With the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the significant governmental actions being taken at federal, state and local levels, physicians and dentists around the country are seeking guidance on how to continue to treat patients while ensuring that the health of their employees and patients is protected.
Whether your practice is open or temporarily closed, you may be wondering how you should handle patients who show potential symptoms of COVID-19 or have recently traveled abroad. You may also be wondering how you should handle employee concerns about the dangers of COVID-19 in the workplace.
From a business perspective, you may have concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on your contracts with vendors or your office lease.
Fox Rothschild LLP has established a Coronavirus Resources Center with articles, presentations and blog posts on these issues and more.
With respect to workplace and employee matters, see our article on Coronavirus Workplace Considerations for Employers.
For a perspective on contracts with third parties, see our article on Force Majeure Clauses.
Here are some considerations to keep in mind from a health care law perspective as the country continues to work through this pandemic:
- The CDC has issued guidance on COVID-19 for health care professionals on its website (accessible here: CDC Coronavirus – Health Care Professionals). Precautions taken by heath care professionals should be consistent with CDC guidance.
- Consider posting patient notices on your main office door, at the front desk, and on your practice’s website. Notices can also be sent by email to patients of your practice. These notices can explain how your practice will handle patients with symptoms of COVID-19 and those who have recently traveled abroad. The notices can also be used to inform patients of the following:
- Whether your practice treats or tests for COVID-19 (if a medical practice).
- General information on what patients should do if they exhibit symptoms.
- When patients will be required to reschedule an appointment.
- How patients can reschedule an appointment.
- Where patients can obtain more information on COVID-19.
- Consider using Acknowledgment Forms for Patients and Essential Visitors to document your practice’s compliance with the standard of care for screening patients and essential visitors for symptoms of COVID-19 and exposure to individuals who have had such symptoms within the last 14 days. See our Patient Acknowledgment Form Alert.
- Develop a policy and procedure on how to handle patients exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and when and how patient appointments will be rescheduled. Train your employees on that policy and procedure.
- Review your practice’s policies and procedures on employee safety, and consider a quick training session with employees on how to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other illnesses when interacting with patients.
- Develop a Return to Work Policy for your employees, including requiring pre-shift screening.
- Review your practice’s HIPAA Policies and Procedures Manual, especially with respect to remote access of employees to protected health information. For more information, see our post on Fox’s HIPAA and Health Information Technology Blog regarding the ABCs for Working from Home for employees of covered entities under HIPAA.
- Conduct additional cleaning and sanitization of your office in accordance with CDC Guidance, especially in areas with patient presence.
If you have any questions on what is best for your practice from a legal perspective during and after the COVID-19 outbreak, please do not hesitate to contact us.