Dr. Troy Lowell: Added safety & improved telemedicine will be 'new normal' in spine care

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The Orthopaedic Institute in Gainesville, Fla., began performing elective surgeries again on May 4, with added protocols to ensure the safety of its patients and staff.

Spine surgeon Troy Lowell, MD, discusses what safety measures his practice is implementing and how spine care will look moving forward.

Note: Responses are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: How is your practice ensuring the safety of patients and staff while performing elective surgeries?

Dr. Troy Lowell: In the office, we have the waiting room closed with rare exceptions and patients safely wait in their cars until their appointment time. Our staff are diligently using proper personal protective equipment and thoroughly disinfecting all patient areas to provide a safe environment for our patients. At the hospital, all patients are screened for fever and oxygen saturation. When intubating, all staff clear the room and stay out for a minimum of six minutes after intubation. One of the hospitals in town is testing all prospective surgery patients for COVID-19.

Q: How will your practice's ORs look over the next three months? 

TL: Slow and safe ramp-up to hopefully get back to close to full capacity.

Q: What spine cases are you scheduling first? Why?

TL: For spine-related patients, we are scheduling the patients who are in the most pain first, such as acute herniated disks. We also are trying to schedule patients that don't require extensive medical clearance or insurance authorization. Our staff are working to stay in direct communication with patients and working quickly to get them scheduled as soon as possible.

Q: What will the "new normal" look like for your practice?

TL: The safety of our patients and staff will continue to be our priority. As the situation surrounding COVID-19 changes, we will take all precautions such as utilizing proper PPE and practicing appropriate social distancing. Our telemedicine efforts have really improved our ability to provide our patients with the orthopedic care they deserve from the comfort of their home. This is a service we are proud to provide and will continue to offer to our patients. 

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