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What to Expect at Your Next Hospital Visit

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
10/23/20  6:17 PM PST
COVID-19 and Your Hospital Stay

COVID-19 and Your Hospital Stay

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how most hospitals and healthcare facilities interact with patients. If this is your first visit to a hospital or doctor’s office since the pandemic began, you might find some of these changes alarming. Please know that although your experience at the hospital may be different, these healthcare facility changes are designed to:  1) keep you safe, 2)  keep your loved ones safe, and 3) protect healthcare workers who are exposed to sick people every day.

Your health and safety are the top priorities of your healthcare team. Below are some of the steps being taken to help keep you safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19 during your hospital visit.

Please note:  In the United States, each state – including counties, cities, and even facilities within those states – may have their own safety requirements. Please contact your facility and/or your doctor several weeks before your appointment to learn what your facility’s protective measures are.

Before Your Visit

Without Admission

If you are visiting the hospital for a daytime medical appointment (without admission), you will be screened before entering the facility. This screening may include a virtual visit (phone call) 24-48 hours before your appointment to screen you for symptoms of COVID-19. You will be asked to answer questions about your health. You will also be screened on-site when you arrive for your appointment. Please see “When You Arrive” below for more information on what to expect when you arrive at the facility.

With Admission

If your visit requires you to be admitted to the hospital for a procedure, you may be asked to take a COVID-19 test several days before your scheduled appointment. This time frame may range anywhere from a week before your appointment to 24 hours before. Your healthcare team will help you schedule this test when they schedule your procedure.

After your test, you will be asked to limit any contact outside of your household before your procedure (self-quarantine). This is to protect you from being exposed to the virus right before you are admitted.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact your doctor’s office or the facility where your appointment is scheduled, and ask about required COVID-19 testing for your procedure.

When You Arrive

When you arrive at the hospital or healthcare facility, you will be required to go through a screening process. This may include having your temperature taken by a no-contact thermal imaging machine at the entrance, or by a small hand-held digital thermometer. You will also be asked to answer questions about your health. If you do not have a high temperature or other risk factors, you will be allowed to proceed to your appointment.

Face Masks

Face masks, including cloth face coverings or medical masks, will be required in order for you to enter the facility. Children under two years old are not currently required to wear face masks.

This is for your own safety and health, as well as to protect other patients and healthcare staff. You should expect to wear a face covering at all times. Please ask your doctor or healthcare staff if there are circumstances when you may be allowed to remove it. For example, you may be allowed to remove your mask in a private room, but would be required to put it on whenever healthcare staff enters your room.

Your facility may limit the type of mask you are allowed to wear in order to enter. Many facilities do not allow bandanas, neck gators or valved masks, since they do not provide enough protection against COVID-19. They may also correct you on how the mask must be worn inside the facility, such as covering both your nose and mouth. See these helpful graphics from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia below:

Waiting Rooms

Waiting areas have been reconfigured during the pandemic. Seating may be moved or roped off in order to space out seats and provide social distancing. Waiting rooms may also limit the number of people allowed to wait in a single space. You can expect to see fewer people inside the facility overall, in order to minimize potential exposure of patients and employees to COVID-19. In some facilities, registration and check-in are being offered by phone or online before your in-person appointment to reduce your need to wait.

When you arrive, it is possible that you will be given a patient room quickly to reduce time spent around other people. You may even be asked to remain in your car until called in for your appointment.

Visitors

Every facility has their own rules currently in place for patient visitors, but generally visitors are strictly limited. This is to reduce the number of people in the facility so that they can minimize potential exposure of patients and employees to COVID-19. These rules are also subject to change, so please call your facility or doctor’s office before your appointment to ask whether you can bring anyone with you.

Here are the current rules for most facilities during the pandemic:

  1. No one admitted past the entrance except the patient. In some facilities, including doctor’s offices, only the patient is currently allowed to enter the building for the appointment or procedure. This is often the case at facilities where daytime medical appointments (not requiring hospital admission) are taking place. If the patient is a dependent, or requires hands-on assistance, one caretaker may be allowed to accompany the patient.
  2. One or two support persons with the patient. In facilities that may require admission, such as hospitals, one or two support persons may be allowed to accompany the patient. Most of the time, only one support person is allowed to accompany the patient. That support person may be limited to your room or to a specific waiting area during your stay. For example, a person giving birth and their support person may both be limited to their room for the duration of labor. That means that exiting the facility for food – or walking the halls to stretch your legs – are not currently allowed.

Facility Staff

In addition to medical masks, your healthcare team may also be wearing face shields, half-face respirators, or other personal protective equipment (PPE). This personal protective equipment varies by facility. It is important to remember that they are not wearing this equipment because they believe that you, personally, have COVID-19. Healthcare employees are exposed to many patients and visitors each day, and their equipment is worn to protect both you and themselves. It can be hot and uncomfortable for healthcare employees to wear extensive gear for their entire work shift, but everyone’s safety is the top priority. If you have questions about something they are wearing, you are welcome to ask.

What To Bring If You Are Being Admitted For A Procedure

Along with any items your health care team asked you to bring, consider bringing the following items with you to the hospital:

  • A smartphone, tablet, laptop or other personal electronic device that will allow you to communicate with your loved ones. (Please label the device with your name and contact information.)
  • A charger for your device. (Please label the charger with your name and contact information.)
  • Phone numbers and email addresses of loved ones.
  • A current list of your medications.
  • Clean clothing you will wear home.
  • A few favorite activities to provide comfort and distraction during your stay, such as reading or writing materials, cards or games.

You may also bring your own masks to the hospital.

Safety Measures

You will be asked to practice social distancing in hallways, in waiting rooms and at check-in desks. Facilities have increased and deepened their disinfection and cleaning protocols, and you may see cleaning staff hard at work during and after your visit. Hand sanitizers will likely be readily available on walls throughout the facility, and hand-washing is strongly encouraged both before and after your appointment.

Questions?

If you have questions about what to expect at your upcoming hospital or facility visit, please contact your healthcare team and the facility before the date of your appointment. People you can contact include:

  • Your primary care physician or specialist
  • Your doctor’s office
  • Customer service at the hospital or facility where your appointment is scheduled

 

Resources:

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