call beforehand to inform triage personnel that they have symptoms of a respiratory infection (e.g., cough, sore throat, fever) and to take appropriate preventive actions (e.g., follow triage procedures, wear a facemask upon entry and throughout their visit or, if a facemask cannot be tolerated, use a tissue to contain respiratory secretions).
- If a patient is arriving via transport by emergency medical services (EMS), EMS personnel should contact the receiving emergency department (ED) or healthcare facility and follow previously agreed upon local or regional transport protocols. This will allow the healthcare facility to prepare for receipt of the patient.
- Upon Arrival and During the Visit
- Consider limiting points of entry to the facility.
- Take steps to ensure all persons with symptoms of COVID-19 or other respiratory infection (e.g., fever, cough) adhere to respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, hand hygiene, and triage procedures throughout the duration of the visit.
- Post visual alerts (e.g., signs, posters) at the entrance and in strategic places (e.g., waiting areas, elevators, cafeterias) to provide patients and HCP with instructions (in appropriate languages) about hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and cough etiquette. Instructions should include how to use tissues to cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, to dispose of tissues and contaminated items in waste receptacles, and how and when to perform hand hygiene.
- Provide supplies for respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, including alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) with 60-95% alcohol, tissues, and no-touch receptacles for disposal, at healthcare facility entrances, waiting rooms, and patient check-ins.
- Install physical barriers (e.g., glass or plastic windows) at reception areas to limit close contact between triage personnel and potentially infectious patients.
- Consider establishing triage stations outside the facility to screen patients before they enter.
- Ensure rapid safe triage and isolation of patients with symptoms of suspected COVID-19 or other respiratory infection (e.g., fever, cough).
- Prioritize triage of patients with respiratory symptoms.
- Triage personnel should have a supply of facemasks and tissues for patients with symptoms of respiratory infection. These should be provided to patients with symptoms of respiratory infection at check-in. Source control (putting a facemask over the mouth and nose of a symptomatic patient) can help to prevent transmission to others.
- Ensure that, at the time of patient check-in, all patients are asked about the presence of symptoms of a respiratory infection and history of travel to areas experiencing transmission of COVID-19 or contact with possible COVID-19 patients.
- Isolate the patient in an examination room with the door closed. If an examination room is not readily available ensure the patient is not allowed to wait among other patients seeking care.
- Identify a separate, well-ventilated space that allows waiting patients to be separated by 6 or more feet, with easy access to respiratory hygiene supplies.
- In some settings, patients might opt to wait in a personal vehicle or outside the healthcare facility where they can be contacted by mobile phone when it is their turn to be evaluated.
- Incorporate questions about new onset of respiratory symptoms into daily assessments of all admitted patients. Monitor for and evaluate all new fevers and respiratory illnesses among patients. Place any patient with unexplained fever or respiratory symptoms on appropriate Transmission-Based Precautions and evaluate.
- Additional considerations during periods of community transmission:
- Learn more about how healthcare facilities can Prepare for Community Transmission
- Designate an area at the facility (e.g., an ancillary building or temporary structure) or identify a location in the area to be a “respiratory virus evaluation center” where patients with fever or respiratory symptoms can seek evaluation and care.
- Cancel group healthcare activities (e.g., group therapy, recreational activities).
- Postpone elective procedures, surgeries, and non-urgent outpatient visits.