- Health care professionals should be prepared for the next pandemic armed with lessons from COVID-19, a speaker said.
- Work policy in the post-pandemic era must be clear, transparent, fair and overtly communicated.
ORLANDO — In Health care, and epilepsy care specifically, greater preparation, communication and innovation are required to maintain a standard of care when the next major crisis after the COVID-19 pandemic arises, according to a presenter.
“In a crisis, you need to overcommunicate,” Jonathan C. Edwards, MD, MBA, professor and chair of neurology at the Medical University of South Carolina, told attendees at the American Epilepsy Society annual meeting. “(Ask yourself) what did you do in terms of operational readiness that kept your program going and maintained access of care for your patients?”
Although the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, health care professionals should be prepared for the next pandemic armed with the lessons learned from what just passed, then the next one after that, and anything else that happens in between that may disrupt the continuity of care, Edwards continued.
Planning for such requires a comprehensive debriefing session among all personnel to review protocols and operational readiness, as well as brainstorming sessions to discuss and implement solutions which ease the process. Edwards recalled an example during the early stages of COVID-19 at MUSC, where a colleague clamped an iPad to an IV pole with extension cords that allowed for overnight charging and whole-day usage. This allowed for quick record searches and note-taking for patients.
The pandemic also presented a new paradigm with the rise of telemedicine across all disciplines and specialties. Edwards cited a 2022 study by the CDC that found more than 90,000 telemedicine participants in the United States. Additionally, a rise in telemedicine utilization among patients aged 45 years and older necessitated alterations in caregiving philosophy.
At MUSC, Edwards revealed 90% of outpatient visits were by telemedicine at the height of the pandemic, and, over the last 18 months, 15% of outpatient neurology visits were performed over the phone. Epilepsy, he reasoned, is well-suited for telemedicine, as examinations are stable, EEGs, MRIs and labs can be reviewed remotely and those who do not live within a reasonable distance from level 1 or 2 trauma centers can be treated closer to home with information accessed remotely.
Health care professionals themselves have adapted to the new circumstances, and a large portion of the overcommunication needed to address workflow arises due to staff possessing a clear understanding of when, how and where they can work remotely. Work policies, for epilepsy as a specialty or medicine as a whole, must take into consideration exclusivity, privacy and technical concerns, he said.
“You need to have a clear, transparent and fair remote work policy which spells out in advance what is remote work, what is sick leave and what is personal time,” Edwards said. “You need to emphasize quality, timeliness and responsiveness. You should create more opportunities to engage with your team.”
www.healio.com, Edwards JC. Epilepsy care in the post-pandemic era. Presented at: American Epilepsy Society annual meeting; Dec. 1-5, 2023; Orlando.