COVID-19 Guidance for Providers | Ambetter from PA Health & Wellness

 

Coronavirus Guidance

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an emerging illness.  Many details about this disease are still unknown, such as treatment options, how the virus works, and the total impact of the illness.  New information, obtained daily, will further inform the risk assessment, treatment options and next steps.  We always rely on our provider partners to ensure the health of our members, and we want you to be aware of the tools available to help you identify the virus and care for your patients during this time of heightened concern.

Guidance

  • Know the warning signs of COVID-19. Patients with COVID-19 have reported mild to severe respiratory symptoms. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include fatigue, sputum production, and muscle aches.  Some individuals have also experienced gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and nausea, prior to developing respiratory symptoms.  
  • However, be aware that infected individuals can be contagious before symptoms arise. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.
  • Instruct symptomatic patients to wear a surgical or isolation mask and promptly place the patient in a private room with the door closed.
  • Health care personnel encountering symptomatic patients should follow contact precautions, airborne with N95 precautions, and wear eye protection and other personal protective equipment.
  • Refer to the CDC’s criteria for a patient under investigation for COVID-19.  Notify local and/or state health departments in the event of a patient under investigation for COVID-19.  Maintain a log of all health care personnel who provide care to a patient under investigation.
  • Monitor and manage ill and exposed healthcare personnel.
  • Safely triage and manage patients with respiratory illness, including COVID-19.  Explore alternatives to face-to-face triage and visits as possible, and manage mildly ill COVID-19 cases at home, if possible. 

Take Action

  1. Be alert for patients who meet the criteria for persons under investigation and know how to coordinate laboratory testing.
  2. Review your infection prevention and control policies and CDC's recommendations  for healthcare facilities for COVID-19.
  3. Know how to report a potential COVID-19 case or exposure to facility infection control leads and public health officials.  Contact your local and/or state health department to notify necessary health officials in the event of a person under investigation for COVID-19.
  4. Refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization for the most up-to-date recommendations about COVID-19, including signs and symptoms, diagnostic testing, and treatment information.
  5. Be familiar with the intended scope of available testing and recommendations from the FDA.

This guidance is in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic and may be retired at a future date.

Talking to Your Patients About the COVID-19 Vaccine: How You Can Engage and Inform in a Meaningful Way

As COVID-19 vaccines are approved and distributed, providers will be a key part in its adoption and administration to the American public. Patients look to their healthcare professionals for medical guidance and assurance, and while much is still unknown, you can start laying the groundwork now for when the vaccines are available. As your partners in healthcare, we want to share some tips for effectively setting expectations and addressing questions from your patients.

Start COVID-19 Vaccine Conversations Early
Even before you are able to offer COVID-19 vaccinations, consider including the topic in your conversations with patients. This will give you the opportunity to set expectations about vaccine availability, including if/when you might recommend vaccination for them, and learn about any concerns they have.

Engage in Effective COVID-19 Vaccine Conversations
Effective engagement can occur during an in-person office visit, through messages on your patient portal, or at a telemedicine appointment. Patients trust in their providers to help guide healthcare decisions, and your strong vaccine recommendation is the most important part of the conversation.

Start with empathy and understanding.

  • Acknowledge the disruption COVID-19 has caused in all our lives.
  • Provide an opportunity to recognize common concerns that can be addressed by a vaccine.

Assume patients will want to be vaccinated but may not know when to expect it.

  • Consider providing the following general
    information to patients about the timeline for COVID-19 vaccines:
    • Limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available in 2020.
    • It is anticipated that vaccine supply will increase substantially in 2021.
    • The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. However, not everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away.
  • Encourage patients to continue taking steps to protect themselves from COVID-19 and let them know how you plan to share updates about vaccine availability.

Give your strong recommendation.

  • Let your patients know if you plan to recommend
    COVID-19 vaccination for them.
  • Share the importance of COVID-19 vaccines to protect patients’ health as well as the health of those around them.
  • Talk about your personal plans to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Reassure your patients that the vaccine is safe.

Listen to and respond to questions.

  • If a patient has concerns or questions, this doesn’t mean they won’t accept a COVID-19 vaccine. Sometimes patients want your answers to their questions.
  • Your willingness to listen to their concerns will play a major role in building trust in you and your recommendation. Make it clear that you understand they have questions, and that you want to answer them, so they feel confident in choosing to get vaccinated.
  • Seek to understand patient/caregiver concerns and provide information they need in a way they can understand it (see Q&A below).

Keep the conversation open.

  • After answering their questions, let your patients know that you are open to continuing the conversation and answering any additional questions they may have.
  • Encourage patients to take at least one action like:
    • Scheduling another appointment.
    • Reading any additional information you provide them about COVID-19 vaccination.
    • Encourage others to get their COVID-19 vaccine when available.
  • Continue to remind patients about the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine during future routine visits.

Answering Patient Questions about the Vaccine

Your patients will likely have a lot of questions about the vaccine, and as their healthcare provider, they will turn to you for answers. 

Additionally, CMS has also published a set of toolkits to help providers prepare to swiftly administer the vaccine once it is available. If you have any further questions about this upcoming vaccine or the COVID-19 services Ambetter from PA Health & Wellness covers, please contact Provider Services at 1-833-510-4727.