The pandemic 'pushed us to grow even more responsive, innovative and resourceful': Key thoughts from Semmes Murphy Clinic CEO

Memphis, Tenn.-based Semmes Murphy Clinic CEO John Lewis describes the group's approach to resuming surgery post-pandemic and where it's headed in the future.

Question: What is your plan for resuming elective procedures in the future? What will be different at the center?

John Lewis: Our surgery center resumed elective procedures on May 4. We are starting out with lower case volumes as we work to gradually and cautiously increase volumes back to normal levels over time. Our primary focus has been ensuring the safety of our patients and staff while conserving PPE. Our team has made a strong commitment to doing everything possible to create a clean and safe space for our patients, physicians and staff.

During the recent shutdown, our staff used that opportunity to expand and improve procedures and policies that are in line with CDC guidelines related to COVID-19, and we have invested in new technologies that will provide added levels of safety in the clinic, ASC and back-office areas. Some of the things we have done include:

· Purchased and implemented electrostatic disinfecting spray systems

· Purchased and implemented UVC Whole-Room Disinfection Systems

· Required COVID-19 testing for all surgical patients 72 hours prior to any scheduled surgery procedure

· Implemented routine COVID-19 testing for all ASC physicians and staff

· Limited visitors inside the clinic and ASC. As a way to maintain social distancing, we offer to let patients and/or drivers wait in their cars as appropriate.

· We provide (as needed) and require face coverings for all clinic staff, ASC staff and patients.

· All patients, visitors, physicians and staff are screened (questions are asked, temperature scans are completed and oximeter readings will be offered as needed) upon entering any part of the facility.

· We have expanded our telehealth offerings to give patients options to speak to a physician remotely.

· Anyone who fails the question screening, is sick, has an above normal temperature, has low blood oxygen readings or other COVID-like symptoms is not allowed into our facility.

· Our staff and physicians have been working in rotating teams (home one day/onsite one day) as much as possible during this period.

· We have limited the seating and capacity in our waiting rooms, break rooms and other common areas as we continue to encourage appropriate social distancing.

· We will expand our available times during the week and into the weekends to accommodate our patients and ensure that we can take care of them at the most appropriate times.

Q: How has the pandemic affected your plan for growth in the next 6 to 12 months?

JL: Our volumes have been significantly reduced over the last few weeks. We will remain hopeful for the future; however, there are still many unknowns. As a result, we are being very cautious, especially given the possibility that we could see an uptick in COVID cases. It's clear that in one way or another, we will feel the impact of this through the remainder of this year and possibly into next year.

Q: What does the "new normal" look like for ASCs?

JL: Although we have experienced some real challenges these last few weeks, I think it's important to look for positives in situations like these. Everything we've learned during this time is so valuable and will impact our new normal. This event has pushed us to grow even more responsive, innovative and resourceful so that we can continue to provide medical care when and where it's needed.

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