Medical offices have faced enormous challenges through the COVID-19 Pandemic. While many office buildings were forced to shut down due to health concerns, medical offices remained open to help deal with the ongoing pandemic. The continued and increased load placed on medical offices has introduced and exacerbated many challenges.
The ongoing pandemic has brought on many novel issues and problems. Health concerns are the most obvious and remain ubiquitous even with vaccinations and masks, but staffing has been the greatest concern and pain point for many medical offices. Staff turnover has been extremely high, and many of the entry level positions in medical offices remain unfilled due to high stress, health and safety, and some staff have even become sick with COVID themselves.
These issues have caused massive strain on the staff at many medical offices and this has led to further difficulties for both staff and patients. With fewer frontline staff, either from being out sick or simply finding other work, coming into a medical office has become difficult, as has calling them. With all staff working constantly to assist patients, no one is available to answer calls or assist specialists with information.
The strain on staff and resources has caused many patients to be turned away or to simply stay home due to COVID concerns. This can be seen in the declining outpatient visits in 2020, where pediatric visits decreased 24 percent from previous years (per Commonwealth Fund), and hospital admission through Emergency Departments decreased by 32 percent from March to August in 2020 (per Nourazari et al). These shifts are just one of the side effects of the strain COVID has put on healthcare.
Another difficulty has been the changing guidelines as information about the virus comes out. COVID-19 was a novel virus. The information available to medical offices changed throughout the pandemic, and the front line to this change was in the medical offices. Whenever a major change was made to personal protective equipment (PPE) mandates, safe distances, handwashing and sanitation, and the many other factors in preventing infections, medical offices adjusted and learned the new protocols, and faced patients and helped them in this shifting environment.
With sick patients and employees, many staff are swamped with work and scared for what tomorrow may bring. Medical office staff have worked tirelessly for the past two years through the worst pandemic since 1918. Many are tired, sick, and scared, and there are a few ways building managers can help.
The best way to help medical offices hit hard by COVID is to reach out. Ask what you can do to help. Clear communication and transparency are vital. What is the mask policy in the building? Where are sanitation stations? How often are areas and surfaces cleaned? Where can infectious patients be brought in and out?
What considerations is your building making for the pandemic? What is the cleaning protocol? What kind of HVAC system is in your building, and how does that affect medical offices? Who should medical offices contact with questions? All of these are important in this ongoing pandemic, and the first step to addressing them is reaching out to your medical office tenants. Clear communication and a transparent working relationship will help property managers, owners, and staff to better assist medical offices and their clients.
Like most things affected by COVID-19, the impacts on medical offices are still being studied. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) releases updates and information on infection prevention beyond COVID-19, their online publication Industry Perspective and the American Journal of Infectious Control regularly releases content on infectious diseases and prevention.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) releases information on emerging and ongoing viruses and have ample information on the Coronavirus Pandemic, as well as access to vaccines and testing. While this information has changed throughout the pandemic, it has updated to protect the public as new information about the virus comes out.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many difficulties to the surface, and medical offices have remained open throughout to help address these issues. Aiding medical offices in this tireless task can help both them and the community they serve. Creating or continuing a communicative and transparent relationship with medical offices will aid immensely as they work to help us through the pandemic. Reach out and see what you can do to help.
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