In response to the state of national emergency declared at the federal level, particularly as COVID-19 progresses in a given community, ophthalmologists should seriously consider both the intensity of clinic scheduling and the issue of elective surgeries, particularly in elderly patients and those with medical comorbidities, according to new guidance from AAO.
The CDC has issued mitigation plans, including a recommendation for the cancellation or reduction of elective procedures in health care settings, for the following communities: Santa Clara, California; New Rochelle, New York; Florida; Massachusetts; and Seattle, Washington.
Office waiting areas often violate social distancing guidelines due to the number of patients and staff in confined spaces. Ophthalmology practices should reconfigure examination schedule templates to decompress their waiting areas and consider alternatives such as encouraging patients to wait in other locations (e.g., their cars or outdoor spaces). Mobile phone calls or other approaches can be used by office staff to notify patients when they should return to the office.
Elective surgical procedures
The American Academy of Ophthalmology supports the recommendation from American College of Surgeons regarding minimizing, postponing or canceling elective surgeries, while recognizing that the timing may vary by community and disease indication. In addition, circumstances vary for hospitals, hospital-based outpatient surgery departments, freestanding ASCs and office-based procedures. However, all ophthalmologists should be prepared to adjust their surgical volumes as local circumstances dictate. Even outpatient ASC-based procedures may expose other patients and health care workers to virus shed from asymptomatic patients. Elective surgical procedures also deplete scarce personal protective equipment, including but not limited to masks and face shields.
To view AAO’s full guidance on coronavirus (COVID-19), which is updated daily, click here.