Margaret Chamblee, licensed pharmacist, further explores the effects of coronavirus on the provision of orthotics for patients.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) continue to release information on how to address the unpredictable coronavirus adequately. Since the outbreak, orthotic specialty facilities have altered their practices to abide by the new COVID-19 protocols, as the nature of this industry requires a very hands-on, personal approach to patients’ needs.
These new protocols include more frequent sanitizing of office equipment, exam rooms and waiting rooms, reduced employee hours and decreased facility patient visits. Industry professionals state that they are making the change one day at a time, particularly in servicing patients within long term care facilities. These facilities have patients at very high risk of complications if the virus is contracted, so these environments must be kept as safe and sanitary as possible. This means prioritizing the needs addressed by orthotics and prosthetic professionals and ensuring the highest safety level is maintained for residents of long-term care facilities.
“On top of following the guidance from the CDC, WHO, and state and federal officials, orthotic and prosthetic facilities and suppliers are going the extra mile for their patients and employees by providing additional safety protocols,” stated Margaret Chamblee, a licensed pharmacist and orthotics expert. “It is essential that patients continue to promptly receive the orthotics they need to remain stable, safe, and independent, but access to these products must not come at a health risk to the patient.”
Orthotics professionals and all employees within the facility must wear masks, gowns, and gloves when interacting with patients. Anyone coming into an orthotics facility should be required to wear a mask and sanitize their hands upon entry. When it comes to taking care of patients, the industry must strictly follow all guidelines.
Some practitioners have chosen to close their office doors and go to their patients, instead of requiring patients to come to orthotics facilities. Homebound patient visits have increased while visits to orthotics facilities continue to see a decrease.
Blatchford, a United Kingdom-based orthotics manufacturer, suspended all nonessential travel to help decrease the spread of the virus. The company encourages employees to work remotely if possible while limiting meetings revolving around sales and clinical visits. Customers still have access to assistance as Blatchford’s customer service and logistic functions remain the same. However, the company leaders are prepared to shut down if needed.
Cascade Orthopedic Supply in Chico, California, also strives to meet customer needs during uncertain times. They are integrating new procedures to ensure continuous consumer service. Employees are working in a remote office environment designed to minimize colleague contact and reduce the risk of coronavirus spread. Staff members working in the distribution centers have to follow certain safety requirements, including avoiding public transportation, practicing healthy hygiene and social distancing, and disinfecting touched areas and surfaces. Workers are encouraged to stay home if feeling ill, and all meetings take place virtually.
Most orthotics companies are prepared to continue business regardless of the need for an increase in public safety precautions. “With proper safety protocols in place, orthotics professionals can continue to help patients get the care they need,” stated Margaret Chamblee. “In some circumstances, reducing the chance of a fall with the use of a stabilizing orthotic is simply essential. A patient fall could pose much more of a life-threatening situation than an interaction with an orthotics professional who is exercising appropriate safety precautions.”