- With many health systems preparing to resume scheduled medical care, trade groups for hospitals, nurses and the medtech industry on Tuesday jointly released a framework for how device company representatives can safely resume visits to healthcare facilities.
- The guidelines recommend against COVID-19 diagnostic testing of medical device representatives who are asymptomatic, to preserve supplies of tests for patients, healthcare workers with symptoms, and others potentially exposed to the virus.
- The guidance expands on recommendations for resuming elective surgery that a group of medical societies and the American Hospital Association released in April in preparation for the reopening of healthcare facilities for non-emergency care.
The pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 90,000 Americans and pushed the U.S. unemployment rate to 14.7% has also wreaked havoc on the finances of hospitals, physician practices and medical device manufacturers. Medtechs with product lines dependent on elective surgeries have been particularly hard hit, while the number of patients seeking hospital care is down by more than 50% according to one procedure volume tracker.
At the same time, sales reps were barred from many facilities trying to keep infections under control.
While the restart of elective procedures will follow regional timelines, and the pace at which consumers will feel comfortable returning to healthcare settings is uncertain, hospitals, nurses and the medical device industry are now laying the groundwork.
The American Hospital Association and Association of periOperative Registered Nurses partnered with AdvaMed to develop the ground rules for medical device company representatives as they regain access to healthcare facilities. The guidance notes that facility access policies will fluctuate based on COVID-19 incidence rates in local communities, asking medical device representatives to follow social distancing and safety procedures applicable to hospital staff, patients and visitors. However, device reps should work to deliver services and support remotely whenever possible.
Medical device reps should be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 the same as staff, patients and patient visitors, but any testing of asymptomatic individuals should be consistent with state and local health authority guidance, the groups recommend.
Hospitals should provide personal protective equipment to medical device representatives deemed essential to surgical or invasive procedures, the guidance states, noting that a facility can control for quality when supplying PPE. Facilities operating at a crisis level may require medical device representatives essential to emergency procedures to provide their own PPE if the facility is in short supply.
Last month, the American College of Surgeons, American Society of Anesthesiologists, Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and AHA released a document outlining a set of principles to guide local facilities in planning for the resumption of elective surgical care. Called the "Roadmap for Resuming Elective Surgery," the guidance aims to align access standards and processes for the resumption of care in procedural areas across healthcare facilities.