Ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) updates and resources for integrative healthcare professionals

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Recommendations for healthcare clinics 

Integrative practitioners should develop a clinic protocol and follow CDC recommendations for caring for patients with confirmed or possible COVID-19 infection. This should include screening patients before, during, and after appointments and identifying how to care for patients who may be ill with a respiratory viral infection. Telemedicine consults are strongly recommended during this time. 

Other office procedures and plans may include: 

  • Placing a STOP sign on the front door instructing patients with symptoms not to enter. Click here for the CDC template.  
  • Instruct patients to call ahead if they have symptoms.
  • Develop a policy for face masks and understand when it's appropriate to wear a face mask or instruct a patient to do so. 
  • Assess and triage patients with possible or confirmed COVID-19 to minimize chances of exposure, including placing a facemask on the patient and placing them in an examination room with the door closed.
  • Designate appointment times, examination rooms, or clinic entrances for COVID-19 patients, to minimize chances of exposure.
  • Collect all specimens and perform clinical interventions in the exam room.
  • Minimize the number of healthcare workers interacting with COVID-19 patients. 
  • Perform hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand rub before and after all patient contact, contact with potentially infectious material, and before putting on and upon removal of personal protective equipment (PPE), including gloves. Use soap and water if hands are visibly soiled.
  • Practice how to properly don, use, and doff PPE in a manner to prevent self-contamination.
  • Exam rooms should be left empty for as long as possible after the patient has left. Proper cleaning and disinfecting protocols should followed.
  • Patients under evaluation for COVID-19 may stay at home if they are not sick enough to be admitted. Make a plan with the patient if symptoms worsen, referring to the CDC guidelines for home care.
  • Do not send patients to the emergency room or hospital if there is no clinical need. Advise patients to avoid emergency rooms unless clinically necessary.

Testing 

Integrative healthcare clinics should decide whether to test patients for COVID-19 or refer to other clinics in the community. Clinics who do offer testing should follow all safety precaution guidelines.

The FDA has issued an unprescedented number of Emergency Use Authorizations to companies developing diagnostic tests for COVID-19, including the most recent authorization for an at-home saliva testing kit. Testing resources include:

Treatment 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also issued the first emergency use authorization for the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. 

Practice management considerations

For integrative healthcare professionals who manage clinics and other providers, there are basic steps practice managers should take, including updating leave policies to support employees who need to stay home if they are sick. Practice managers should instruct providers who become sick with a fever or other symptoms to stay home and return only after they are free of symptoms for at least 24 hours. Practice managers should also consider creating or updating policies for employees who must stay home to care for sick family members or children who cannot go to school.

Additionally, practice managers should plan for employee absences due to illness by identifying essential functions, creating plans for community operations, and cross-training employees to perform essential functions.

Click here for more information on supporting your clinic staff. 

Communicating with patients

Integrative healthcare professionals should communicate facts, not fear, and encourage following public health guidelines. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians suggests the following:

  • Communicate only evidence-based, accurate information.
  • Reassure patients and the public regarding fears and discourage biases.
  • Reinforce the importance of social distancing.
  • Reinforce their role in supporting the global and local community efforts of containment.
  • Use social media to inform the public of what steps your clinic is taking to reduce the spread and accommodate patients.
  • Whenever possible, include citations for public education materials.
  • Refrain from posting medically inaccurate or unsubstantiated claims regarding any potential therapies with relation to COVID-19.
  • If you see misinformation from other providers, assume best of intentions and reach out to the individual privately.

Supplements and Prescriptions

The CDC is urging patients to have a three-month supply of any prescription medications. Several insurance companies are waiving restrictions that prevent patients from refilling early. Practitioners should communicate and work with patients to refill prescriptions now in the event of shortages or strict shelter-in-place mandates.

Supplement companies are also facing supply challenges as a result of high demand for certain formulas, including immune support products. Practitioners are encouraged to research alternatives to their trusted products in the event a product is unavailable. Click here for more guidance on supplements and immune support. 

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