Providing Safe Otorhinolaryngology Care During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Medical practices around the country are balancing the need to provide necessary care while minimizing risk to patients and health care personnel. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin J. Citardi, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, was engaged in discussions about best practices with physician leaders at the Houston-based institution and with otorhinolaryngologists around the country.
“We were early out of the gate with many ENT-specific measures that have been introduced around the country,” Dr. Citardi says. “As we’ve learned more about COVID-19 over time, our framework for providing care has evolved. These steps have allowed us to resume nearly normal ENT care in our clinics while we keep our patients, our staff, and our physicians safe.”
In addition to the use of appropriate personal protective equipment, the practice has added powered air filters to every exam and procedure room to continuously purify the air. “We have strengthened our room disinfection protocols,” he says. “We encourage adult patients to come to their appointment alone unless they need a caretaker. For our pediatric patients, we ask that only one parent come to the appointment, and if necessary, one sibling. All physicians performing endoscopy procedures wear N95 masks and face shields.”
Patients and staff members are screened at the door, with temperature checks and a standard set of questions based on evolving knowledge of symptoms, prevalence, and local data. All patients who undergo elective surgery are required to take a COVID-19 test.
“Everyone in our office wears a face mask,” Dr. Citardi says. “Along with screening, frequent hand washing and cleaning of high-touch surfaces, that’s the most important thing we can do. We know that the virus can be transmitted through aerosols from an infected person who is coughing, sneezing, or talking at a distance of a few feet. Masks help prevent aerosol transmission.”
Lastly, Dr. Citardi adds, “We stay informed and monitor trends in our region as we make decisions about care. We also can leverage our contacts in the global ENT community to ensure that we have the best available information, so that we can provide ENT care that is safe for our patients and their care team.”
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