COVID-19 Information For Our Patients
The providers of Northwest Gastroenterology/Northwest Endoscopy Center (NWGI/NWEC) care about your well-being, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is the latest update on our response to COVID-19.
(1) Endoscopic procedures: Based on guidance from the US Surgeon General, our professional GI societies, and the State of Washington, we began postponing all non-urgent endoscopies in mid-March 2020, with NWGI/NWEC physicians reviewing each procedure before it was postponed. We have continued doing a few urgent procedures each weekday during the past 6 weeks with substantial changes in protocols, including screening of staff and patients for COVID-19 symptoms or fever, use of N-95 masks by all staff, and prolonged cleaning of procedure rooms between exams (including extra time between exams for any aerosols to disperse). Though the pandemic will likely continue until effective therapies or vaccine(s) are developed, we are past the crest of the first surge locally. In addition, Northwest Laboratory has acquired the capacity and logistics to perform drive-through COVID-19 PCR-RT testing every 5 minutes (https://www.nwlaboratory.com/coronavirus-information/). At this point, we are planning to slowly increase our number of endoscopy procedures. NWGI/NWEC physicians are prioritizing the backlog of previously canceled procedures so that our schedulers can begin to reschedule the more urgent ones. All patients will be required to have a negative COVID-19 PCR-RT test via NW Lab within 48 hours before any procedure, with anyone testing positive either postponed or diverted to a hospital-based procedure. Social distancing guidelines will continue in the endoscopy center, with use of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), as required. It will likely take months before we eliminate the backlog of previously canceled procedures. If you are awaiting a low-risk procedure (e.g., screening colonoscopy) but develop more worrisome symptoms such as rectal bleeding or unintentional weight loss, please contact us immediately so that we can determine whether to expedite your procedure.
(2) Telemedicine clinic visits: Given that our patients are safer at home than visiting physician offices, we converted all office visits to telemedicine visits via https://nwgastroenter.doxy.me beginning in mid-March 2020. For the foreseeable future, we will continue to use telemedicine for all clinic visits. You can find the link on our https://nwgastro.com homepage under the main picture. You do NOT need to log onto your patient portal account to access it. Once you are on https://nwgastroenter.doxy.me, select the NWGI provider you are scheduled to see. You will be placed in a virtual waiting room. When your NWGI provider is ready to activate your visit, you will interact with the provider via webcam. If you have not seen us in the past few months, you will be contacted by a member of our clinic nursing staff prior to your appointment to check on any changes in medical conditions or medications. After your telemedicine visit, our staff will arrange any needed labs, imaging, or procedures.
(3) Infusion services: Our Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis patients on infused biologic therapies, including Remicade, Inflectra, and Entyvio, will continue to get their infusions via our center. We appreciate that these patients are immune-suppressed and more susceptible to infections such as COVID-19. We have changed the infusion room layout so that only two patients are in the infusion room at one time (i.e., allowing more room between patients), with a 3rd infusion patient in a room across the hallway. We have focused extra energy on sanitizing each patient’s area after infusions. We continue to use our main infusion RN (Anna) for most infusions though Anna recently trained a back-up infusion RN (Tamara) to eliminate any interruption in infusion services if Anna is not available. The RNs will continue to wear masks during infusions. Given that most office visits have been converted to telemedicine visits, our office is mostly free of non-infusion patients, which further minimizes person-to-person contact when infusion patients arrive for infusions.
(4) Health monitoring of providers and staff: We have not had any COVID-19 cases among our staff. As many COVID-19 cases cause only minimal symptoms, especially in younger individuals, we are screening every provider and staff member for COVID-19 symptoms as they arrive at work. Any provider or staff member who is sick will be sent home.
Our response to COVID-19 will continue to evolve as the pandemic, plus government and medical society responses to it, runs its course. Please check back in the future if you have an upcoming appointment to get the latest information.