How your hospital’s radiology department can be a key line of defense against COVID-19
Thursday, May 21, 2020
As a healthcare professional, your goal has been to blunt the impact of COVID-19 as well as you can. Yet, you may have never considered how one specific part of your hospital could be a most effective containment area.
Your radiology department can serve as an essential point of protection for all your patients and staff, according to fascinating, fresh research. The study "Radiology Department Preparedness for COVID-19: Radiology Scientific Expert Panel," published in the journal Radiology, contains many important recommendations every hospital should implement.
The authors found that focusing your radiology staff on a series of specific prevention points can ensure that COVID-19 does not spread throughout your facility to uninfected patients and staff and can improve the outcomes of the infected patients being treated. These points of practice include:
- Using the radiology front desk as a screening tool, where patients reporting for imaging are asked a series of diagnostic questions to ID the possibility they are COVID-19-positive, or the severity of their existing illness.
- Limiting exposure of the virus by using portable equipment to scan patients, as opposed to transporting patients for testing.
- Specific safety precautions such as a set universal cleaning protocol of patient equipment, especially CT scanning machines.
- Training of your staff to handle emergencies or surges in cases on an ongoing basis, and maintaining vigilance in terms of containment strategies.
- Remote technology applications employed correctly — this could mean teleconsultation and test results counseling, for instance.
- Planning for future outbreaks or second-wave events now, so your radiology staff keeps safeguards in place and can be fully prepared with no lags or gaps in terms of patient care.
These aspects of radiological preparedness may be steps your teams have never thought of fully implementing before, but they are surprisingly easy to phase in now. Specific points on how to do this most effectively can also include the following administrative and medical precautions, according to the article:
- Providing isolation packets for frontline radiology workers and establishing an isolation room within the radiology department that suspected COVID-19 patients can be immediately moved to after initial screening.
- Allowing any workers in the radiology department who can work from home to do so. Staff members like schedulers, coders and billers can certainly do this, but readings should be done remotely as much as possible, too, and meetings should be carried out vis videoconferencing whenever possible.
- Maintaining a specific crisis management team consisting of your top physicians and caregivers who can pivot to contain issues immediately should a patient or staff member test positive for COVID-19 or have contact with the virus.
- Perfecting decontamination protocols on equipment and in exam areas, including a one-hour downtime period for passive air exchange.
- Making sure PPE stock is adequate and that caregivers know how to use it properly.
- Ongoing tutorials for staff pertaining to infection control measures.
Following the researchers' crucial advice will increase safety at your institution for everyone and provide even better care for the COVID-19 patients you're treating.
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