At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CDC recommended that healthcare systems prioritize urgent visits and delay elective care to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in healthcare settings. A consequence of the pandemic has been the under-utilization of important medical services for patients with non-COVID-19-related urgent and emergent health needs
As the pandemic continues, healthcare systems must balance the need to provide necessary services while minimizing risk to patients and healthcare personnel (HCP). Because the effects of COVID-19 vary among communities, healthcare systems will also need to consider the local level of COVID-19 transmission when making decisions about the provision of medical services.
1. Be prepared to rapidly detect and respond to an increase of COVID-19 cases in the community.
2. Stay informed. Consult regularly with your state or local health department for region-specific information and recommendations. Monitor trends in local case counts and deaths, especially for populations at higher risk for severe illness.
3. Before expanding to provide elective services, healthcare systems must operate without crisis standards of careexternal icon. Ensure adequate HCP staffing and bed capacity, availability of personal protective equipment and other supplies, and access to other important tools to respond to a surge in cases if needed. Learn how healthcare systems can operate effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. Provide care in the safest way possible.
5. Optimize telehealth servicesexternal icon, when available and appropriate, to minimize the need for in-person services.
6. Follow recommended infection control practices to prevent transmission of infectious agents, including screening all patients for COVID-19 signs and symptoms, universal source control, and infection control practices specific to COVID-19. Be familiar with COVID-19 healthcare infection prevention and control recommendations specific to your setting.
Consider that services may need to expand gradually-
7. Make decisions for expanding necessary care based on the local epidemiology and in concert with recommendations from state and local officials.
8. Prioritize services that, if deferred, are most likely to result in patient harm.
9. Prioritize at-risk populations who would benefit most from those services (for example, those with serious underlying health conditions, those most at-risk for complications from delayed care, or those without access to telehealth).