Dr. Rich Berger: 'We have to prepare' for more COVID-19 surges

Angie Stewart -   Print  |

Chicago could see multiple waves of COVID-19 as businesses reopen, according to Richard Berger, MD, an orthopedic surgeon who shared his thoughts with Becker's Spine Review.

"I am very concerned that there will be an uptick in COVID-19 cases," said Dr. Berger, who performs joint replacements at Chicago-based Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and Rush Oak Brook (Ill.) Surgery Center. "This may come as Chicago starts 'opening up,' it might come later this summer, or it may come in the fall or winter. In fact, there may be multiple waves. While we certainly hope and pray this won't happen, we have to prepare."

With this in mind, Dr. Berger's practice has implemented several innovative long-term measures to keep patients safe from the time they schedule a visit all the way through follow-up care. Those measures include:

1. Having family members wait for the patient in their car, at home or at local hotels where the practice has arranged day rates

2. Conducting telehealth visits, providing preoperative education virtually and recommending virtual physical therapy sessions

3. Walking patients' family members through discharge instructions via phone or telehealth

4. Having medications delivered directly to some patients

5. Requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 before surgery

6. Extensively screening patients the day of surgery with hands-free technology for taking temperatures and questions about recent travel and gatherings

7. Requiring all patients and staff members to wear masks and gloves at all times

These safety precautions decrease in-person contact and provide convenience and safety for out-of-state patients, who make up about 50 percent of Dr. Berger's practice. However, the new protocols do require extra time and planning from staff, and "it is more difficult to provide [a] personal touch and care to patients when all communication is virtual," Dr. Berger said.

More articles on practice management:
28.4M elective surgeries could be canceled in 2020 — orthopedic procedures hit hardest
Research finds lowest average cost of hip, knee replacements at 3 New York City hospitals
Texas orthopedic group snares 2 paycheck protection program loans 

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