Practice Advice

Whose Job Should it Be To Take The Patient’s Temperature During The Pre-Screening Process?

taking patients temperature

As medical offices across the country begin to re-open or prepare for that day, keeping patients and staff safe is the top priority. To do that, offices are pre-screening patients verbally over the phone or upon entrance. Also, many are taking the temperatures of everyone that enters the building. This includes staff as well as patients and anyone accompanying the patient. 

If this is part of your screening process, you’ll need to put protocols in place to take the temperature of everyone coming in. 

Here are a few things you’ll need to answer for your office: 

Decide Whose Job it is to Take The Patient’s Temperature

Every office will need to decide whose job it is to take the patient’s temperature when they arrive. There are many things to consider when deciding who should be responsible for the pre-screening process. 

  1. Has your front desk been trained to control the spread of infectious disease? Are they equipped to safely handle the pre-screening process?
  2. What are the mandated protocols for PPE in treatment rooms? Will these protocols make it difficult for assistants to enter the non-clinical treatment areas? 
  3. How much additional time will you need to schedule the patient for the pre-screening process?

What PPE is Required For Those Interacting With the Patient?

Depending on your state and board guidelines, you will have specific PPE requirements for the different types of patient interactions. If the patient is in a non-clinical area of the office, the staff will be required one type of PPE. When they are in a clinical area, the guidelines become much more strict. 

Clinical vs. Non-Clinical PPE

If you operate a holistic dental practice, for example, the PPE guidelines may require you to take off your apron and gloves in the treatment op and your mask and goggles in a designated area. For assistants that have to adhere to stringent PPE guidelines, walking to the front to take a patient’s temperature may not be the best option. 

However, for non-clinical interaction, gloves and a mask may be all that is required by your state. Whatever guidelines are in place, the staff member must be properly trained on how to carry them out. 

Some Office Establish a Designated Floater 

Some offices are choosing to designate one of the clinical assistants to be a runner that greets patients at the door and leads them to the treatment rooms. They already have the necessary training on PPE and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. However, they will not have to switch back and forth between the different types of PPE needed for each encounter. 

What Kind of Thermometer Will You Use?

Many offices are choosing to use touch-free thermometers to take the patient’s temperature. This keeps them from having to set up a station to collect used thermometer covers. However, if you use a thermometer that must be inserted, you’ll need to follow proper guidelines for collecting the covers in the waiting area. 

Who is Allowed to Come Into The Office? 

Depending on your practice, you should ask patients to come unaccompanied to their appointments if at all possible. The front desk should explain clearly to all appointed patients what the guidelines are regarding friends or family that come with them. If you have a patient that must be accompanied, you’ll need to take their temperature as well. 

How Will You Handle Patients That Have a Fever? 

The pre-screening process is designed to alert you to patients that shouldn’t come into the office. If you have a patient that shows up with a fever, how will you handle getting them re-scheduled? It’s important to coach your team on exactly what to say in this situation and handle it gently. 

Also, you will need to decide how long the patient must wait to get a new appointment. Create scripts for the front desk to re-appoint the patient and help them understand the waiting period you’ve decided on. 

Guide Your Team on How to Handle The Mess-ups

No matter how much everyone has been trained, there are going to be mess-ups throughout the day. Working with the COVID-19 guidelines, it’s like it’s everyone’s first day on a new job. That means that everyone will have to give each other grace and understanding. Inevitably, someone will do something that goes against policies. 

Coach your team on how to positively encourage one another on getting it right next time. It’s important that you work hard to keep the staff from feeling pitted against each other.  

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