Many surgery facilities are reopening and in the process of adjusting to the “new normal.” We are dipping our toes in the water again to check the temperature before we plunge into the pool.

This is as it should be — caution is advised. The challenge for everyone is going to be avoiding the phrase “This is not the way we used to do it.” It is never going to be “that way” again.

Historians are going to refer to the COVID-19 pandemic the same way we learned about the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, and other global-changing events. We lived through COVID-19 — and will continue to do so for the next year or longer.

However, it is difficult to write about this new normal because I have no benchmarks or experience to share, no “this is the way others have handled the issue” advice. All of us have to learn together how to cope and be successful.

Still, I can share what many of our facilities are going through that might be helpful for others:

Stay safe, and remain vigilant. The virus has not run its course. Until there is a cure or vaccine, danger remains. I find I have a false sense of security for which there is no basis.

Resist the urge to think everything is the way it was. This is not true. We are all pressured to slam forward as quickly as possible and handle as many cases as we can. Resist this urge.

Just like with HIV precautions, we have to assume every patient is infected with COVID-19.

Huddle daily with the team. Hold staff meetings frequently to review the new protocols put in place. We need to develop muscle memory on these procedures, just like we learned before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, I have noticed many surgeons who believe this is the time to get off the fence and develop their own surgery centers. The reasons I am hearing are:

  • Medicare is going to be pushing many more elective procedures to ambulatory surgery centers, and surgeons want to have a facility available.
  • Surgeons have learned they cannot rely on others for their income. Thus, now is the time to protect their own interests by controlling the patient-from-office-visit flow through a process of their own.

I am glad we are returning to business. As healthcare professionals, we have once again proven ourselves. We should all be proud.

(Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Address: 5114 Balcones Woods Drive, Suite 307-203, Austin, TX 78759. Phone: (512) 297-7575. Fax: (512) 233-2979. Email: searnhart@earnhart.com. Web: www.earnhart.com. Instagram: Earnhart.Associates.)