Just over a month ago, I attended a medical appointment at my family physician’s office. I arrived early, but when I got off the elevator and proceeded down the hallway toward the office, I noticed a table set up immediately adjacent to the door. On the table sat a bottle of hand sanitizer and a box of surgical masks, accompanied by a small sign asking patients to clean their hands and cover their face, particularly if they had recently traveled abroad. Not having traveled, I opened the door.
I entered the office and, noticing no one at the receptionist desk, I continued forward. Before I could take more than a few steps, I heard “Stop!” I was greeted by the receptionist who addressed me in a stern voice: “Sir, you are supposed to wait at the sign until I instruct you to come forward.”
Slightly surprised, I glanced behind me and noticed the back of a small white sign fixed to a post a few feet from the door that I had obviously missed on my way in. Shuffling back a few steps, I looked closer. The sign read “All patients are required to stop here and await pre-screening.”
When I was properly back into place, the receptionist proceeded to ask me about my recent travel history and whether I was experiencing any symptoms that could indicate a respiratory illness. When I confirmed I was illness-free, I was granted permission to come forward and register, after which I took my seat in the waiting room.
Over the next 5-10 minutes, I watched patient after patient enter the office and undergo the same awkward experience I had encountered just moments before. To be honest, while I found the whole experience somewhat amusing, it got me thinking about the overall effectiveness of the measures the office had put in place, arguably to limit the spread of COVID-19, which at the time was nowhere near the concern it is now.
But it wasn’t difficult to see the flaw in the approach taken – that in order to assess whether a patient was potentially at high-risk of carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the office had to allow that person to enter their workplace to complete that screening, and in the process potentially expose others in the waiting room. Think about it: they needed to let that person enter the office, before they could assess whether they were carrying an infectious virus, during which time respiratory droplets could be released if that person coughed or sneezed. It seemed to be a very poorly designed process. Was there not another way for the office to ask those same screening questions to patients before they arrived?
And that’s when another question jumped to mind: How would other organizations assess whether their employees or visitors were at risk of spreading the virus within their workplaces? Were they relying on the same antiquated approach? This brings me back to the value of environmental, health, safety, and quality (EHSQ) software.
The Value of EHSQ Software in Pandemic Panning
One of the principal benefits these solutions offer us is the ability to collect, assimilate and share information quickly. When we are able to easily gather and collate data, and turn it into real-time actionable insights, it gives us unprecedented power to address risk well before it could translate into harm.
The emergence of mobile-ready EHSQ platforms gives businesses even more flexibility and speed in the way they can collect and share valuable data on workplace risks - to better equip workers and management with insights necessary to reduce harmful exposures. The ability that software provides to create customized digital questionnaires and checklists, which can be then assigned to and completed by workers in the field right from their smart device, gives organizations a huge advantage in screening workers for possible COVID-19 infection before they ever step foot in the building. These same questionnaires could be added to travel clearance processes, to ensure workers returning from abroad are screened before returning to work, or included in contractor pre-qualification workflows, ensuring these third parties are thoroughly vetted to pose no health risk to others before being brought on to supplement existing skills in the business. Employers can even assign screening questionnaires automatically via health surveillance programs linked to Similar Exposure Groups, and leverage email and SMS/text message notifications to alert workers when the questionnaire must be completed.
COVID-19: Concluding Thoughts
COVID-19 is causing some pretty significant shifts in the way we are living. Similarly, I expect it will also trigger a monumental change in the way we need to think about pandemic planning, business continuity, and discovering ways to assess risk effectively without compromising health and well-being. It’s an interesting time. And yet as time goes by, it becomes ever clearer that an investment in EHSQ software is a first yet necessary step that all organizations need to take to ensure they are properly prepared for the next pandemic, which I sincerely hope is not in our near future.
To learn more about Cority's new workflows that are designed to assist employers manage COVID-19, read our press release or contact one of our EHSQ experts. For more information on what to look for in an EHSQ software solution and how it can help with your pandemic planning and business continuity efforts, watch this webinar:
About the AuthorMore Content by Sean Baldry, CRSP