Most in the medical field have never endured an outbreak such as the one we are facing now. A few years ago, we had an Ebola scare, a few weeks of panic and then the disease faded from the headlines. Covid-19 decided to sweep the planet, stick around, and promise more terror as we make our way around to another surge in the fall. For many medical professionals, the time has come to think about getting out.
Joni, a nurse who works at the Methodist Hospital in DeSoto, Texas, described the fear the nurses faced each day they came to work during the peak of the curve. “We don’t all have masks because they’ve been hidden. We had patients coming in and stealing them. I have to bring a mask from home. Then I have to wear a plastic shield and layers on top of that. We don’t even go to the bathroom all day because it’s too much work to take it all on and off. Then we live in panic every time a new patient comes in. We wonder, “Gee, is this one going to be the patient who gives me coronavirus.”
And that fear and the worry about giving the virus to someone else in her own family is the reason she wants to quit being a nurse. Other medical professionals are experiencing the same sentiments. They are working long hours, putting their lives at risk, and not being provided the proper protective gear necessary to treat coronavirus patients. Physicians who were close to retiring are making the decision to move up their departure dates.
Physicians need to go down a to do checklist to prepare to close their practices. Each state sets out its own guidelines and require that the doctor inform the patients so if they wish to obtain their medical records, they may do so. There are many regulatory guidelines to follow to ensure the protection of data and preservation of medical records for years to come. Today, there are medical record storage companies who facilitate this process and provide the necessary storage and protection for decades after the physician transfers the records over.
What Will 2021 Look Like?
Physicians who are taking the steps to close their businesses now can take six months to complete all the necessary steps. What will the medical field look like next year? Will the retirements be limited to doctors with long careers or will the coronavirus drive medical professionals to seek out other careers? And what will medical school enrollment look like moving forward? These are all important considerations for the health industry and merit careful strategizing to ensure every is safe the next time a terrible disease overtakes our nation. We will all be watching the numbers rise on the CDC website, hoping that the number of cases decline as the country opens up again.
How Physicians Can Prepare for Departure
- The exiting strategy begins with steps taken at the physician’s office approximately six months prior, ideally. First, he should post an announcement. Then patients should be informed during the process of scheduling and following up with appointments. Each state has its own set of standards to follow regarding the storage and release of patient charts.
- About 3 months prior to closure, the physician should notify all patients by letter and include an authorization letter for them to provide consent to other parties to obtain their records. Those patients with chronic conditions should be notified by phone to ensure they are aware they will need to make provisions to transfer their records to a new physician.
- The physician must place a notice in local papers circulated where most of his patients reside.
- Choose a patient chart custodian provider to protect all patient records.
- Inform patients how to obtain copies of their medical records.
- Update practice’s voicemail to include information about obtain medical records, seeking emergency treatment and closing date of office.
The cancellation of elective procedures caused many doctors to take pay cuts through the coronavirus epidemic. At some hospitals, doctors are paid based on the number of patients they see. Surgeries and chemotherapy treatments were suspended to permit doctors and nurses treating Covid patients adequate access to PPE equipment.
The virus has taken lives, safety, wealth, and happiness away from people across all walks of life. For medical professionals, most were left without the choice of staying home for their safety. And that’s something that could make every young medical student think twice about where he wants his career to go.