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11 tips for handling a COVID-19 patient surge at your health system

by Linda Reed, RN, FCHIME, LCHIME

Published on 4/7/2020

Estimated read time: 1 minute

As our team at St. Joseph’s Health in Paterson, New Jersey deals with a surge of COVID-19 patients, we’ve developed these best practices to keep patients and providers safe and deliver high-quality care:

1. Review and implement all new COVID-19 electronic health record (EHR) packages and updates. These could include many of the items you will need around order sets, screening tools, targeted reporting and dashboards.

2. Create, review or clean up any virtual visit (telehealth) documentation and education. Due to relaxed U.S. government regulations around telehealth requirements, virtual visits and virtual check-ins can be done outside of traditional telehealth technologies.

3. Anticipate new lab instrument updates or interfaces into the EHR for surveillance reporting to the state department of health.

4. Establish daily dashboard reporting. Determine the metrics you will need and look to automate the daily counts from existing EHR fields.

5. Prepare to open surge beds in non-traditional areas.

  • Review IT equipment needs: carts, printers, mobile monitoring, nurse call, etc.
  • Identify room and bed updates required and the impact on statistical reporting.

6. Enter the new COVID-19 diagnosis and billing codes to ensure proper reporting and relaxed telehealth visit requirements.

7. Anticipate new and increased work-from-home support needs, including virtual private networks, two-factor authentication, etc.

8. Review reporting requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local governments. Automate extracts if possible.

9. Test and educate desktop staff on remote support tools to limit trips into hospital units.

10. Anticipate position changes and new requirements for EHR documentation access, as clinicians may need to work in new areas.

11. Prepare for remote patient visualization requests to limit room entry and exposure — some are using iPads, video baby monitors, etc.